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  • TRUE STORIES: Love stories for Valentines Day

  • Morning. The sun is just coming over the cedars near a pond where ducks glide serenely back and forth. A woman dressed in a jogging suit approaches and throws stale bread on the water.

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  • Morning. The sun is just coming over the cedars near a pond where ducks glide serenely back and forth. A woman dressed in a jogging suit approaches and throws stale bread on the water.
    On the other side of town, an old woman slumps in a chair across from a younger one who is an old friend of the family and tells her of recent difficulties with her husband — his moods, his health, his forgetting things. Although she’s quite busy, the younger woman listens patiently to the older one, thinking to herself of how the older woman was there for her when she was a girl growing up. After an hour, the older woman thanks her and returns to her beloved husband.
    At the same time, dust rolls out in a diaphanous plume from a car driven down a country road. Inside are a man and his son. Because of a disability, the son cannot talk, yet the car is aglow with their communication. A lone hawk notices this transcendence and circles back to fly low over them and listen.
    In a classroom on the east side of town, a lonely girl, who lives mostly in her head, spontaneously writes her initials in ballpoint on the arm of the tall boy who sits next to her in home room. He blushes, says, “Hey!!” That night, in bed he stares at the initials with great affection. He will not wash his arm for weeks.
    Noon. The sun is resting directly above the cedars near the pond. The ducks and the woman are gone. A man at a 12-Step meeting talks about his relapse; about how it brought back the bad feeling of being on the edge, memories of how many times he vowed to quit. How many times he took his booze and poured it down the sink, only to buy more the next day. Concerning this man’s pain, the others offer no advice. Instead, they thank him for coming, for sharing his story, for giving them a glimpse of themselves, and then, in turn, share their own. Finally, they form a circle, recite the Lord’s Prayer, and go their separate ways.
    Somewhere on the west side of town, a construction crew is breaking for lunch. The bachelor laborer, who still lives with his mother, opens his pail and discovers she has made his favorite sandwich — hard salami, tuma cheese and mustard on hard crust bread. As he eats it, right in the middle of thinking about how much he loves his mother, he feels a jolt of pain — a pang of deep longing for a lover. All afternoon, he wonders about the widow woman at church. About whether, if they were to fall in love and get married, she would make his favorite sandwich from time to time.
    Page 2 of 3 - Mid-afternoon. The sun and the cedars make long shadows on the pond. The ducks are still gone. On a bench near the water, a young man and woman sit together holding hands. From time to time they sigh.
    In a school playground not far away, two little girls on recess wander away from the rest. They are holding hands, singing. They see yellow crocuses have pushed through the ground on the other side of the schoolyard fence. They stop singing, squat down and stare at the flowers. The teacher has to call them twice to come in from recess.
    Across the street, a man returns home from work in the middle of the day. His wife meets him at the door, surprised that he is home so early. When she learns that he has been let go from his job because he is no longer young and useful, she takes him to the couch, cradles his head in her arms, and whispers softly.
    Dusk. The ducks are back on the pond, sometimes gliding, sometimes rising up out of the water to fan their wings. For a brief moment the sun rests orange on the pond’s surface and the cedars stand 3-D in the surrounding light, then it descends swiftly into the gray vortex of clouds. Magenta fills the whole town. Then darkness.
    In a cafe on Broadway, a man and a woman argue. The woman abruptly stands and exits, then walks the sidewalk south with no particular destination in mind. The man gets the car and follows along with the window down, asking her to get in. After four and a half blocks, she turns (just as abruptly as she stood and departed the cafe) and gets into the car — then slides over close to him and kisses him passionately. They first smile, then giggle, then lose themselves in laughter. Traffic backs up on Broadway but they do not notice.
    Ten p.m. As she readies for bed, a woman stands in the second story bedroom of her old, Victorian house; sees, in the mirror behind her, the husband she lost so many years ago smiling and patiently waiting for her to finish brushing her hair.
    A teenage girl, in a canopied bed, cries softly as she wonders if she’ll ever get a new boyfriend.
    Before they go to their room to make love, a couple in their forties stand in the doorway of their daughter’s room listening to her rhythmic breathing.
    A middle-aged man with insomnia gets dressed and goes to the all-night convenient store and meets a lonely woman who came in for cigarettes. They go together to the truck stop south of town.
    Midnight. The ducks are huddled on the grass nestling their beaks in their feathers. The pond is empty. The cedars are faintly outlined against the light of the Milky Way. An abundant silence slowly settles over the town.
    Page 3 of 3 - J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training & Consulting in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net

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