People talk a lot. They tell great stories. They make interesting conversation. They offer wisdom. They gossip. They tell you what you want to hear (and sometimes they don’t). They blow smoke up your ass (which you can smile and accept, but should be cautious of). They lie. They tell the truth. They make promises. And sometimes they break them.
People talk. They set expectations. And often, you anticipate their next move; wondering to yourself, will this be a person of action?
There are plenty of overused phrases that create expressions associated with words and actions. I don’t have the stomach to quote them. But with eloquent simplicity, I think F. Scott Fitzgerald made a powerful statement when he wrote, “I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go.”
How often do you wish you had the courage to use those words?
This is Caroline’s story. Maybe the details of her story are different from yours. But like so many of us, at the end of her story (at least this chapter of it), she needed more than words.
It was a steamy summer day and Caroline couldn’t seem to compose her thoughts. Her whole world just blew up, and she found herself too exhausted to cry another tear. After hours of being dialed into the love station on satellite radio, she couldn’t listen to one more Whitney Houston song. And so she shut off the melodies and sat in her car, staring at her reflection in the rearview mirror. Caroline had a beautiful face, but it was beginning to show signs of her age. She noticed a gray hair on her head, and then a few more popping out of her long locks. To an outsider it might have seemed strange, but the concentration of plucking each gray hair kept her emotions steady, and temporarily relieved her from her own purgatory. Through the simple act of pulling unwanted strands of hair, Caroline forgot that she wanted to cry.
She had just been left on the side of the highway earlier that day. Dumped off near a fast food chain, with bags of clothes and toiletries in tow. It wasn’t the kind of trip she was expecting to take with her future husband. He spoke often during the 10 hour trip from the East Coast to the Midwest about his feelings, what went wrong, what he loved about her, what he hated about her, and all the other crap that people say when they’re ending a relationship that was projected to have a future. Caroline just cried. And when she wasn’t crying, she sat silent and stared out of the window; often catching her own pathetic image in the passenger side window. She shouldn’t have been surprised that this was happening. It wasn’t the first time that they broke up. And to her, happiness seemed like something only Harry and Sally found at the end of their movie. But even still, Caroline didn’t want this ending for herself.
When she got out of the car, he told her that he would ship the rest of her things to her parent’s house. The exchange was almost like a business transaction. And then off he went in his white Chevy Tahoe. Her father arrived to pick her up not long after the drop off. He was recovering from his cancer surgery and shouldn’t have been driving. It wasn’t an ideal scenario for either of them, but theirs was a family who always did what needed to be done. And today, Caroline needed her family to rescue her from what felt like a lifeless moment.
The details of her once-romance are not necessary to tell; they involve all the same feelings and excitement that everyone feels when they care about someone. And the specifics of the breakup aren’t important either; people break up because something is wrong in their relationship. What was important to her were the words and promises exchanged between them. When Caroline gave her word, she meant it. And she expected the same in return. But we don’t always get what we expect, in words or in actions.
Surprisingly, that day wasn’t the last time that Caroline heard from the man who dropped her off on the gravel road. There was a part of her that wanted him to show up on her doorstep, plead for forgiveness, and confess that he made a terrible mistake. She envisioned that scenario many times. But every time she let that image settle, she reminded herself that he allowed her to stand alone in a place of wretchedness. Over the years, he spoke many promising words. But his actions always spoke another language.
Words can be a beautiful sound to hear. But for this blog, they can’t be written any more poetically than Fitzgerald wrote them in The Beautiful and Damned, “I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go.”