One pale morning so early that it was still blue outside, that moment when the blackness of night has faded before the moon, and the sun is only a promise yet some time off, I woke up and rested on one elbow. A girl slept quietly beside me, her face half buried in a pillow so that only her red lips, curved cheek, and strands of black hair crossing them both, were exposed. Other sleepers breathed heavily or snored nearby, propped in chairs or sprawled in sleeping bags. All of them were friends who had gathered from across rice covered lands for a night of fellowship. But I wasn’t interested in them. I only had eyes for the small girl beside me.

I was in love with her.

In that predawn moment I was overcome by a deep longing that rose from within me. I didn’t understand it, but I knew it wasn’t a lust for sex. I wanted to nibble her lip and hug her so hard, suck her into me, almost as if by force I could meld us together.

I did none of these things. Instead I put my head back down on the pillow and watched until her face was covered by night shadows once more. I knew what the hunger was.

I didn’t want to lose her.

In the morning she would slowly open her eyes and I would be the first one she saw, and I knew she would smile. I had seen it before. And when she would smile, she would stretch out her hand to touch me, almost as if she was making sure I was real.

I couldn’t get enough of those moments. I wanted them to last forever.

* * *

Sometimes I want a good book to last forever, or an epic movie that has really sunk its teeth into me, or even a good meal I haven’t had for a while. Yet, each time I bring the fork to my mouth, or turn a page, or the seconds tick into minutes, I know that these things will end. They always have in the past. But knowing they will end, I might slow how often I put the fork to my mouth, I might read only a few pages a day so that the story might linger a little longer in my consciousness.

But what happens when it comes to love? How do you make love go on forever and ever?

When I was young, I thought if I did enough, if learned enough tricks I could make it last forever. I had to have a good body, so I ran until all my muscles were hard and did sit-ups until my stomach was ribbed. I remembered everything I was taught so that I could be called knowledgeable. I saved my money so I would have it to give and provide. I learned to cook so that my wife would be pleased. I practiced good manners, learned to cut my own hair, how to wash clothes, and gathered nice things about me.

I thought I could earn love. If I could be perfect in enough ways, what could a woman complain about? She would have to fall in love me.

But if you can earn love, that means you can buy it too. A lot of men, and probably a few women, think you can. Sure, people have different ideas of how they buy love. Some think it is by getting a good job. Some good looks and fame. Some think it is accomplishing things. I can’t help but think of a lot of people in the public spotlight here. I think about all those people trying out for American Idol, the final bow, the masses screaming out their adoration, a record deal.

Yes, many of us think we can buy love.

And we have missed something crucial.

It isn’t love we are buying. Maybe a little respect because people will change how they view you. Maybe a little puppy love. People are excited by flash and fame and possessions, the new cute thing that has come along. But it isn’t love.

Good love is freely given. It isn’t earned or bought, and not even deserved. But that is what makes it so special. To be known, and truly known — with no hiding all the warts and blemishes — for who you are (imperfect as we all are) and loved anyway. That is a good love, heart and soul satisfying love. But if you could buy love, then there would be a price. It would mean you could do something to earn it. If you could buy it, then it wouldn’t matter who you were.

And who you are matters most of all.

* * *

I was so afraid I might lose that black-haired girl that I began to change. I began to think I had to win her love every day. And after two years of changing I became someone I wasn’t really comfortable being. After two years, I was no longer me.

And who you are matters most.

My uncle once asked me, “how do you expect a girl to be comfortable with you, if you’re not comfortable with yourself?” I didn’t answer because I didn’t like the answer.

For so long so much of my own worth was tied up in having a girl. If I didn’t have a girl, then something must be wrong with me. Silly, but sometimes we believe something because we are afraid it is true, and I was deathly afraid this was true.

Part 1 – The Conquest Principle
Part III – The Long Road Home

© Seth Crossman