Soundtrack Song - John Mayer Trio, Another Kind of Green
"I don't know, man. I honestly don't know."
"Well, come on, is he, like, okay in that he's just going to live, or is he okay in that he's going to be completely functional and self-sufficient in society?"
"I don't know, Staalsy. I'm just telling you what Charlotte told me. She's still talking to whoever called her with the news, so maybe she can call you back? When she's off the phone?"
He lets out a deep breath, trying to hide his vulnerability. After all, he's a big strong hockey player; he's not supposed to be scared about anything. "Yeah, Talbo. Can you have her call me as soon as possible? This is important. If he's going to be a vegetable, I.... I just need to hear he's going to be okay."
"Let me see if she's off the phone yet," I say, opening the window in the living room and sticking my head out. I look straight down, and she's sitting on the ground, talking. "Not yet. She's gonna have to call you back."
I hang up and start to move back inside, but when what she's saying registers, I stop and listen. "It took a lot of strength and courage to walk away from him, and quite frankly, I'd appreciate it if everyone would get off my fucking back and let me live my own goddamn life the way I want to.... I'm not going to chill out. Your brother really pulled one over on me and fucked me up. It was hard to get to this place, and it took a lot of help. Max has been beyond wonderful to me, for me, and even if I wanted to see John—which I don't, mind you—I wouldn't put Max through this. Not again. I won't let John ruin the best thing I have going for me right now."
That brings a smile to my face. Yeah, sure, I like to hear her stick up for herself. She needs to learn to be more assertive, and I'm glad to see her do that. But, I'm not gonna lie: I like hearing her talk about me, too. Especially when she says stuff like this. The best thing? Yeah....
It's one thing when someone tells you how they feel to your face. It's another thing to hear it when they tell someone else. Then you know it's how they truly feel. Plus, she doesn't want to deal with John anymore, meaning no more debacles like what happened in the hospital. What a relief.
"That's how it always starts out. You know, I gave him all summer to come to his senses. I've learned a lot about real love since then.... Yes, it does! This has everything to do with him. Max has been loving, kind, generous, magnanimous, constant in his affection, unwavering... nothing short of amazing and way more than I deserve. I don't know what he sees in me, but until he wises up and leaves, I'm going to hold onto him...."
I stop listening at this point. I bring my head back into the room and close the window, refusing to listen and unable to. It feels like my head's underwater, and all the sounds are muffled. How could she say that? "Until he wises up and leaves." She might as well have punched me in the gut. It completely negates all the good things she just said about me.
Does she think I would do that? I mean, why would I bother spending this much time with her if I was just going to leave her? I'm not cruel. I wouldn't do that to her. And doesn't she see how crazy I am about her? Here I am, ready to give her my name, my world, that ring... and she expects me to leave? Something isn't right. We're not on the same page. How can she think I'm just going to leave? Doesn't she know I'm all in? Doesn't she know she has my heart?
I'm sad, and frustrated, and angry. I'm disappointed. Incredibly hurt. It's like she ripped my heart out of my chest. Now I'm hollow and empty. Charlotte sees this as temporary; I see it as permanent. Forever. Worst of all, if she loves me the way she said, she wants this just as badly as I do. It's not like she doesn't want me anymore. But she just won't trust me to stay around. Is that what this boils down to?
But I just don't understand why she would doubt me. I've never given her any reason to think I'd up and walk out on her. I don't know how she can even think that. Well, yes, there was Thanksgiving, when I left her so she could deal with John—but that's just because she needed to deal with that on her own. And then there was the hospital incident. I left then, too. But I came back. I was just so angry, though; can you blame me for that?
When I hear the door click into place, signaling her return to the apartment, I decide to be calm and rational and conduct a civilized conversation with her about what she meant. However, it doesn't come out that way. "What the fuck was that about?"
"What are you talking about?" she asks, looking at me like a deer in headlights.
"I heard your conversation," I tell her, shaking my head.
"You heard that? And why in the world were you listening to me?"
"Don't change the subject here. What did you mean by, 'when he wises up and leaves'?"
"Is that what you're mad about? Out of everything I said, that's what you choose to hear?"
"I expect you to say all good things about me. I don't expect to hear you say I'm going to leave you."
"That's not what I said."
"Shall I repeat it? 'When he wises up and leaves.'"
"If you want to argue semantics, technically I said 'until he wises up,' and 'until' does not imply that it will happen like 'when' does," she spits out at me. "I am not in the mood to do this right now. I just had that horrible conversation with Libby, and my mom's already tried calling, no doubt trying to guilt me into going to the goddamn hospital now that he's awake, so I could deal with a little less animosity, if you don't mind."
"Charlotte," I say, taking a deep breath. "I want an answer. Why did you say that at all? Is that what you honestly think? That someday, I might leave?"
Some of her anger fades. I watch as the tense muscles in her face relax, and she looks down at her hands, picking at her fingernails. "I don't know. Kind of."
I groan. I'm too steeped in disbelief to realize that I should be a little more reassuring at a time like this. "How can you possibly think that?"
"You're too good to be true! You're amazing; you're wonderful; you're everything any girl could ever hope for, and probably more. And here I am, standing here before you, knowing full well just how great you are, and still I make you mad and provoke you. I'm doing it right now! I don't mean to, but I do anyway. It seems I can't help but screw up. Eventually, you're going to realize that you could have someone else that's not going to do this to you. For whatever reason, you're happy with me right now. And I'll take that for as long as you'll give it to me. But when you wake up and decide to move on, well, I won't be able to say I didn't expect it sooner or later."
"I'm not just going to wake up one day and suddenly not love you. I can't believe you'd ever think that. There's no doubt in my mind, Charlotte, that you're the love of my life. Maybe you think I'm a little crazy for knowing that so soon, but I do know that. I'm so sure of it. And I can't believe you don't know it, too. If you still need time to figure out, then take as much as you need. I'm in this for the long haul. I'm not ever going anywhere."
She takes a shaky breath, her chest almost convulsing with emotion. "See? You go and spout out shit like that like it's nothing. Like it's second nature to spew forth emotion and poetry. A girl can get carried away with talk like that. That you can even feel that way about a person, about anyone at all, and put it into words like that.... I don't deserve you, Max. And you deserve someone much better than me."
I gently cup her chin in my hand and tilt her face to look up at me. Her eyes are wet and red as they peer into mine. While the words I say might sound angry, I whisper them in a loving tone. "Don't you dare assume to know what I deserve. Let me determine that. And it doesn't get any better than you. The words come so easily because it's how I feel. I wouldn't say anything I don't mean. It's a good thing I like to talk, because you're the type of person who needs to hear it."
Grabbing her hands, I pull her towards the couch and sit her down. I sit on the coffee table and face her, our knees touching and her hands still in mine; then I wait for her to look up at me before I begin talking again. "Last season, when the team dumped our old coach and picked up Bylsma, he said something to us. He said that you only need to hear something negative once for it stick with you for a long time, but you need to hear the positive over and over again before you can start believing it. I'm willing to bet that you've heard a lot of negative things about yourself from people like your mom and your ex, and never anything positive."
She chokes out a sob, and I think she wants to say something. Charlotte nods and takes a moment to collect herself, and I patiently wait and squeeze her hands. "When someone tells you that you aren't good enough, you start to believe it."
"Well, guess what? You're more than just good enough. You're better than that. I will be sure to tell you every day for the rest of your life just how incredible you are and how much I love you. If there's one thing you deserve in this world, Charlotte, baby, it's that you deserve to be happy. I want to be the guy that makes it happen for you."
"I want you to be that guy, Max. Maxime. But look at me. Look at us. This is just a mess. It's not supposed to be like this."
"How is it supposed to be?" I have to try my hardest to keep the anger out of my voice. "Excuse me if this sounds rude, but remember that you thought you had all that before, and it didn't pan out. Forget about the picture-perfect life. Appearances are deceiving, and sometimes if something looks too good to be true, sometimes it is. Well, the opposite can be true, too. Sometimes, something can look like a total disaster, but it's really not."
"And what about paper perfect?"
"When things look so good on paper. I love you, Max, but I can think of a gazillion reasons why we're not destined for forever."
I shake my head. I can't believe I'm hearing this. Charlotte's a little insecure, but I never thought this was the kind of stuff that ran through her head. "Like what?" She quickly shakes her head, like she doesn't want to say. "What? Are you convinced you'll run me away if you say?"
She nods slowly and then confesses, ticking off all her points on her fingers as she goes. "You travel all the time, and I hate having to say goodbye. You like to go out and party, and I prefer quiet nights at home. I don't speak French. My mother doesn't like you. I'm always making you mad. You're amazing, and I'm never going to have the confidence in myself to believe that I'm on par with you. I'll never be your equal, and I don't know how I earn your love. I'm not worthy of it."
"Wow," I say, leaning back and looking at her face intently. "If all that's true, then why are you with me?"
"Because I love you, Max."
"Well, the same is true for me. I love you, and that's why I'm here with you. If you're allowed to feel that way about me, then why won't you let me feel that way about you? Why can't I reciprocate?"
Charlotte pulls her hands out of mine and then brings her knees up to her chest. "You make it sound so easy. You make it sound so logical."
"It is. I can see it. Why can't you?" I pause and wonder if she'll have an answer for me. When she doesn't, I lean forward, placing my hands on her ankles, and keep going. "Whatever strange fascination you have with perfection... you need to forget it. We work together, you and me, just the way we are. Flaws and all. You could list every reason why our relationship shouldn't work, but it does. We're the opposite of 'paper perfect.' Maybe it's because of our faults, I don't know. We don't need to be perfect to have a love that'll last forever."
"But what if someday you meet someone better suited for you than me?"
"That day will never come, and you can't think like that. When I think about my future days, I only see you."
"What do you mean, why?"
"Why do you love me? It's easy to see why I'm completely and utterly head over heels for you, because of everything you've done for me. But me for you.... How? Why?"
I let out a breath. I'm no philosopher; I can't pretend to know the logistics of the way I feel. "I don't know, baby. I only know that I do. I love the way your face lights up when you're happy. Seeing that glow makes me want to make sure you're happy for the rest of your life, because that smile is my greatest reward. I love the way you get all self-conscious and cover yourself up when you're naked, even though I think you're beautiful. So, so beautiful. Not just parts of you, either—all of you, even what you hate about yourself. I love all the crazy shit you do, like the way you eat M&Ms and even the way you get mad at me when I eat them out of order. I just love you. I don't need to know the whys or the hows.
"All I need to know is that the last thing I want to see before I fall asleep is your face, and when I wake up in the morning, I want to wake up beside you. Everything that happens in between waking up and falling asleep doesn't matter as long as you're there."
She launches herself from her position on the couch and practically tackles me. I laugh and wrap my arms around her. Her voice is barely audible with her face pressed against my chest. "If you're not perfect, then my definition of perfection needs to change."
"Honestly, Charlotte. No more talk about perfect. Okay?"
"Because sometimes, things don't pan out the way you want them to, and that's part of life. But sometimes, things aren't too good to be true. They're great and it's for real. And that's what this is. This is amazing, and it's not going to change."
"And no more talk about how I'm going to leave you. It's never going to happen."
"I love you, baby."
"I love you, Max-A-Million."
"One more thing?"
"You need to call Staal."