not knowing why she cried

Yesterday I dropped in on my girlfriend’s sign-language class. She and the other students were performing their final project: an American Sign Language interpretation of a song of their choice. I didn’t really understand why she’d wanted me to drop in, and I felt a little weird coming into a classroom where I had no real business being. But she’d reminded me of it a few times and even texted me the room number, so I knew it was important to her.

Early on in our relationship we’d caught a rerun of the final episode of Scrubs – the real Scrubs, not the different version they started this year. The music that played over the final scene of J.D. leaving the hospital struck us both as amazing. I’m not sure we watched so much as just listened, polarized away from anything else we’d been doing.

Neither of us had heard the song before, but I recognized Peter Gabriel’s voice right away. I learned that the song was called ‘Book of Love’ and, for a while, it became one of the songs that are sort-of a soundtrack to your relationship.(1) There were a bunch of songs at the time that seemed to pop up a lot on the radio when we were in the car, and any one of those songs, when I hear them now, remind me of the initial stages of us.

This song was different. We didn’t hear it on the radio. Whenever we heard it, it was because one of us summoned it to play. One of us decided to wrap ourselves inside its orchestrated strains and its lyrics – so emblematic of myself – both romantic and pragmatic.

The book of love is long and boring,
No one can lift the damn thing.
It’s full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing.

But I, I love it when you read to me.
And you, you can read me anything.

The book of love has music in it,
In fact that’s where music comes from.
Some of it’s just transcendental;
Some of it’s just really dumb.

But I, I love it when you sing to me.
And you, you can sing me anything.

The book of love is long and boring,
And written very long ago.
It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we’re all too young to know.

But I, I love you when you give me things.
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings.

And so it was special that way.

As I waited before going into the classroom, I tried to remember which song she planned on interpreting. I hadn’t seen her working on it at home, but I knew she’s told me what it was. I simply couldn’t remember. Once she started though, I wasn’t surprised that she’d chosen this song.

But I was surprised when she began to cry. It was right around the beginning of the first chorus: But I, I love it when you read to me. I think she was as surprised as I was. She glanced at me briefly then carried on.

I, on the other hand, sat in the back of the class hoping no one would see me trying desperately to fight back tears. It was a beautiful moment, the whole thing, and she was so lovely up there, emoting with her eyes and her hands in a way that superseded even the need for words, her hands swirling through the air mimicking the movement of life and love.

It was that I didn’t know. That’s what got me. I didn’t know why she cried, didn’t know why it was that line, those words, or perhaps the lilting melody. But I knew it had something to do with me. I knew that the good things about me, about her and about us, were behind her sudden and mesmerizingly and beautifully lachrymose eyes.

Right then I knew, not for the first time, that she loves me purely.

It didn’t matter why she was crying. All that mattered was that I not know the reason, because not knowing is what keeps the magic alive.(2)


  1. I learned later that it’s actually a Magnetic Fields song. I like Peter Gabriel’s version so much better though.
  2. This post was originally on a different blog I made for about two weeks. It’s time to get rid of that blog, but this one post I want to keep. It was originally posted on April 29, 2010.
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