better, modern love

Charles is seated sedately on the couch. He’s wearing a plaid shirt but he’s no hipster. And he wears a beard but he’s no hipster. Horn-rimmed glasses, too. But again. See, Charles is from middle America, raised wearing plaid shirts and beards. He just happened to move to New York City, Queens. He watches the television through his thick lenses. He seems peaceful. He is peaceful.

Because there, at Charles’ side, is Kimberly. She’s smaller than Charles, and hilariously so. When standing, he may be about six feet, four inches, and she may be an inch above five feet. They are a tricycle and a Hummer, a mug and a tumbler.

Kimberly nudges close to Charles. She wears a plaid shirt too, but she’s more like the classic hipster. She remembers all the Thai food the group ordered four months before. She might sport horn-rimmed glasses casually. Her shirt is distinctively faded beside his. The mark of an informed purchase of hipster wear.

Well, neither really is a hipster. They are simply people, sitting in a Queens apartment on a Sunday night, eyes gazing helplessly at the noise on the television, the fear and the rage, the glorifying and the gutting. It’s Super Bowl night. Everyone is glued. But here is something different: Charles extends his arm over Kimberly’s shoulder, and she squirms into his chest, smiling broadly. These are simply people, again. And the group surrounding sees this and at once, maybe in unison, thinks and says “Awww.” It is that moment, that very moment.

What did we all talk about that Sunday? There was a Super Bowl, and so the game was important. You want commercials? You had cloying Clydesdales and kissing stereotypes and rabid goats and a prom night victor who may have sexually assaulted a girl. Let’s not forget the blackout, which gripped us to grip our smartphones in an anxious need for inclusion. In the end, the Super Bowl assured that we need each other, and we need to be heard in every way.

So all this happened that Sunday: A Super Bowl and commercials and a blackout.  None of that was as exciting as seeing Charles and Kimberly display affection. Because Charles suffered a broken heart a year ago. And Kimberly moved away, far away from Charles.

My girlfriend is friends with them both. She always thought Charles and Kimberly were perfect for one another. She would nudge them both.

“Have you ever thought of Charles like that?

“Come on, wouldn’t you visit Kimberly alone?”

“Nobody thinks of you the way Charles thinks of you.”

They each denied and declawed, slumped into their dens without much fuss. Months passed. Kimberly was in her new hometown, a foreign place with no friends and little free time. Then we found out Charles was visiting her. And he was calling her. And then one day my girlfriend sent me an exciting email reading that Charles and Kimberly finally decided to give love a chance.

You don’t hear about those stories much anymore. The most popular love songs aren’t love songs but kiss offs. Trouble. Danger. Cheating. Anger. Romantic comedies are blueprints for cheap laughs and indulgent celebrity cameos. Nothing is simple and black-and-white. Now there are Twitter feeds to dissect, Facebook posts to investigate and football fields to sniff. No story is perfectly spotless. Now we must beware of catfishes and seek meet-cutes, consider social hangs and random hook-ups, redefine dating and create new methodology for the generation that thinks far too much.

But Charles and Kimberly are different. They are friends. He was engaged, then he was blindsided. She claimed cultural differences, parents who might have outraged – and may still outrage – if they found Henrietta bedding another set of traditions. He didn’t need dating. She was moving away. They are friends. Then they decided, finally, flinging it all into the air, forgetting any old rules and just hoping upon hope, that love might actually work. They are not hipsters. They are not ironic creatures. They don’t slash each other with sarcasm. They are genuine, loving people who happen to wear plaid and horn-rimmed glasses. And they seemed peaceful. They are peaceful.

Charles and Kimberly are the story that people don’t tell much anymore. It’s not the sexy story. It’s not with debate and drama, not made for TV, not perfectly coordinated for the internet. There are no flash mobs, neither recipes nor flipbooks. They may not work. They may work. It’s love. It’s what it is. It’s just about most people in America, and across the world. It’s the story that should be told. Especially now. We’re all so damn cynical. We’re all hipsters anymore. We should just extend our arms out to our loved ones, once in awhile at least, and appreciate that it’s what that is. That’s love. Simple love. No scripts.

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