It all seemed so perfect. There was the pier, the breeze and the symbolism.
Lynn had some deep and dark secret that was hidden somewhere in her backyard. She was an insecure 16 year old girl and I, the mature high school Senior, thought it was time for her to let it go. I would help her with my premeditated machinations. My specialty.
Lynn came down and I could see that she had been crying. She was surprised to see me.
“Lynn,” I whispered, “It’s time to let it go. Go to your backyard, put it in a bag or a box and bring it to my car. I’ll meet you out front.”
I’ve never been more in control.
Five minutes later, she emerged from her backyard with a Nike shoebox wrapped in gobs of duct tape. She was crying again.
“Good,” I remember thinking.
The car ride to Huntington Beach was a silent sojourn to her redemption. Neither of us dared break the palpable silence which shrouded the moment in tension. Even when I almost got us into a car accident, we let out only the smallest of yelps, before returning right back to our very intentional silence.
When we arrived, I took her by the hand for the first time in our relationship, our fingers interlocking in a carnal expression of puppy love. Full consummation would have to wait though, for in her other hand, Lynn cradled the sown-up Nike shoebox and whatever sin lay inside.
For us to enter into a healthy relationship, she would have to let her demons go and I would have to be the one wielding the crucifix. Or so the thinking went at the time.
At the end of the pier, we stood at the edge of the world. The sights and sounds of cursing Mexican fisherman, the wrenching smell of fish guts and seaweed just seemed to melt away as it collided with our reality.
At the edge of the world, it was just me and Lynn.
“Lynn, once that box goes into the sea…you’ll be free.”
The rhyme was unintentional, but I remember thinking how it might help resonate the moment in her memory for years to come. I was pleased.
She took her time, which was appropriate. I liked to believe that I had led her to this seminal moment and it was only right that she would adorn it with a reflective pause.
(I took the moment to give myself a quick pat on the back. I’m so much better than the Zach Morrises and the Cory Matthewses of the world, I remember thinking. I was going to be a splendidly sensitive and in-tune kind of boyfriend).
Finally, with the winds swirling around us, the sea gulls cooing and holding their flight against the breeze, she tipped the box over and it fell away into the deep blue.
She started to cry again and I held her close, our first full embrace.
But the perfect moment would only last for about 4-5 seconds. While her head was buried in my chest, I watched in horror as the box bobbed around on the surface of the water. The damn thing wouldn’t sink.
I shifted her body around so that her back was to the water. I held her even closer as I watched helplessly as the package made its short trip back to the shoreline. “So much for burying our secrets on the ocean floor,” I remember thinking.
Thankfully, she was too busy telling me that she loved me.
This is what “being in love” felt like just 10 years ago. Back when being in love was a far better indicator of love than words like compatibility or companionship or compromise that have come to define it. It’s gotten all too complicated now, if you ask me.
Better are the days when love floated when it was supposed to sink, or when perfect moments lasted no more than 4-5 seconds. It smelled like raw fish and came neatly packaged in a Nike shoebox.
Because in the end, it was just us at the edge of the world and no one, not even cursing Mexican fisherman, could take that away from us.
That’s what love is when you’re 16.