He moves swiftly through the family room, carrying a basket of clean laundry, intent to deliver it to our bedroom before tackling the next item on his long to-do list. I reach out from where I’m sitting and brush his arm with my fingers as he passes me, and I smile. His steps slow for a nanosecond, and he looks at me, first quizzically, then he grins, the quick change in his expression noticeable only to one who has known him so intimately for twenty-one years.
Midnight premieres are not what they used to be. I’m not sure why this is, but I’m not complaining. When a studio schedules a weekend release of a blockbuster movie, theaters start playing the film at 8:00 on Thursday evening, not midnight. Which means you can cross off youthful adventure and still be in bed before the carriage turns back into a pumpkin and your RLS flairs up again.
Meghan wanted to go to the premiere of Divergent last week—she preferred the actual midnight showing, so I pulled the 40-Card out of my back pocket—we compromised and went at 10. When you’re fifteen and don’t have another ride, whaddya gonna do?
I had not read the books yet, and I really liked the movie, which is forcing me to reevaluate my read-the-book-before-you-see-the-movie rule. I’ve stuck to that rule hard and fast, but it always leaves me disappointed. The book is always better than the movie. I usually leave the movie wanting more of the book. But see the movie first, enjoy the movie, and still love the book? I’m rethinking this.
For the uninitiated, the Divergent series throws the reader into the middle of a dystopian post-apocalyptic society where the ruling authorities divide the population according to each person’s single defining characteristic: service, bravery, intellect, peacefulness, or honesty. There’s no overlap—unless you are “Divergent.” Which, of course, Tris (our sixteen year old heroine) is. And which, of course, she has to keep a secret or lose her life. She meets Four, one of her instructors in the Dauntless faction, who also happens to be Divergent. And, of course, they start to kinda like each other.
That’s really all you need to know. (That, plus government is power-hungry and bad and wants to kill people to maintain control.)
So there’s this scene where all of the non-Divergent Dauntless are in a train car, under the influence of this government-issued mind-control serum, on their way to wage war against another faction. (Hello, young adult dystopian science fiction.) Even though their Divergence makes them immune to the serum, Tris and Four pretend to be mind-controlled to prevent divulging their secret. But Tris doesn’t yet know that Four is a Divergent, though she suspects he is, and she doesn’t know for sure if he’s only pretending to be zombified. So she inches her way through all the zoned-out Dauntless and stands next to him. In a moment of enormous suspense and tension, he slowly, surreptitiously takes her hand and laces his fingers through hers.
He’s not a zombie. And they’re holding hands.
For an instant, my insides flutter and swim. I can hardly breathe.
Because he held her hand.
“So, um, I had a really good time this weekend.” He twisted his watch around his wrist, fidgeting with the strap.
“Yeah, me too,” I smiled. I looked out across the river, the moon reflecting its light like an unfolding secret.
“So what does that mean?”
Two hours later, we stood up from that place—grinning, nervous, joyously exhilarated—and began to walk back to his car. He took off his coat and put it around my shoulders, then reached for my hand, our fingers entwining. My stomach leaped. We looked at each other and smiled, moving together along the sidewalk through puddles of light and shadow.
I vaguely remember dating. Before bills and obligations, before careers and babies, before diapers and potty training and tantrums, before soccer practices and ballet recitals and Cub Scout campouts, before sleepless nights wondering if our mistakes could be redeemed.
I remember dating. I remember how I could not suppress a smile when he looked at me, when I heard his voice on the phone, when he touched my arm or my face. I remember resting my head on his shoulder, and his hand touching my knee, and the thrill that lit up inside me, knowing he believed I was something special. I remember escaping to secret places together, making out for hours, the too much and the not enough. I remember nights of talking until we could not keep our eyes open, but not wanting to leave because leaving would mean thoughts and ideas and words left unexplored.
I remember wearing white, vowing ‘til death do us part, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live. Amen.
After seeing the movie, I read the entire Divergent series—three very thick novels—in four days. I couldn’t put it down. Not because it was especially good writing, but the storyline intrigued me, the suspense consuming. Plus it was a nice little distraction from my reality—the one that includes never-ending piles of laundry and mail, the 300 miles I drive every week, rarely venturing more than five miles from my house. Dystopia doesn’t seem so bad.
While I wish the characters would do something other than pinching the bridges of their noses or rubbing the backs of their necks or wiping their sweaty palms on their legs every other page, I found myself rooting for Tris and Four/Tobias. And I would rush through other plot lines and chapters to reach their next scene together. The silly schoolgirl in me went all a-flutter at their interactions, the building chemistry and tension, the what-is-he-thinking, the electricity. It’s a little ridiculous, I know. But I miss that.
If you’ve been married for more than a week, you know. Romantic love quickly yields to hard reality and tough choices. It doesn’t disappear, but sometimes it’s harder to find. The butterflies migrate, occasionally leaving indigestion in their wake.
But you still choose to love, you still decide to stay. Love is a decision, not simply a feeling. True love is joining together, yielding, serving, sharing, building. True love chooses to act lovingly, even when he does not deserve your kindness. True love accepts his kindness, even when you do not deserve to receive it. In other words
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
(I Corinthians 13:3-7, The Message)
And here’s what I’ve discovered: choosing to act lovingly will produce loving feelings. The heart follows the head. The feeling follows the choice. Not the other way around. You don’t feel “in love” anymore? Welcome to adulthood. Pull up a chair; you’re in good and abundant company. The emotional rush of dating cannot sustain itself. Love craves something deeper, more intimate, more permanent. And when it matures, when we learn how to choose love, then we can choose to act lovingly. It takes work and will, and you might have to bite your tongue in half to keep your thoughts from slipping out. But the payoff is worth it.When we choose to act lovingly, we cannot help but stir affection. We cannot help but remember why we chose each other.
He smiles and keeps walking, and I lower my eyes back to my book. I hear the closing of drawers, the rattle of hangers, the shutting of cabinet doors in our closet. You totally scored with this one, you know. He puts away the laundry. Yum.
He walks back into the family room, sits down on the couch next to me, and picks up the remote.
I rest my head on his shoulder, he places his hand on my knee, and together we share this sacred space of years and moments, loss and triumph, joy and grief. We drift through the light and shadow, ever entwined.