John and Sarah knew they were in love when she could name his favorite comic books chronologically, and when he could correctly guess her order while she went to the bathroom to reapply her Burt’s Bees. They knew they could be in love the first time they spent the whole day together, watching Dustin Hoffman movies and falling asleep on his twin bed. And the knew they would go out on a date after he asked, driven by their common desire for a beverage and their mutual interest in wearing a plaid shirt on April 7, 2009.
Clark and Dorothy knew they would go out on a date after he refused to check out a book at any station other than hers, his heart motivated by her perfect cursive on the library cards. They knew they might be in love the day she baked him brownies, and declared that it was a recipe she’d been waiting to share with someone. They knew they were in love when he whispered it to her in the midst of a carnival, in front of a pack of clowns and jugglers.
John and Sarah went the movies and never missed a New Pornographer’s concert.
Clark and Dorothy went to the drive in, and held hands at the library as they studied their WWI textbook, a recent addition to the shelves.
Sarah got an acting job 1,000 miles away, in Los Angeles, where, according to John, “men were as easy to please as a dishwasher, and the combination of liquor and collagen made everybody into a burnt, yet all too decorated, version of themselves.” At this point of despair, John had stopped making sense, and was spending way too much time in the kitchen.
Clark was shipped off to Europe on duty, leaving Dorothy at the bottom of the library’s serrated steps. She, too, spent all her time in the kitchen, thinking of new ways to spice her old brownie recipe.
How they feared:
You might become a sell-out and spend your life doing cleaning commercials. You might become nothing. You are too authentic for that neon city. You’re too precious for that side of the ocean. You’re supposed to be stay with me. You’re the best part of me.
What they found:
They all separated, and then they all came back together in due time. Sarah had not changed, despite what her neon nail polish, blonde-striped hair, and oscillating pitch might have suggested. Clark appeared the same, slightly more gaunt and cratered, but nothing a few brownies could not cure; he, though, had become a new, burned version of himself.
And so the four of them sat, at different ends of time, with their respective companions, trying to figure out how to make everything sift into something new.
John couldn’t respect Sarah after she became what seemed, to him at least, to be his worst fear. He felt that her grooming regime and speech indicated the end of her innocence, and he promptly said goodbye after his mind escalated rumors that she had secretly been pursuing a relationship with an unknown actor. Their parting occurred four years after they first met. Dorothy stayed loyal to Clark, hoping that someday her brownie recipe and looping cursive would incite a healthy recognition. Her hands aged through the flour as she kept stirring, pounding, kneading through birthdays and Christmases. Alongside him.
Why they decided:
I wanted him to return the same. She came back without her flannel and her spark. He came home, and I was all he knew. I couldn’t love a new woman. I would have to love a new man.