Monday, January 11, 2010

Choosing Love (by Billy Coffey)


I worked with Jenny for about two months twelve years ago, just another face that walked in and out of the revolving door of the town’s gas station. She was a nice lady, Jenny. Always smiling. The smile is what I remember most. Well, that and the bleached jeans she always wore that rode high on the waist and had tiny denim bows in the back near the ankles. Jenny was a joy to be around, but she was no fashion maven.

She was, however, considered quite the catch. At thirty-five, Jenny was still both unmarried and unattached. Rare for these parts. And it wasn’t for lack of options, either. It was no secret that the busiest nights at the Amoco were the ones when she worked the cash register. Every available guy in town would suddenly get the urge for a can of Copenhagen or decide his tank needed to be topped off.

They’d show up in their best boots and hats reeking of Drakkar Noir, tough guys with big trucks and mustaches. But then Jenny would smile and say “Hey there” and they would transform from Bo Duke seducing an unsuspecting girl to Opie Taylor crushing on his teacher. It was both hilarious and sad at the same time.

Jenny seemed genuinely ignorant of the whole thing. She dated here and there but was content with her life. She lived in a double wide on the edge of town with her Australian shepherd and her growing collection of Garth Brooks CDs, sang in the church choir, and had a weakness for the Saturday morning sales at J.C. Penney.

In other words, Jenny had a good life. And even though she had her share of lonely nights, they weren’t chilly enough to convince her she needed a man to keep her warm.

But then one Friday night in walked Chad, who was neither dressed for church nor smelling like a gigolo, but tired and dirty and heading home from his job as janitor at the elementary school. He said nothing beyond the usual niceties of “That’s it” and “Thanks” and made his way out the door, but Jenny did something I’d never seen her do. She watched him leave.

The two saw each other again the next Saturday, this time for dinner at Applebees. To this day I don’t know who did the asking. I suppose it doesn’t matter. They weren’t serious, but they spent their fair share of time together.

It was around their fourth date (which, as it turned out, was bowling) that the stars aligned one more time for Jenny. That was the night Aaron stopped by because his Mercedes was a quart low.

Jenny, I noticed, watched him leave too.

Aaron spent more on Jenny on their first date than Chad made in a week.

You couldn’t find two men more different from one another than Chad and Aaron. One pushed a broom all day, and the other traded stocks in the city. One lived in an apartment behind the 7-11 on Main Street, and the other lived on twenty acres in the country. Neither had quite captured Jenny’s heart yet. Both tried desperately.

The heart abhors competition, and the time came when both demanded Jenny make her choice. She was torn. Aaron was distant and sometimes cold, but with him Jenny could have the comfort she never enjoyed in life. There would be no more nights at the gas station, no more bleached jeans with denim bows in the back. There would instead be dinner parties and fine food and more security than she ever thought possible.

It was a life she knew Chad couldn’t provide her, but he could provide her with everything else. The things that both Jenny’s mom and her preacher knew were important. The things that mattered. Chad loved Jenny, pure and simple. And promised to do so always.

I saw Jenny the other day. She works the register at the grocery store now. Still wears those bleached jeans, too. Her smile and extra makeup couldn’t quite hide the sadness and bruises that were underneath. Chad’s a drinker. Jenny didn’t know that until it was too late.

She’s confessed to some that she often thinks of Aaron and the life she could’ve had. A better life. A better love. But I don’t think so. I think Jenny had it all wrong. I think Aaron would have left her just as miserable and hurt.

Because I don’t think you can choose who to love. I think love chooses you.

“It is wrong to think that love comes from long companionship and persevering courtship. Love is the offspring of spiritual affinity and unless that affinity is created in a moment, it will not be created for years or even generations” ~ Kahlil Gibran


***

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

17 comments:

Denise said...

Blessings to you my friend.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

Whoa, Billy. Beautiful.

Amy Sorrells said...

Not sure I agree with Kahlil's quote or that love chooses us. I'm more of the opinion that we choose to love and sometimes it's more obedience than anything else. (Did I just disagree with Billy Coffey?!? Ack!) BUT, the way you weave words and tell stories made me cry. And I rarely cry. I adored the girl from the first paragraph. Absolutely beautiful writing.

Jim H said...

Amy, just think of it as disagreeing with Khalil (wasn't he the worm in the Veggie "Jonah" movie?). The love you find in a moment is only a seed that bears little resemblance to the full grown plant. It's the nurture and attention that makes it flourish.

Jim H said...

Great story, Billy! I love the way you "see" people. Thanks for the insightful way you brought this tale to life.

cindyhan111 said...

yea, Love kinda does choose us.... just as we choose to receive love or not.

Unfortunately, there are times that human love, is toxic, and must be cut off.

A painful reality, hopefully only a few people will ever have to understand.

I like Jenny, you paint a nice picture!

Joanne Sher said...

I love the way you show us Jenny, Chad, AND Aaron.

And the message is beautiful and thought-provoking!

Bonnie Gray said...

Oh. This was sad, but powerful. We might trick ourselves in relegating love to being only a choice of the will. The heart is powerfully drawn to give more than take.

BeckeyZ said...

Awesome writing!

Wow, this was kinda weird for me to read, you see, I worked at a gas station for several years and, the guys that came in were sometimes humorous, and often frightening. AND I dated a few of my customers.

Lets just say I'm blessed to have found my husband - it's a long story, but basically, he lived around the corner all my life and I didn't meet him til I was 30. So at least my story has a happy ending. I'm sad for Jenny.

jasonS said...

I sure do wish that every story was a quick path to a happy ending, but thank God there's hope still as long as we have breath and faith.

Janet Oberholtzer said...

Great writing Billy!

But I'm with Amy on this one, I think we have a choice. Especially considering that "extra makeup couldn’t quite hide the sadness and bruises." I don't think love would chose someone that does not value another person.

Amy, thanks for your comment - as I finished reading, I was trying to decide if I would disagree with THE Billy Coffey, but since you did, I felt brave enough to :)
(gosh, what am I still in grade school, need someone to pave the way for me?

katdish said...

Amy & Janet -

Why shouldn't you disagree with Billy Coffey? He's not the boss of you.

Sarah Salter said...

Why must it be one way or another? I think that sometimes, love can happen in a moment and that sometimes, love can grow. There are some people that I meet that I immediately "click" with and that there's an instant bond with. But there are other people that I meet that I don't particularly like, but that over time, as I get to know them, I come to like them and eventually can't imagine my life without them...

I also think that because of the emotional nature of love, it is something that you have to choose to do over and over again...

Amy Sorrells said...

I'm just afraid to disagree with Billy because he's gonna be FAMOUS. And sometimes he DOES feel like the boss. Anyway, ya'll are cracking me up . . .

Rebecca on The Homefront said...

I have no idea how love works, so I can't argue with Billy (but Billy, you're still not the boss of me!) ;)

This was well told, but so heartbreaking. I suppose life doesn't work like the movies, though...an outsider could look at my love and say he leaves me with dark circles because I didn't know he would leave me for weeks and months at a time. It's in the eye of the beholder.

Still, so sad. This will become vintage Billy Coffey, I can see it. (Not because it's sad, but because it's so good).

S. Etole said...

There are those times when love truly is blind ... and blindsided ...

Corinne said...

This broke my heart. Sometimes love doesn't get it right...