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This is a Love Story
Monica Boothe


They first met on a rainy day, one of those days when the when the sky is weeping, and the tears are tear-stained and the people have to encase themselves in plastic boots and coats and hats with brims in order to keep the sorrow off their skin.  They met at a bus stop in that rain, and she bumped into him.  But this is cliché.  There is always a battle between the beautiful and the cliché.  If a beautiful thing is written a thousand times and again does it become less beautiful?  Maybe it does.  So she didn't bump into him at the bus stop.  She was running late.  The bus arrived, splashing through the sky tears, but the man was sufficiently fortified with his rubber boots and rain coat, and he boarded the bus still dry.  She saw the bus from a block away and began to run.  She reached it just as the driver was closing the door, so she banged on the glass, and when it opened she climbed the steps in a dripping fluster, and her umbrella dripped onto his dry pants.  Is this, too, cliche?  Did he look up at her then, she wilting with rain, and smile?  Or was he perturbed? Did he grumble and snap at her, and only then notice that she was beautiful?  Or did he take no notice at first?  No, this is a love story; he noticed.  He looked up, ready to brush away any apologies, ready to assure her that it was only water and that they were only pants, but she broke into such a laugh, that all his apologies fell away.  But no, that’s not how love begins, with a sputter of joy, but rather with a shared sadness.  Instead, when he felt the splatter of rain across his clean and crisp pants, he looked up, a bark forming in his throat, but before it could emerge, she burst out with a cry, "Oh clumsy me!  Clumsy! Clumsy!" It was the despair with which she said it that stirred something within him.  It was a kind of despair he had known his whole life.  He swallowed his indignation.   “It’s nothing, nothing,” he said, and all the bitterness and anger melted within him like the rain outside – because the rain is the symbol of the lonely, loveless world from which they seek shelter, the world of the strange, of those who do not know them.  And he moved aside, gesturing for her to take a seat next to him.    But maybe the lonely world of lovelessness is not a rainy day.  It is much emptier than that.  Stark.  There is no wildness.  No gushing expression of the sorrow, pouring through the streets for all to see.  No, it is always silent and hidden and unknown by everyone else.  That is what makes it so alone.  And love is not stumbled upon by accident.  It must be sought and found.  It is hard-won.  So they did not meet at a bus stop on a rainy day.  They met on a tour bus in Italy.  He had come in search of his Italian heritage, desperate to know what it means to be his grandmother’s grandson, what it means to be an American with old world blood, what it means to be an Italian who eats his pizza with barbecue sauce and speaks only English.  And she had come on a pilgrimage, hoping for a glimpse of the pope and of St. Peter’s Basillica and of the catacombs, hoping that somehow faith might be found to be contagious, and that she would catch it if she brushed close enough to it.  Each of their quests is a symbol for the quest of the soul, the quest for love.  “Hi,” he said when she had settled her backpack in the overhead shelf and was taking a seat next to him.  “What brings you to Italy?”  She was taken aback at first, not usually one to start conversations with strangers, even those with whom she’ll share a tour bus for two weeks.  This shows us her loneliness.  She doesn’t expect to be seen, to be known.  And she doesn’t want that.  She hides inside herself, in the darkness.  So “I want to see the sites” was all she said. But then he started talking about his family and how he wasn’t sure if he’d ever had real lasagna, and how he suspected that there was something of your soul in the blood that ran through your veins and how he suspected that there was something of the land of your grandparents that ran through their veins, and so he suspected his soul might be composed of Italian soil.  Because he was not like her. He wanted to be known.  And he wanted it desperately.   This sudden honesty shocked her, but something about it sounded true.  And truth was what she was looking for. Before she knew it, she was telling him about the disease of faith that she was desperate to catch and that she longed for God like a heroine addict for his fix.  And suddenly there she was, a slip of her being seen.  There was no taking it back.  So as they were eating true spaghetti at a café in the Vatican, they both found exactly what they were looking for. No, they didn’t.  That’s too easy.  Love is never easy.  Instead they looked and looked and never found what they sought.  She began to feel more and more squeamish about the colorful, two-dimensional gospels painted in light along walls of the cathedrals, and he discovered that he hated the way his breath tasted with garlic on it. So they wandered through Italy, becoming more and more desperate, looking but never finding.  This is a metaphor for the lonely, loveless world.  It is empty.  Nothing ever satisfies except love.  They returned to America feeling even less full than when they had left.  Only when they were alone again did they realize that they had found something after all, something other than what they had been seeking.   But love isn’t exotic.  It isn’t reserved for strange places.  And it’s not sought after quietly in a charming setting, a safe setting.  It is fought for in a bloody battle.  The story of love is not how they met at all.  They had met on a bus and started dating, got engaged and married, but that’s not where the story begins.  The story begins when she cheated on him.  She bumped into an old friend from high school back home for a few weeks from the peace corps, and she trashed everything she had with her husband spent a whole two weeks sneaking around with this guy, flirting, kissing behind corners, and then sleeping with him in her bed in his bed in a hotel room, wherever they were.  No, that’s not where the story begins.  That’s not even part of the story.  The story begins when he found out.  When he found the two of them in his bed, he stormed out of his own apartment bawling like a little boy, and he stayed for a month at his mom’s house feeling like a kid again, but he still loved her and kept worrying about stupid things like whether or not she might get an STD from the Peace Corps guy.  And when she came to him a while later, all shrunken and ashamed, he moved back in with her and tried to forget about it, but he couldn’t.  And even though every night when he lays in bed, he thinks about the sweat and the semen of the other bastard, and it makes him sick to his stomach, but he lies still with his arm draped around his beautiful wife, and he can’t stop loving her.  This is a love story.

Monica Boothe has an MFA in fiction from George Mason University. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two children and teaches at Trinity University. She currently blogs at