Short Story - Job on Love: Part 1
So I decided to write a short story about Valentine's Day, and it starts out a little dark. So before you call me to make sure I'm okay, just know that the first act here is in the similar format of Job 3 and his lament. I'm okay, but Job isn't. Part 2 will be up next week with more of a Elihu response. All is well ... relatively.
Usually when Job tells me he wants to shoot hoops, generally it means one of two things. Either intramural basketball season is coming and he wants to get into ball shape, or he needed to talk about something. Considering it’s a cold February night, I assume it was the latter. I tell him I’ll meet him at Banner Park at 7 since I know the lights would stay on until 9.
After putting on a couple layers to keep the cold out, I get to the park a few minutes earlier and begin to stretch out. I hate to admit it, but I’m getting older now and those types of old-man activities have now become a part of my pre-game routine. Job doesn’t show up until 7:10, and by then, I’ve already started to take a few jump shots to keep warm mostly.
“Hey, Job,” I say, clanking a fifteen footer. Rusty? It’s more like antique. He gives me a curt nod and begins to shoot without stretching out or saying anything more. It is at this point that I realize that whatever it is, it’s not good.
Not wanting to push the issue quite yet, we continue to shoot in silence for about 10 minutes, taking a considerable amount of time to chase down errant shots because it’s been few months for both of us since we last played in the intramural championship. Occasionally I glance in his direction after a shot, and the scowl that drapes his face tells me quite a lot. Finally, I offer to play some one-on-one, and noisily Job nods his assent.
After some sloppy play, the score’s 6-5, and he picks my pocket, hop steps behind the circle and launches a three that clangs off every part of the rim before rolling into the basket. “I’m warming up,” he says with the first smile of the night. By game’s end, he beats me 13-11, and I beg him to let me rest for a second. No doubt seeing my wheezing, Job sits down on first row of some nearby bleachers and takes a drink from his water bottle and cradles it in his hands with a sad look on his face.
“What’s wrong, Job?” I ask, hoping that he’s now in the mood to chat after beating me. I sit down a few feet from him to rest my aching calves.
“I don’t know, Mike. It’s stupid. I’m sorry that I called you out here. It was impulsive.”
“Well, I’m here already, and I imagine it’s good for me. Been too long since we played ball, and as you can see, I’m ice cold.” He looks up at me with a second smile, but soon it’s replaced with a frown once more. “But it can’t be nothing, Job. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.”
“You’re right,” he says as he stands up to pick up his basketball and seems to gaze at it like poor Yorick. “Do you know what day Friday is?”
“Of course. Friday’s Valentine’s Day.”
“Yes, Valentine’s Day, Mike.” Job began to dribble the ball. “I wish it wasn’t.”
“A lot of Valentine’s Days have come, and they haven’t bothered you before. What’s changed?”
“I don’t know, Mike. Everything. I realize that I’ve suffered through enough of them as a single that I should not have this reaction, but here I am. Maybe it was all those jewelry and flowers commercials. Maybe it was that stupid sappy movie that’s coming out written by what’s his face. Maybe it’s all the chocolate strawberry ads or just social media. I don’t know if I can stand another person wishing their wife or girlfriend or husband or boyfriend Happy Valentine’s Day or sharing about what their spouse did for them. It’s everywhere, and it’s maddening, Mike.”
“I’m sorry, Job. If it’s my post on Facebook to my wife that drove you to this place …”
“It’s not you. Well, it’s not just you. I don’t know. All I know is that I feel like crap because everyone else is celebrating something I don’t have. I realize that my singleness is my choice or my fault, but I don’t like being punched in the gut every single time I’m reminded of that fact. Usually I’m okay with it … you know I am … but right now, it’s just too much. I feel like I’m the piñata, and Facebook and Twitter are the baseball bats absolutely going to town on me.
It’s funny too … the whole notion of Valentine’s Day. If it weren’t for Chaucer, it would just be some Catholic holiday that no one cares about, but nope, let’s spout some stuff about courtly love until it gets mutated into some commercial mobster-racket for chocolate makers, jewelry stores and florists. What does some martyr have to do with Cupid and candy? Nothing, and yet here we are in the 21st Century, celebrating a monstrosity that has absolutely no bearing on the original meaning.”
Job starts to dribble his ball harder, and from the flustered look on his face, I know he has more to say. He begins shooting jump shots, except that each shot is flat and caroms hard off the rim. I follow him onto the court and just listen.
“You know, I never realized how much of a curse being single is. I mean, I don’t really mean being alone, but just the constant reminders that you are single. All the E-Harmony or Christian Mingle ads. All the other less reputable ads about meeting singles in your area. It’s like I have a digital Scarlet A, but instead of Adultery, it’s just Alone. Perhaps I should just change my Facebook status to nothing instead of single.” His jump shots start looking more like dodge ball throws against the backboard now.
“I don’t want to feel this turmoil, Mike. Like I’m incomplete or irreparably broken. I know that I’m not, but that how all of this makes me feel. Valentine’s Day preys on every insecurity and fear I have about myself. It tells me that the grass is greener on the other side and then punches me in the face. I’m uneasy with this feeling. I cannot rest with this disquiet upon my chest.
I don’t want to be that guy that pooh poohs everything and shakes my fist at the world, but I can’t sort this. I can’t bury my head in the sand because it’s everywhere. I don’t even want to be that guy to just ask out any girl just so that I don’t have be alone on Valentine’s Day because that’s desperate and insincere. I don’t even want to go to some Anti-Valentine’s party to prove I’m a rebel that doesn’t care about anything because it’s not true. I’m uneasy.” With that, he took one last shot that airballs and pathetically bounces on the ground until resting against the chain link fence. “I’m uneasy.”