Chapter 1 of She Listened with Her eyes
The sun lingered above us, just about to descend. The weather was beautiful for a walk, the other joggers and the kids playing around us thought so too.
“Do you know that a lot of girls like you?”
I looked down to see my friend William talking to me from his wheelchair. “No. If you were to ask me if I know anyone who likes me I wouldn’t have one name.”
“Really?” he asked
“Yes. Now let’s talk not talk about this. For one, I’m prone to pride enough as it is. Second, there really is no data to base things on. And third, I don’t want the additional burden of people’s expectations – expectations I know I’ll fail.”
“You’re too hard on yourself.”
“Change topic.” I said, as I normally do whenever I’m in an uncomfortable discussion. A friend once told me that one can’t just hijack a whole conversation by saying “change topic”, and I asked her “Why not?” She said, “You’re hopeless, David. The fact that you have to ask why is crazy.”
She never did explain anything so future hijacked conversations have her to blame. She did not stop me when she could have.
“But you’ve been in love?” William asked.
“Yeah.” I told him. “I’ve had my ladies. Can’t say I’ve been very good to them.”
“No. I mean love. You know? Like you know in your heart that you really really love this person, even if it wasn’t meant or the timing wasn’t right, you can’t deny that you really really love someone.”
I just smiled my smirk.
“I’ve been in love.” he said very securely, as if it was the surest thing he knew. “I was five years old”.
“You loved a girl at five?? I couldn’t stand girls at five. Well, I still can’t stand too much of them now but worse when I was five.”
“Yes. She was my playmate. We were so close. Even when we graduated high school, I was valedictorian and she was salutatorian. She was beautiful.”
I looked at William, sitting in his wheel chair, unable to walk yet more than capable of understanding his heart. I wondered how a man who has never been able to walk, has never been able to go anywhere without the help of other people, managed to get a girlfriend at five, make it last through high school, and still find her so beautiful more than a decade since. “Shame on you, David.” I told myself.
“Tell me about her.” I asked William.
And so started one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever heard, the story of the boy who could fly and the girl who listened with her eyes.
She Listened with Her Eyes
I met Mary Jane when we were five. Her family lived close to us so we played on the same street. Her father was an American who had met her mother in Subic, and you know what that means. My family was so poor that we couldn’t afford a wheelchair for me. I was small then so I used a toy cart, like those Fisher Price ones, to get around while playing with friends. As a kid, my friends never made me feel like I was less, they never bullied me, and were nice to me.
The nicest was Mary Jane.
As you can imagine, given the mix of her parents, she was incredibly beautiful. Looking back she looked like Brooke Shields. Imagine a young Brooke Shields playing games with a boy on a plastic cart. She always made me feel special.
You’ll find this funny, given how cynical you are, but I loved her. I know it because I really felt it in my heart. It’s not simply that I admired her, though she was admirable. It wasn’t simply because she was impressive, though she definitely impressed me. It was a caring kind of love, the kind of love that makes you care for someone, not merely possess them. And she genuinely cared for me too. I felt it. I felt it because she showed it.
She showed it with her time. She showed it as she pushed me on that toy or carried me to go play with her. She showed it in the way she spoke, the way she smiled at me. Most of all, what I loved most, is how she listened with her eyes. When I would talk, she would turn her whole body to me and look at me, as if I was the only person in the whole world, and she would really listen. She was really interested in what I had to say, in my ideas, in my concerns, in my stories.
And she stayed this way.
As we got older, the other boys in our neighborhood and school would ask me to introduce them to her. I obliged because I thought she would like more friends too. She was always the star of everything, in school, in our barangay, she was always chosen because she was smart. Did I mention she was beautiful?
Well, she was.
I was smart. I got the best grades. But I couldn’t really do much else. My condition was bad enough, and remember I didn’t have a wheel chair. I didn’t have one until college. So my grandmother lovingly carried me to school every single day throughout grade school and college. Every. Single. Day. She was amazing. I was lucky my parents abandoned me. I was better off with my grandma.
Also, because of this I lived in Mary Jane’s block. I was really lucky.
I remember prom season coming along. All the guys wanted to date her. Of course I wished she could be my date, but I knew she could do better, and I wanted better for her. As we grew older, as we grew out of our youthful ignorance, our differences in size and situation became more apparent.
The night of the prom, she had her date and I was on my seat, remember, I couldn’t really move around and mingle. It’s hard to attend a party without a wheelchair. But she walked up to me, this incredibly beautiful angel, walked up to me, started talking to me, and most gently kissed my lips.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of being kissed by someone infinitely more beautiful than you. It happened so fast but it’s a moment branded into my mind. Of all the guys there, including the good-looking guys, Mary Jane kissed me.
I was in heaven, and an angel had flown me there. That’s when I realized that even a boy who can’t walk can soar. You only need an angel to teach you how to fly.
After graduation, we stayed close despite taking different courses. She was good at math and I was good at English, so we would meet up to switch homework. Serendipitously, her family even moved closer to our house, so we became even closer.
After college, as we both got busy starting our work lives, we drifted apart. On hindsight, It could never have lasted.
I loved her. I told you that. I also knew she could do better than me. That was hard to accept, that the I could never be good enough for the one I loved. You must not know how that feels. You can have anyone. But I could never have had her. I knew that it was only a matter of time when a handsome man would enter the picture and make her dreams come true. And I hoped that for her. I loved her so much that I wanted the best for her – even if the best wasn’t me.
I guess that’s how you know you really love someone, when their flourishing takes precedence over your happiness.
The last time we spoke, she was married, and she seemed happy. But I think she could have done better. That was more than ten years ago.
I haven’t spoken to her in a long time. I actually don’t know where she is. Still I can’t forget her. She was the only girl I ever loved.
I know you might find this sad. Most people do. Too many times we think that love is about having the things our heart desires. And when we hear a story like mine, of how one loved but lost, we feel sadness. I guess it really is sad. But there’s a better way to look at it.
I’m a lucky guy to have experienced such beauty, and she changed my life. Because of her I made a promise to myself, a promise I have kept and has blessed me in amazing ways. I promised to share Mary Jane’s gift, to give every single person I meet undivided attention, and listen with my eyes.
Maybe, just maybe, they too can fly.