With a smattering of Solomon's Song
A fiction by
"Almost as long as we have been. Five years. Halfway through college and three years after. At least God used his heartache to finally get through to him and to draw him to Himself. It's just that he hasn't figured out how to go on in the love department, to get past the pain of Suzanne. Maybe he never will."
"You don't really think that! Because if that's true, then the world will have nothing left but his current melancholy prose to live on unless he finds joy in his love life again."
"What is it they say, art mimics life? It's his craft. He must be good if even I like what he writes." Jake picked up the small book off the coffee table. His poetry is sheer beauty. I never would have dreamed that my college soccer teammate would become a poet. And not just any poet, but one of today's most popular in our culture."
"I think his appeal goes beyond his words, as good as they are, but it's his gorgeous photography and the way he hides his chalkboard poems in them. It's like the Where's Waldo of love poems. The internet lights up trying to discover where his latest photos are taken and wondering where they will show up next."
"It's certainly sustained his wanderlust enabling him to travel."
"Still, I can't help but see how lonely he is, But it would take a unique person to fit such a man."
"Oh, no. I see that look. Tru has told you in no uncertain terms that you cannot try to set him up again."
"Who me? Can I help it that I already had asked Jen to go canoeing with us next weekend, the same time when Tru's coming to visit. He does say here that he wants to go on the river with us to take some pictures, which means he has a new poem he wants to tuck into some photography I imagine."
"He's not going to like it," Jake warned.
"Well, I just hope he's not rude. You know how brusk he can be. The man practically growls like a bear. It's amazing if he lets any woman within ten yards of himself."
"He'll growl all right. The prettier she is, the more he'll suspect a set-up, and Jen is as pretty as they come, with the exception of you, of course dear. She's just his type."
"You mean slender as a willow and with long dark hair?"
"Well, he'll most assuredly believe we are setting him up. Do you think I ought to give Jen a warning?" Cheri bit her lip slightly worried.
"You mean that we've invited her to go paddle a canoe with the most taciturn, grouchiest fellow who we know? Nah, let it play out. They'll survive. We'll just be innocent bystanders."
"That's not fair to her. I think I ought to at least warn her."
"Whatever you think," Jake conceded. "But not a word to him, alright? Just let him know we'll leave at 9Am Saturday morning."
"There, I sent it. Now I'll just private message Jen a brief little warning about our friend Tru."
"Or, maybe we should just leave it be and let them work it out since it truly wasn't our intention to set them up. Just remember our promise to Truman, no one is to know who he really is, okay? It's important to keep his professional secret."
Cheri sighed. "Of course dear. Do you think I'd want every eligible female in the state knocking down our door to meet him? You wouldn't believe what women write on his web page. Some of it is purely disgusting. I eliminate nine-tenths of it and only answer the ones which sound sincere in asking after his craft, just like he told me to do. He has more women begging to marry him than in Henry VIII's dreams."
"Well, he's hired the perfect person to be his private web page secretary, that's for sure," Jake caught his wife up around the waist. "You've become quite the counselor to the lovelorn on there as well."
"I do enjoy it, I really do. Plus, it means I get to work from home."
"How about if I write a poem for you, my love? Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm hungry, so what's for dinner?"
"You are bad, truly bad, sir," she said laughing, but kissed him anyway.
By the end of the week the picnic lunch was sealed in waterproof bags. The day promised its sunshine with an azure sky. One of two canoes was loaded on top of their car as they greeted Jen when she drove up. Her hair was in a long pony swishing back and forth as she walked up in shorts, a sweater over her tank top and tennis shoes.
"I've got my sunscreen. I didn't forget this time," she said with a smile. "Who did you say is coming with us?"
"Umm," Cheri and Jake looked at each other, "I meant to tell you that..."
But just then Tru drove up in his old Broncho lurching into the drive with a mixture of a last spurt of gas and a hard press on his brakes. "Hey!" He jumped out and hugged Cheri and pounded Jake on the back. His beard had grown thicker and longer. It looked like he'd been working out a lot, Jake thought. Then his friend turned and noticed Jen who innocently smiled at him.
"Urgg! I thought I told you..."
Cheri interrupted. "Tru, this is our friend Jen. We'd invited her to go out with us this Saturday, and then we got your email so we thought you'd just want to be included as well, as it just so happened."
"As it just so happened my foot," he glowered and not under his breath.
Jen was looking confused.
Jake coughed and faked a laugh, "Jen, this is our grumpy-bear friend Tru. He's just got back to town. We usually go out on the river whenever he comes by in the summer. It happens to coincide with our promised trip with you. Here, Tru, lend me a hand to get this canoe up on your car."
As the guys worked to tie it on, Cheri tried to smooth things over, "Don't mind Truman. Tru's always this way when he meets a girl for the first time. He's always thinking we're trying to set him up and gets his fur rubbed backward. His growl is worse than his bite though. He'll settle down, and it will turn out to be a fun day."
"But you aren't trying to set us up, are you? I mean, I would feel really awkward if you were, and..."
"No, I promise. We had this trip planned with you long before he emailed us to say that he would be in town and ready for a canoe trip. It's pure coincidence."
"Good. Maybe we could go girls in one canoe and guys in the other."
"I don't think Jake would go for it. He always wants me with him. But we'll have fun, I'm sure. Don't worry. Besides we're going to have our dog with us."
But Jen was twisting her pony tail nervously with a downcast frown. She kept glancing over at Tru. The man presented a perfect picture of manliness even if he had a fierce countenance, neither which she could miss.
Cheri silently offered up another prayer for their friends, both of whom they loved dearly. "Jake, Jen and I will go in our car. That way you and Tru can catch up as you drive to the river, okay?"
"Sounds good, darlin'."
Once at the river, the married couple joked and laughed while their friends were more estranged and worked in silent tandem carrying the canoe over their heads with backpacks slung over their shoulders.
"Ready?" Tru finally spoke.
"Let's pray first like we always do." Jake began as soon as they clasped hands in a small circle. Tru was holding a small hand in his grip, the pretty one's, as his fingers laced with hers. He silently prayed for patience while Jake prayed aloud, "Dear Lord, we ask that you would bless our time in the beauty of your nature, and give us good fellowship and the deepening of our friendship and safety as well, In Your name we pray. Amen."
Jen put on her baseball cap and pulled her pony tail out the back. Then put on her sunglasses. She'd brought an inexpensive pair as she didn't want to suffer the lost as she did last year losing her precious Ray-Ban's in the river. As soon as they waded out a little, Jen got in the front of the canoe with this stranger, Truman whoever he was, behind her. At least she wouldn't have to look at him though she could swear that she could feel his eyes boring into her back. It took awhile to relax, but finally relax she did as the sunshine did wonders.
At first the friends enjoyed the peace of nature, listening to bird song , the lapping of the water on the banks, the swish of the paddles beside the canoe, and the occasional splash of a fish jumping . Finally, Jake and Tru began throwing back and forth taunts and jests and a race was on.
Amazingly Jen and Tru worked in sync as a duo in near perfection. Soon they had pulled ahead and disappeared around a bend leaving their friends behind.
Jen cheered and raised her fist in triumph over her head.
"Good work, back there. You've done this before, I'd wager," the man said.
"Yes, many times. I started going canoeing as a teen at camps with Jake and Cheri in high school when they were my youth workers. Then I used to help as a counselor when I got older. Now our college-career group goes out on the river several times throughout the summer. But they never take a big group out until the water is lower since there's always a novice or two who needd a tamer river excursion. Jake and Cheri usually ask me to go out with them for their first trip of the summer. How do you know them?"
"From our university days. Jake and I were teammates playing soccer. More recently we reconnected, and he led me to God. That is, I had always believed, but had never surrendered my life up till then. They had been praying for me for years until I was finally ready to accept Him after a life sadly misspent."
"That's wonderful," but Jen became still thinking over what he said.
"You're a quiet one."
Jen just shook her head, but chanced a quick glance over her shoulder. He was studying her, so she turned around laying her paddles over her lap while they waited for Jake and Cheri to catch up. She pulled off her cap and held her face up to the golden sunshine. Being upon the water was her favorite way to commune with God.
"So, what do you do for a living?" She glanced over her shoulder again, but he caught her eyes and held them this time with an arched brow.
"I freelance here and there, work from my computer so that I'm not tied down," was his cryptic answer.
She wouldn't push. If he'd wanted her to know more, he'd have said more. Evidently he wasn't one to boast, but his expensive watch, shoes and clothes even though casual bespoke of a man well-heeled in contrast to his old Broncho. He might have a luxury sports car parked back at his drive for all she knew He remained an enigma which she was more than willing to allow to remain so. It mattered not to her. The only thing she needed to know was that he was a friend to her dear friends, and so she would be polite. Most of all, she would make it clear that this was not a set up, was no date, and she had no schemes on him. So what if he was the most handsome man she'd met in a long time--okay, ever-- intensely interesting in his bearing.
"Row, brothers, row! the stream runs fast, The rapids are near, and the daylight's past!" He was quoting softly as if to himself.
"So you're a poet."
He instantly became still. Finally he spoke. "Why would you say that?"
"I meant that evidently you like obscure poetry. Am I right."
He chuckled quietly. "Yes, I guess you could say that. I was a literature major in college."
"Naturally, a soccer-playing, canoe paddling, obscure poetry quoting lit major. Perfect."
"Ha! You've pegged me perfectly. How about yourself?"
"Education. I figured if I wanted summers off, I'd need to become a teacher."
"That's wise, a productive life with a little freedom sketched in."
"Yes, I think I will enjoy being in the classroom, but I'll always long for my time alone."
"That only lasts as long as you are single, M'lady, which in your case, probably won't be too far off in your future."
"I'm in no hurry." She looked over her shoulder again, "I'm not looking, if that's what you mean."
Finally, Jake and Cheri's canoe appeared, but was quickly going off course as the two were kissing instead of guiding their vessel in the current.
"Hey there Romeo, better look out for the cattails," Tru barked in a loud laugh. "You're about to spill your Juliet into the brink!"
Jake joined in their amusement quickly paddling back to the middle of the stream. "Just jealous."
Suddenly, Tru became so quiet that Jen could sense his tenseness. Evidently Jake missed it.
She glanced back and saw him pensively looking away, gazing off but not seeing.
"How long until we eat?" she called out.
"What! It's not even 10:30." Cheri acted shocked.
"Okay, just don't blame me if I get the hangeries."
"We'll leave that badge of honor to someone else we know, she nodded her head towards Tru.
"What? Surely you jest, mon amie!" Truman had shaken off the earlier stupor to join in their banter. "I'm the epitome of the virtue of patience and other gentlemanly conduct."
The morning was mellowing into a peaceful time of dipping oars into the water and gently pulling themselves along.
In less than an hour, they paddled to a sandy beach and brought out their lunch to sit upon the bank. The early summer was beginning its heated halcyon days. After eating in a companionable manner, Jen laid back with her sunglasses on and rested soaking up the warm sand on her back. Her muscles were already complaining about a morning of welding a paddle. She drifted off.
"I think I'll have a walk around and see about taking some photographs," Tru announced quietly with his eyes darting over to the beauty recumbent in a relaxed pose.
Jake nodded knowingly. It was one of the reasons his friend loved to come along. He probably had a poem written in chalk on a slate in his backpack as well as his waterproof camera. Without a doubt, it would soon be featured and posted on the internet for his clamoring public. It was a well kept secret . Only a handful were aware of his gift. They guarded Tru very carefully without ever dropping hints. The only nod to his work was the book of his poetry on their coffee table. He used a pen name naturally.
They continued to laze around. Eventually, Jen woke, sat up and brushed off the sand.
"Where's Tru? Does he get lost often?"
No one knew he had returned and was not far off through the trees, that he was using his lens to capture the lovely Jen as she was resplendent in her rest. He wanted to savor this moment even though he normally stuck to scenery. He kept clicking as she stood brushing the sand off then shading her eyes to peer around. Jen was one beautiful young woman. He was just an appreciative camera man, beating back his guilt over his voyeurism, as decent as it was, even as he caught her pulling out her pony tail, combing her hair with her fingers and rebinding it. He was an artist. He kept clicking. She was his subject caught in an unstudied moment. That was all. Then why was his pulse racing so? To ease his guilt, as soon as he rejoined them, he offered to take their picture, Jake, Cheri, and Jen together.
"You don't mind having your picture taken?" he asked her.
"No, not at all. In fact, I would love to have a copy."
"Ready to get back on the river?" Jake called.
"Yes. Some of my favorite parts of our journey, are just ahead. Do you think the river otters will be there again this year, Cheri?"
"I hope so. They're delightful."
"You've been a pleasant surprise today. I owe you an apology for my rudeness earlier this morning. I'm sorry, M'lady." He picked up her hand and kissed it."
Jen had to remind herself to breathe. She looked away unable to meet his gaze and instead picked up a stick and drew in the sand. "Our day seemed to get past our initial meeting just fine. I harbor no ill will."
"So, I'm forgiven?" He had gently moved her face towards his.
"Yes, forgiven." She would have given him a wide smile if she wasn't so taken back. Instead she was searching his eyes for whether he was teasing her or not.
In fact, he seemed to be quite serious as his eyes roved over her face and looked down to her lips before returning to her eyes.
Jen jumped up and walked back towards the road as if to look for their friends to drive up even though it was too soon for their arrival. For a man who wished to be left alone from a woman's attentions, Tru seemed to be becoming too familiar, too soon, confusing her. She looked over to where he was still sitting with his back to her raking his hand through his hair. She paced. Just because they had spent a marvelous day on the river, she still knew little about this man other than he was exceedingly handsome and charming and easy to converse with. But after this day, she would probably not see him again.
She did not sit beside him, did not even speak to him and just stood there waiting with her arms crossed until Cheri and Jake drove up bringing both vehicles. Their easy banter went swirling around her without her jumping in. Cheri helped Jake with their canoe to tie it onto their car while Jen helped Tru lift their canoe onto his. Their friends were ready to leave before they were so they waved them off. Jen struggled with the knot to tie it down, so Jake came and stood on the running board instructing her to pull down hard on one part of the rope while he whipped it around all the while reaching around her encircling Jen in his arms to do so.
She felt him sigh deeply when the knot was tied and yet he did not step down. He bent over her neck and said her name quietly. Jen turned and looked up at him. Tru looked at her slowly then once again at her lips. He was going to kiss her! Before she could decide what to do, his lips grazed hers as gently as a feather.
"You are one lovely lady, Miss Jen. You've captivated me." Then he released her
and waited for her to buckle up before closing her door and going round to his side. "You are a quiet one. Did I upset you by kissing you?"
"I'm just a little confused. I don't know what to say."
He found her hand. "Just say you'll let me see you again."
"Perhaps. Maybe at Cheri and Jake's. I go there often."
"I'll speak with them and ask if they have any problem arranging for our meeting there."
"Truly, I know very little of you, Truman, except that you are a good canoe-mate on a lazy day on the river."
"That's a good beginning, isn't it?" He said it with a charming smile.
How could she not be taken in? Yet, from her very limited experience with men, there was a whisper of caution. Her other dating relationships had quickly deteriorated when the guys had seemed to only be after a physical relationship. She just wasn't that kind of a girl.
"To be honest, Tru, I'm not especially looking for a relationship, but perhaps just a friend."
He sighed. "At least, you are an honest lady. But I must respond in kind. I'm cautiously a bit more optimistic about being more than friends. Am I wrong to have a little hope?"
"No, not completely," she smiled deciding not to shut him out completely, but to give them time to decide if they would become more than friends.
When they got back to Cheri and Jake's, Tru ordered pizza. He treated her respectfully and did not try to kiss her or even hold her hand which ridiculously left her wishing he would. He even sat at a distance across the room. However, he was always studying her as if to draw a portrait. They played Balderdash until an early night was called especially since tomorrow was Sunday, a workday for Jake with his responsibilities on the church staff.
"I'll see you in church?" Tru held her door for her.
"And lunch?" He still waited.
"I'll think about it."
He pulled his beard. "Oh, you're a hard one, Miss Jen. I'll try to be a patient man." Again, his charming smile was bestowed upon her before closing her door.
However, the next day, they all decided to order Chinese take-out and go to Cheri and Jake's. It was a pleasant afternoon. Tru did not keep any distance this time, but sat close enough for their shoulders to brush sending a strange sensation shooting down her arm to land quivering in her stomach, very strange indeed. With a feeing of unease, she finally decided she needed to go do her homework. She was taking summer classes working towards her credential. She bid them good night.
"What do you mean, Tru? Do you think you are in love with our Jen?" Cheri teased.
He jumped up and began pacing. "I've been reading up on it on the internet, well actually I did last night. I needed to know. It said that while, okay, it might not be fully encompassed in the heart, but a quick, passionate response is possible. One's brain can release love-related chemicals in a split second after you see someone. It is not unlike a drug. It sparks the same euphoric feeling as cocaine in the brain."
"My, you really have researched this," Cheri said smiling. "But where does the poetry fit in?"
"Well, when you are love-struck, your brain is flooded with dopamine and other chemicals triggering euphoria. That's why new lovers do things like talk all night, dote on little details about each other, or fly across the country for a weekend together. Falling in love also triggers adrenaline which may make your heart race and your knees shake when you're in love. Love shows all the classic symptoms of addiction. As a romance builds, a lover craves more and more of the other person. A breakup can cause withdrawal symptoms like poor sleep and depression. Scorned lovers can relapse upon hearing something like a favorite song triggering the craving all over again. You both know I've been there, done that."
"You must have it bad, Tru!" Jake was shocked.
He nodded almost oblivious to them, "In spite of all that, scientists believe that these chemicals help cement emotional bonds between lovers. The chemicals of romance may wane as ecstasy, but can be replaced by devotion. So you see, this feeling of love at first sight perhaps might become true love. These chemical releases can really turn into a lasting love, a very real love, more than just a physical reaction, more than mere infatuation. Now that's where poetry exists, a pendulum between the ecstasy and the devotion, between the time of being carried away and the commitment that true love demands."
"So where does our Jen fit into this?" Cherie wanted to know.
The man began pacing again running his hand through his hair until it stood on end. "I don't know. She is exquisite, is she not?"
"Yes," Cheri replied. "She is that."
"And has the depth of an old soul."
"That is a safe assertion." Jake stated.
"She's delightful, beautiful, and charming."
"Yes, we would agree." Cheri bit back her smile.
"She takes her faith seriously, but does not hold herself back from mirth and lightness."
"I think you are speaking as a literature major now, Tru, but yes, she is all that." Jake was grinning.
"She is modest and not too forward," he went on.
"I should hope so," Cheri was letting loose her smile unrestrained.
"Intelligent, with certain delicate mannerisms," Tru was lost to them in his ponderings.
"So you like her?" Jake asked.
"Like her? I love her!" Tru said passionately.
"My goodness!" Cheri was even shocked at this, shocked down to the toes of her romantic soul.
"How can you be sure? You've just met her this weekend." Jake asked his friend stunned.
"Didn't I just explain it all to you? What part did you not understand? Perhaps it was not love at first sight, but certainly love by day's end. I just don't know how she feels. She says she wants to be my friend, but oh, how much more I desire to be to her than just a friend! She is in my very heart, and it is bursting."
"Now there's our poet. He's back!" Cheri laughed perhaps a little smugly. "I must admit that I'd hoped you'd hit it off even if we did not purposefully try to set you up. I just hadn't imagined how quickly it would happen."
"You must allow her time, Tru. You don't want to scare her off. You are older with more experience while she is young and has not dated much." Jake advised. "I'd hate to see you let down."
"I can't bear the thought of that. It's too much," Tru groaned.
"Jen is very cautious around men," Cheri added.
"I know. She as much as told me. But it will be hard to contain myself, perhaps the hardest thing I've ever done when all I want to do is sweep her off her feet."
"Jake is right, Tru. She's told me how men have only seemed to be about one thing when it comes to dating, so she is understandably cautious. You must win her trust before you can win her heart. That will take time," Cheri offered.
Tru sank onto the sofa and put his head in his hands, "I know, I know, but what do I do with all this passion I feel?"
"WRITE!" Cheri and Jake said in unison.
He jumped up, "Of course! But then he sank again. "Oh, but this is how I doomed my relationship with Suzanne. She refused to be the fodder for my poetry any longer. She said I had to chose between her and my art. But they were inseparable. She was my muse. I had determined not to put another through that, but how can I not love and not write about love? How can I write about love unless I love?"
"Surely, you know you have a gift, Truman. God does not expect you to go loveless through this life when you have such passion for love and for writing. When God puts the right woman in your life, she should be willing to embrace your gift. You never wrote tastelessly about love. You never put more to paper than was appropriate even before you were a Christian. You inspire others to be true to their hearts with your poems. Of course, somewhere along the line before you go too far forward, you will have to tell her what you do and who you are. God can lead you from there."
"Yes, of course. Well, thank you, dear friends, thank you for bringing about this phenomenal connection. Yes, and pray, pray that I can be patient and that the lady accepts me."
"We'll pray that you will keep your head screwed on, Tru. You almost scare me," Jake admitted.
"I know, I know. Well, I'm off to probably be up all night writing."
And he was. But first he read the beginning of Genesis and then the whole book of the Song of Solomon, then a favorite old poem by Reginald Heber.
Our hearts pounded, beat to beat.
as if to beg to admittance
inside the cage of my heart
to endless love.
Then he wrote...
Hide not away
your beauty from me.
your face, your voice
are tucked away
in the secret places
of my heart.
But they are mere shadows
of my desire for you.
Then he wrote...
As I sit on top of the world,
I can see the sun and the moon from here.
They rise and set with you, only you.
But I'm spinning too slowly
on the axis of my longing
to see you once again.
Then he wrote...
How shall I survive
so overwhelmed by your beauty
that I cannot even meet your eyes
without being consumed?
"Come sit down on the grass and we can read some poems together," she urged. She took the book back out of his hand.
So he sat. "Well, what do you think the man is like who wrote this?"
"Of course. You would be mobbed otherwise."
"That's an unpleasant thought. But do you forgive me for not telling you sooner?"
"Most assuredly. I understand why you would need to be careful. I will respect your secret as well, I promise you."
They talked some more, then he left her. His heart was so full it pained him fiercely. She gave him hope. He texted her as soon as he got home.
Then he wrote...
What is sleep if my dreams are of you
as real as my every waking moment.
The beating of my heart is knocking,
opening only to you,
my innocent, my love.
"He loves my new poems. Thinks they are inspired, thanks to you." He kissed her cheek.
But he would be gone for a week. Jen's heart plummeted irrationally.
(Song of Solomon 7:11, 8:2)
it is time to be together.
It matters not where.
Only come to me, my love,
Let me lead you there
to our forever.
Lean on me, my beloved,
as my heart rests on you
as we make our way.
I am no longer lost
in the wilderness,
for I have found you.
My fingers tangle in your hair
As I cradle you for a kiss,
With my hand upon your back,
I fall deeper into bliss.
for only you can satiate me.