“So are you going to write anything with a happy ending this semester?”
It was the second day of Poetry 386. The professor was walking around the room passing out sheets of paper, talking to some students, and he had turned in his chair to look at me, a smug smile on his face.
We had met in Creative Writing 101 the first semester of my sophomore year. When the teacher had told us to pair up to read each other’s work, we turned to each other. He read about all of my broken things, and I read all about his adventures as a boy living in Europe. He was my reading partner all the way through my second semester junior year. And he was ready to read something hopeful.
So I wrote him a poem: “For the British Boy With Blue Eyes Who Thinks I Only Know How To Write About Grey Things.”
I don’t think he ever read it. But it was the first poem I turned in that semester, and I sure was proud of myself.
But I remember that he was late the third day of class. He came in while the professor was talking and slipped into his seat beside me. After he stripped his coat off, he tapped my shoulder with a piece of folded up paper.
“This is for you,” he said, handing me the paper. It had my name on it.
I opened it up and red the title: “Roses.”
My jaw dropped open, and I swung my head to gawk at him, my cheeks red.
“You read my blog?!”
He laughed, “I hate to say that I’m actually not an avid reader of it, but I remember everyone on twitter freaking out about this poem you wrote about a Beast and Beauty. I thought it was very good. Just read it!”
[In case you forget the original version of the poem, here it is:
I fell in love with
with no heart–
trapped in his human form.
while he smiled,
I gave him my heart:
my slow march down the aisle,
my first child,
the celebration of my first promotion,
the purchase of my first house,
the pillow next to me at night,
my “over the hill” party,
the old rocking chair next to mine–
all just red rose petals that fell
while I sang to the chorus of
“Something There That Wasn’t There Before,”
and he led the choir.
But he had no heart
to swoon over the tune.
So at nineteen,
he took mine,
ate it whole;
broke his curse,
and then I could see him:
pretending to be a man. ]
“Petals” is brutal but honest; “Roses” is honest and beautiful.
I fell in love with
with the biggest heart-
trapped on earth.
I stole her heart;
marched her down the aisle,
swooned over our first child,
celebrated her first promotion,
found us a home together,
fluffed her pillow next to mine at night,
threw her every party I could afford,
just for her to end up in the old rocking chair next to mine–
it was worth every red rose I ever bought her
and while I sang to the chorus of
“Love is Support, Love is Sacrifice,”
she never listened.
But she had never given me her whole heart,
I knew I never deserved it.
So at nineteen,
she gave me what she needed to,
put on the show I wanted to see;
cast a spell on me,
and let me love her;
lost on earth,
pretending to be a girl.
That day I sat through the longest Poetry 386 class of my life.
Who was the poem about?
Why had he rewritten mine? Did he not like the original?
Why did he feel the need to give it to me?
When class was over, we walked down the stairs together.
“Was everything you wrote true?” I had asked him.
“No, no,” he explained. “I just want you to know that not everyone is bad.”
Today, the poem is taped to my mirror frame. To this day, I read through it before I leave my house every morning.
I don’t think he knows how much it means to me. Because you see, the story I wrote came from a place of heart ache and brokenness and bitterness. And although it may have been true– although it may have felt good to write it and get the words out of my heart– he saw more than just the words. He saw past my sad endings. And he re-made it.
He took something that was broken, and he turned it into a reminder: not everyone is bad. Not everyone is going to betray you or break your heart or leave. People are beautiful and worth it.
He dressed the world up in hope.
And so now I’m sharing this hope he gave me with you.
Let me tell you, being hopeful and not being swallowed up in disappointment is still not always my go-to reaction. Sometimes bitterness is easier than understanding, but it’s always the more paralyzing, the more exhausting.
And maybe you’ve got friends who blow you off; maybe you drive into town and see someone who used to sleep at your house every weekend, and now you don’t even speak to each other in public; maybe you met new people and thought, “This– this is going to work,” only to sit alone on a Saturday night asking God what exactly it is He’s trying to teach you about the art of losing people; maybe you are negative and snappy because you are just so tired– tired of being wrong.
Still. There’s hope.
And maybe it looks like reading a poem every day to remind yourself.
But there is hope.
Not all people are bad. And they are worth it. Always.