When I was cast in a local theater production of The Sound of Music, the principle cast got together to talk about their characters. I was playing Rolf, the tragic hero of the story who unlike in the film, saves the eldest Von Trapp girl and her family by calling to his Lieutenant that there is no-one there. I think the director cast me instead of the better looking kid who was probably more talented because I had an innocence about me. At the auditions, my friend put on his lady-killer smile while I just looked mystified and unsure of myself. That is what the director wanted for this little subplot of the story. For better or worse, I definitely knew how it was to be lost when it came to girls.
So when the cast met we sat in a circle, the director asked us pointed questions about our characters. Most of the rest of the cast were adults who played the adult roles. The director asked about my character. I explained how Rolf got his job delivering telegrams and why he joined the German Army. Then the question came, how did Rolf fall in love with Lisel?
I was stumped. How? Why? Yes, why did my character fall in love? Why does anyone? I looked at the floor and chewed my lip.
“I don’t know,” I murmured. “Does anyone know why they fall in love?”
It was a sincere question, but the reaction shocked me. There was laughter and applause. I raised my eyes to see the men in the cast smiling and clapping for me. What was so funny? Could it be that I had stumbled on some cosmic truth about love and no-one knew why it happened?
“Okay then,” said the director, smiling too. “We’ll just say it was chemistry.”
I had no idea what that meant either.
I may not have learned about how to be smooth and cool like my friend, but I learned something that night. Love was an enigma.
I went through the next several years still not knowing too much about love. I figured it had something to do with meeting each other’s needs and being happy together. Then Prajna showed up late to rehearsal.
This was eight years later. Prajna and I had become friends as we worked together for another show. I worked tech and was looking for Prajna to give her a radio headset. She arrived just a little late because she had just come from National Guard duty. When she found me she was dressed in military fatigues. My breath was taken away. She looked a little regretful for being late, her doe eyes fixed on me in apology. And all I could think of was how the military’s battle dress uniform was made to blend human beings, not only to their surroundings, but to each other. One wasn’t supposed to look different from another. The goal was to appear as a unit of look-alike drones. That said, the uniform made Prajna look adorable. I thought that any girl who can defy the United States Military that way had to be special.
Maybe that was this “chemistry”. It wasn’t love. Actually what it was, was romance. Love developed from there over the next weeks and months. I don’t know when I felt it and didn’t tell her that I loved her until I was positive of it. From that time in the theatre until today it’s been 22 years. After all this time, can I define what love is now?
I can say that romance was a spark that opened my eyes and softened my heart. But the love, the real deep down love grew like the sky at dawn beginning dark and then over time slowly brightening, finally to the burst of brilliance at sunrise. I was not aware of the lightening at first. But there came a point where it was unmistakable… and unstoppable. The warmth began before the dawn and that brought on a euphoria that felt different from any feeling I had felt before. Was that love? It was the dawn of it.
The allusion of falling in love is like a sunrise gets a little tedious when I think how hours later the sun goes down and it gets dark and cold. So I will dump the metaphor now. The real love I feel now isn’t something that can just sink away. I married Prajna, not because I loved her, but because it was obedience to God. And having a love founded in God’s love has made the sun never set.
So this week Prajna has a birthday. I was talking to her about a blog I’ve been musing over, something about a megalomaniac and a butterslide. But she advised me not to. So I wrote for her birthday today instead of Thursday the 12th. We can celebrate all week. Happy Birthday, Prajna. The love I have for you is not enigmatic, it makes everything clear.