Annie Dillard, The Maytrees, p. 25 “It’s the light, he explained. What about the light? He could not say.”
“Here’s the thing about love,” he said. “You believe in love and I don’t. You’re just a child, you still believe in fairy tales, you listen to love songs and believe the lyrics, you think you can love someone forever and walk into the sunset hand-in-hand.” I cried and said, “But, Macy, darlin’, I have loved you wild.” I knew I was quoting song lyrics when I said that, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say that sounded deep and meaningful. Macy really wasn’t all that lovable but I wanted to love somebody. I was so doggone sick of effing Mayberry RFD, so annoyed seeing the same people. I needed something else. Macy almost went to college but his parents convinced him to stay home and run the filling station. He had perpetual grease under his fingernails but he had a car and a job, and he said he was a cynic. I wasn’t sure what a cynic did, but surely Macy was a pretty good cynic. Nothing he could say would make me stop loving him. My love was that strong. But when he asked me why I loved him, I couldn’t come up with a good reason. I told him I loved the rebel in him. He laughed in a sad sort of way and threw his beer can out the window, said he needed to go see a man about a horse and walked into the woods. Even before he got back, I spoke to the empty space where he had been, said, “Don’t you want somebody to love, don’t you know how strong my love is?” Maybe Macy was right; maybe I was a dreamer. Or maybe he just didn’t understand the power of love. Did he need me to prove my love? If I could make him understand, would he take me away so we could start a new life together? He got back into the car and I told him that love was a crazy thing but . . . “But what?” he pounded on the steering wheel and said. “But what? You think I don’t want to be able to love someone? You think this is the life I want to be living? You think I want to spend my life here, pumping gas, jumping every time that bell rings, eating meatloaf on Tuesdays and fried chicken on Saturdays, and hoping one day I’ll be head usher at 1st Baptist? You think I have what it takes to get out of here and take you with me? I think not, Charlene. I’m a loser, you’re a loser, and the only thing we can be together is a pair of losers. That’s the way the world works, Charlene. You’re born into a life and you’ll die in the life. There’s no light in our lives. There’s no light for people like us. You believe in love. You believe there’s a light at and I don’t.” I wasn’t quite sure what light he was looking for, what light I believed in but he didn’t. I turned off the radio and looked out the window. “It’s the light,” he explained. What about the light? He could not say.