“True love is real,” said John Dionsius. “And I’m not afraid to say it aloud.”
This a line from my protagonist, John Dionsius. I’m not sure where it will go, but I think it will be a speech he gives to a crowd of survivors in 2023 post-apocalyptic Bucharest. He needs to say it because amidst the darkness, there is beauty. And, sometimes, people can’t see that beauty until it has been spoken, named, and received with an open heart.
Like the sunshine award. And I am grateful to be among those who are named in the sunshine by Carolyn Nicander Mohr. Thank you, Carolyn. At the end of this post, you will find 10 or more bloggers that I celebrate like sunshine. This is one of the rules – not just for the sunshine award, but this is also one of the rules of love: To give. More.
John has lots of reasons to believe in true love. I’m not talking about ideas, intellectual conjectures, or naive expectations. He experiences true love. He lives it out as best he can.
Let me tell you about the time John met Cristina. And, then, you decide for yourself – if true love is real.
Cristina and her two girlfriends walked into La Biblioteca, a cafe and bar in Cismigiu Park. She was wearing faded jeans on her hips and a form fitting Indian short blouse with a halter neck. Her flat stomach and curves begged to be kissed.
Her girlfriends wore jeans and semi-transparent, traditional Romanian blouses with decorative hand embroidered details.
It was karaoke night and La Biblioteca was crowded. They squeezed through the maze of tables and chairs and found two chairs next to the ancient tree trunk that the bar was built around. Anonymous hands squeezed their asses as they pushed through but the young women didn’t dignify the pathetic attempts at conversation. Cristina was here tonight to celebrate her passing the national exam to practice pharmacy.
A waiter passed by, Cristina grabbed him by his arm, and ordered three Coronas. He nodded his head and disappeared.
Facing Cristina, two guys sat at a table with a bottle of whiskey. One wore a form fitting, high quality cotton, black dress shirt and slim jeans. His feet were in black Birkenstock sandals.
A colorful, narrow, worsted scarf hung off his shoulders. The scarf had alternating blocks of color: red, green, gold, tan, brown, purple, and gray. It actually reminded Cristina of Tom Baker’s scarf from ancient episodes of Dr. Who – scaled down.
Cristina’s ex-boyfriend was a die-hard Dr. Who fan.
The other one also wore a dress shirt. It had a houndstooth pattern of metallic silver and white. His jeans were baggy. Both had their shirts untucked.
When they got their Coronas, Cristina motioned to the boy in the black shirt if they could share their table with her and her girlfriends. He nodded and pushed the table toward them. Then, the two guys scooted up their chairs.
“I’m John. This is George,” said the boy in the black shirt.
Cristina and her girlfriends smiled, raised their Coronas as a salute, and went back to chatting amongst themselves.
“Too young,” said Cristina’s friend, Ana. “How about that guy over there, the one playing with the BMW keys?”
Cristina looked at the guy and noticed his un-manicured finger nails and three thick gold rings on his right hand.
“I bet one of those gold rings is a wedding ring,” Cristina said.
“Do you think so? Hmmm… I don’t mind,” replied Ana.
“You’re such a bitch!”
“Oh – I know”
The three women laughed just as the waiter brought them three Mai Tais courtesy of the man with the three gold rings.
John and George poured themselves another round and offered a round to Cristina and her girlfriends – the women ignored the proposal. The music started up again and John and George seemed to be busy texting on their pads.
“The one in the Indian halter top. I think I’m in love…”
“Chill, dude. You just got back to Romania. There’s lots more fishies in the sea. You can do better…
“Yeah, maybe you’re right…”
The waiter handed the microphone and a computer pad to Cristina. Cristina tried to give them back, but the waiter insisted. She tried to push them off to her girlfriends but they refused as they laughed at her.
The rule at La Biblioteca was that on karoake night, if the microphone comes to you and you don’t sing, you leave.
Cristina selected Whitney Houston’s song, I look to you…
John was overcome with emotion. He didn’t love the song – it was ok. Cristina’s voice was ok-ish.
John gasped. His eyes suddenly filled with tears. He couldn’t breathe. He took a deep breath, drained his glass, filled it again, and threw it into his stomach.
While she sang, she noticed a tear slip from John’s eye. And she felt a tear slip from her eye. She wiped hers away.
He let his roll down his cheek – as if he didn’t give a fuck who saw it.
John knew this emotion meant something. Like a sign. He was sure of it. But what did it mean?
It would play out, he figured. Whatever it was. John turned his attention back to George who was trying to catch up with him on the whiskey.
Cristina handed the microphone and computer pad back to the waiter and went back to chatting with her girlfriends.
John was telling George about the blog he made for his dog, Hachi. He showed him some videos: Hachi’s first trip to New York City, Hachi’s visit to Monticello (the Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson), and Hachi begging at Venice Beach (Los Angeles, California).
George exploded in laughter when he saw Hachi pan-handling on Venice Beach. Hachi barked at a police officer who was standing nearby. Finally, the police officer put a dollar in Hachi’s can.
Hachi sneezed and the police officer put another dollar in the can. Then Hachi did a little shuffle of a victory dance which John had tricked out with a little reverse and forward motion.
Of course, the scene was especially funny because Hachi stood next to a sign that read, GOT BACON?
George’s laughter got the attention of the women and he hit replay and handed John’s pad to them. They thought Hachi was adorable and the scene made them laugh.
“I always wanted a chow chow,” said Cristina.
John couldn’t hear her but he knew she was talking to him. He leaned over the table and she repeated herself.
John smiled. “Do you want to meet Hachi?”
“Really?! Is he here?” asked Cristina.
“Yeah, he’s nearby. You can meet him if we go outside,” John shouted over the music.
Cristina nodded her head and they both made their way to the door.
Outside La Biblioteca, Cristina introduced herself and held out her hand, “Hi, I’m Cristina.”
John took Cristina’s hand and they both felt the gentle electric shock like when you walk across a carpet and touch a metal door knob. Without thinking about it, he pulled her close to him and kissed her. Her lips were soft as clouds. They both felt it: weightless, breathless, and forever.
“Creep!” she shouted at John as she pushed him back – two guys walked by. She felt it too – something she never felt before. It was wonderful.
But Cristina needed to process it. She needed to know if this could go somewhere special. She needed evidence and guarantees. Promises. Something. Something more than the strong feelings she wanted to give in to.
One of the guys turned and came to Cristina’s rescue. He was a six foot three hulk and he pushed John a few feet back.
John tripped and fell back on the grass.
“Cristina, I’m sorry…”
“I don’t see a chow chow! But I do see a creep.”
The hulk put his arm around the back of Cristina’s waist and escorted her back into the bar.
Hachi came running up just as Cristina went into the bar. He licked John’s face as John lay there in the grass looking up at the sky.
She’s the one, he thought. And she thinks I’m a creep…
George was laughing when he came out looking for John. He saw John laying in the grass.
“She’s the one, George, and she thinks I suck.”
“I heard you tried to shove your tongue down her throat when she told you her name. You’re one sick bastard!
”Is that what they do in America?”
“What the fuck were you thinking?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you going to get up?”
“Do I have to?”
George stretched out his hand to help John up, John grabbed it and jumped to his feet.
“The thugs took our table, but I got the bottle.”
George held the bottle high and proudly. Then he passed it to John, John took several big gulps and handed it back. George also took several big gulps and they went back into the bar.
There was no place to sit or stand, so the two joined some others who had hopped up and sat on the bar top.
John sent a bottle of champagne to Cristina’s table with “sorry” written on a note. When she got it, she turned the bottle upside down in the bucket.
“Ouch!” said George as the two watched her do it.
The waiter tried to hand John the microphone and computer pad.
John pushed them away. The waiter insisted and looked at the door. John couldn’t leave now so he gave the waiter a 100 Euro bill, whispered something in the waiter’s ear, and took the microphone. He selected Enrique Iglesias’ song, Hero. Then he stood up on the bar.
“This song is for Cristina,” he said.
The waiter turned off the lights and a spotlight shone on Cristina. The crowd oohed and ahhed. Some held lit lighters as John sang.
“I will stand by you forever…”
Cristina wanted to run. She wanted to kill him. But she loved it too. This was how falling in love was supposed to be. It couldn’t have been more perfect. He touched her heart and she couldn’t deny it. She didn’t have the guts to look at him.
If she looked at him, she’d lose it. She’d lose control. She’d melt.
John sang off key. His voice cracked. But he sang the song with all his heart.
“I can be your hero…”
When the lights came back on, the crowd cheered but Cristina didn’t even look John’s way. John jumped off the counter and went to get some fresh air.
John was crushed. Had he lost his mind? He felt like he was standing at a train station and the train was pulling away. He put his hand on a tree. Maybe, it was the whiskey.
“You really want to get hurt,” said the hulk.
John turned around to meet the hulk’s fist with his face. John went down. The hulk put a steel-toed boot into John’s ribs and then walked back to the bar. John’s nose was broken and he spat blood.
After all this, John wasn’t going to let that train leave without him onboard. He was stubborn that way. A thing that was meant to be, must be. It’s when you let destiny slip between your fingers that you lose something that truly belonged to you. That’s what his father told him. Like when you don’t do the right thing and you could have done it but you know it’s going to hurt so you don’t do it. Or you’re afraid and you don’t do it. Then you spend the rest of your life, empty and full of regret.
John went back into the bar. Every breathe hurt so bad.
“What happened to you?” George asked.
George got a wet towel from the bartender and wiped John’s face. John flinched as the towel rubbed his broken nose. Then John asked George to get the microphone when it was free. At the moment, someone was singing, Radio Head’s, Creep. John thought Creep was a perfect lead in to the song on his mind.
At Cristina’s table, things weren’t going so well. The hulk had his arm around Cristina and her friend, Ana. He whispered in both of their ears. Cristina looked annoyed. The waiter brought the three women another round of Mai Tais from the man with three gold rings. The hulk greedily slammed Cristina’s drink and belched. Cristina was not amused by the pig.
The microphone came to John, the lights went out, the lighters lit up, and the spotlight fell on John’s bloody face.
John sang The Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers. Tears slowly dripped from his eyes as he sang. His nose bled.
And he sang it well.
Cristina knew the song well. She heard it for the first time when she saw the movie, Ghost. It was the absolutely most perfect love song ever.
She looked out the window and shrugged off the hulk’s arm. She couldn’t stand to be touched by that pig. Not now or ever again. Cristina melted. This was destiny. She had been waiting for this moment for a thousand years. The future and the past came together and she felt more real, more alive, and more herself than ever before.
Cristina’s heart pounded, she looked at his reflection in the window, and she gasped for air. Time stood still. Every breathe she breathed for him. She smiled a smile she had never smiled before.
“God speed your love to me…”
As he sang the last word, he spit up blood. The lights came back on and the crowed went wild; they stomped, banged their beer bottles, and chanted for more. Cristina still wasn’t looking at him – she was watching his reflection in the window.
”MORE! MORE! MORE…”
John selected U2’s song, With or Without You.
John sang the song with passion.
The hulk asked Cristina what was wrong as he put his arm around her…
Tears fell from many eyes…
It was dead quiet, John spat more blood as he yodeled…
He saw the hulk put his arm around Cristina, John put the microphone down while the music still played and George helped him walk out of the bar. Hachi met them outside and cried for John.
Cristina threw the hulks arm off of her and stood up as John walked out of the bar. She felt as if the train had left the station. She was standing there on the platform watching happiness slip away.
Cristina’s heart was pounding harder and harder. She couldn’t breathe. Her hands were wet with perspiration.
“What’s wrong?” asked Ana.
“I’m so stupid…” Cristina shouted as she pushed her way to the door.
As John, George, and Hachi walked away slowly, Cristina shouted out after him.
“Who the hell are you!”
Cristina wasn’t starting an argument. But he made her feel things she had never felt before and she didn’t know how else to say it. Hope had awakened in her. It was real – not just as a possibility but something completed, unbreakable, and everlasting. Like a circle with no beginning and no end.
She also felt despair as she had never known it. As she saw him walk out of the bar, her chest tightened. She felt as if she’d shatter into a thousand pieces after hope walked out the door.
John, George, and Hachi stopped and turned around.
“I didn’t want to embarrass you. Destiny bid me to give it my all…” John replied.
Cristina’s heart raced as she heard the word, destiny. Hope was solidifying. It was exceeding her expectations and imagination. But she needed more. What did he mean by destiny!
“Who the hell do you think you are coming into my life like a falling star!”
The hulk appeared and tried to take her arm. She shook him off. George slipped on steel knuckles.
John turned back around and spit more blood. Then he started to slowly move forward. Hachi growled at the hulk.
“Hey, I’m talking to you!” Cristina shouted again.
“Who the hell are you!”
That’s not what Cristina wanted to say. She wanted him to stop. She wanted him to talk to her. She had all these emotions, wonders, and happiness and he was walking away from it all. She didn’t even remember his name. She wasn’t really paying attention when he introduced himself.
Why was he walking away? Cristina didn’t think about the hulk standing there and then she tripped into the hulk as she followed John. She thought about destiny and realized that he walked away just when the hulk had interrupted their conversation.
She pushed the hulk away and ran after him.
John kept walking. As he approached the duck and swan pond, Cristina caught up with him.
“Please don’t go without telling me who you are,” she shouted in tears.
Meanwhile, the hulk tried to kick Hachi. Hachi sunk his fangs into the hulk’s calf and when he doubled over in pain, George hit him in the chin with the steel knuckles. The hulk went down and was out cold. George proceeded to crush and fracture every finger of the unconscious man’s right hand with his boot. He would have done the left hand too but the park police were strolling towards them. He grabbed the man’s wallet out of his back pocket, but it was empty.
“Loser!” George said to the unconscious hulk, replaced the wallet, and then Hachi and he went to catch up with John.
John stopped and turned to face Cristina. He smiled.
“Who am I, Cristina? I’m your hero…”
”What does that mean?”
”It means I am yours and you are mine until you are not mine. It means that I will celebrate your laughter and know the salt of your tears. It means that I will stand by you through the darkest of nights and across all the years. It means that I will kill and die for you, Cristina.
“Forever?” she asked.
“And always,” he replied.
20 March 2012
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