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the arena

boysonboard

 


“That sorrow can make one demented may be granted and is hard enough; that there is a strength of will that hauls close enough to the wind to save the understanding, even if the strain turns one slightly odd, that too may be granted. I don’t mean to decry that. But to be able to lose one’s understanding and with it the whole of the finite world whose stockbroker it is, and then on the strength of the absurd get exactly the same finitude back again, that leaves me aghast.”

Soren Kierkegaard, from Fear and Trembling


 

Who can explain these things? It was an event in a college hockey arena. The house lights were on, and people were mingling around on the ice, except there was no ice. These people weren’t children, but they weren’t adults, either. They were eighteen. They were at that frustrating age where they couldn’t get respect because they didn’t really deserve it.

One of the young women and one of the young men just walked straight up to each other through the crowd. Following some unspoken inner guidance, they both immediately decided to find love there, in that connection. They left the arena together, and their lonely friends tagged along behind them in envy.

Destined or not, the new relationship didn’t work out because the young woman was too prejudiced. A year or so later they tried again, but it didn’t work out because the young man was too immature. Then they tried being best friends, and she rode around in the car with him and his new girlfriend. That didn’t work out; the new girlfriend didn’t like it. The young man came back to her one last time, but by then she was too self-destructive. They drifted apart and found lasting connections with other people, which was mature and sensible. These two were deserving of respect.

That night at the hockey arena, the sense of mutual recognition had meant a hell of a lot. Turns out it didn’t mean what they thought. It didn’t really matter at all. Twenty-five years later, the only people who care about it are the kids the woman had with her eventual husband. Her kids seem to realize that their existence depends on the profound randomness of love. They ask about her phantom boyfriends, who were tried on and later returned to the store. She answers with gusto, speaking over her shoulder to her curious children in the back seat of the car, driving them back and forth on a road so familiar it no longer exists.

 
 

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