“So,” she asks, “what do you think?”
“I think you should ask your boyfriend,” I say.
“He says he’s not worried. We can still keep in touch.”
“He has a point.”
“But I told him that’s not the same.”
“You have a point, too,” I concede.
Then, she repeats: “So what do you think?”
A year’s worth of accumulated college stuff is packed into her battered Ford outside. It’s been a long year of studying and cramming and writing, enough to make even the most ardent student eager to turn tail and run home for the summer. But she’s stuck around, unwilling to leave because of what she will leave behind.
“It’s not that far, you know,” I offer.
“It’s Utah,” she says. “That’s a long way from Virginia.”
“Could be worse. You could live in California. That would add a few hundred miles.”
I smile, but she doesn’t smile back.
“Why did I have to fall for a guy here?” she asks.
I shrug. “The heart knows what it wants,” I answer. “Rational thought is sometimes left out of the equation.”
“But he’s here, and I’m going to be there.”
“But you’ll be back here in three months,” I say. “That’s not a big deal. And there are plenty of ways to keep in touch until then.”
“But I can’t see him,” she says. “Talking over the phone and emailing isn’t the same as seeing him.”
“Because you’re in love?”
The nod I give her isn’t a sarcastic one, but an acknowledgment of the truth. They are in love. Truly, madly, deeply in love. Love in its truest sense is not solely the domain of people who have been around for longer than twenty-two years. I see them on campus and I know. Love has a look.
“I don’t want to go,” she says. “I want to stay here. With him.”
“But you have to go, right?” I ask.
I get silence as an affirmative.
“And you want to know if your love for each other can withstand the distance between you?”
She sits across from me, chewing on a fingernail. In the background the radio is playing Alan Jackson’s “Small Town Southern Man.” Fitting, I think, because that’s exactly what this city girl from Utah has found. And though I don’t know him well, I know enough to think she’d better hang on to him. Because it’s always been my opinion that those small town Southern men are worth keeping around. My own bias of course, since I’m one of them.
She breaks her silence and says, “So what do you think?”
“I think yes,” I say. “I think if you love him as much as he says he loves you, then distance is irrelevant. I think that wherever either of you are, the other one will always be. Faith is a powerful thing. Hope, too. But love? Nothing stops love. And if it’s as strong as you say it is, then that love will always be something you can stand under whenever the rain starts pouring.”
“We’ll be all right?” she asks.
“As long as the two of you don’t give up on each other.”
She smiles at that. She has hope now. Hope that life and circumstance do not have the last say when it comes to matters of the heart.
That in the end, love always holds on.