He was born loving Rachel Green. He was blessed, and cursed, and riddled, and consumed by her. There were times when he thought, what if she never existed? Would my days be less burdened by the thankless agonies of love if a girl named Rachel weren't so heartbreakingly perfect in my eyes? Will my around-the-clock pursuit of her be shot to Hell if and when she takes my love and grinds it into the dirt like the burned-out ashes from a fire?
How could he not wish for her to die at times when she was killing him so?
But then the sun sets, and the lights go down, and everybody's lonely in their own private fogs reflecting on their days...and there is a beautiful boy named Ross who always chooses HER over the mundane unburdened sanities of life. He gives everything to her, even when she doesn't take it, and doesn't even realize it's there. He doesn't care if she mocks him, ruins, rejects, degrades, puts him out of his misery and KILLS him like a dog in the street. She could go on laughing and lollygagging in other regions, with other men, and he would be here, always here, not waiting, not expecting a goddamn wink from her, but just here, in this place, in this home where he was living for her.
And he chooses this insanity because he chooses love. He chooses her. Or who knows...maybe she chose me.
And anyways, these were all the mature and more elite thoughts of a well-learned man, weren't they? Or perhaps nothing much had changed in the past thousand years he'd been loving her; that's what it felt like, a thousand years, a day, a wink in the eye of God's infinity, whatever, who knew. But let's begin on a football field back in 1987 when the Geller boy was a Lincoln High School senior all tied up in his teenage awkwardness, among other things.
He was leaning on the fence exhausted from track practice, doing what, you guessed it, watching Her, from a distance. You could always find him there, this pensive kid in the shadows, the quiet observer just content to watch her move. She was ring leading her fellow cheerleaders in their daily practice on the field. Her shorts were barely there and exposed her bronzed and angular legs. She topped this off with an oversized sweatshirt inside which her tiny frame was drowning. She looked so beautiful, so sweet, like a soft doll, or even a Long Island angel doing high jumps and laughing with her friends. Just to be around her was a privilege. Just to know her was something to cherish. And he did know her, and had access to her on a somewhat personal basis. Because for some odd reason, with all the cheerleader girls and hunky jocks at her feet, she was still his younger sister Monica's faithful best friend. She came to his house quite often; not to see him, of course, but it was still amazing to have her under his roof, being that close to where he was. And it sent chills up his spine knowing she was sleeping two doors down from him when she sometimes spent the night in Monica's bedroom. She high-fived her cheer squad co-captain, Mindy, and giggled girlishly and sweetly. Sweat was still running down his neck and chilling him in the October wind. God he wanted her.
"Damn, what a view! I'll bet her ass tastes like French vanilla ice cream."
Ross turned around and saw Connor, his foul-mouthed buddy from the track team. He rolled his eyes. "Connor, do me a favor and fall off the face of the planet."
Connor laughed, "Sure, I'll do that. I just hope I land inside Rachel Green."
Ross cringed and shot him a look. "Dude, shut up, will you? I'm serious."
"What, so I'm not allowed to fantasize about this chick just because you've got this stupid little crush? Like you're gonna take her home and fuck her on your dinosaur sheets tonight? Step off, Geller. It's not like you've got dibs on her or anything. I mean, who isn't in love with Rachel Green?"
Ross hated hearing Connor talk about her. He didn't like the way her name sounded rolling off his lips. He shot him yet another disgusted look, which Connor just smirked at. "Dude, whatever. Are you ready to go?"
"Yeah, man, you got your car?"
"No, Monica drove it today."
Connor's eyes widened in exaggerated awe. "Woah, can Monica fit in your car?"
"Yeah, but she stretches it out." The boys shared a cruel laugh at the expense of his sister. It wasn't like Ross to joke that way. Connor tended to bring it out in him.
"Well, should we go, or do you wanna wait for Little Miss In-Your-Dreams to stop making out with her boyfriend?"
Ross turned around and got an eyeful of Rachel lip-locking with Chip, the infamous football stud. Other kids gathered around to ooh and aah, but mostly bowing in awe of Lincoln High's most talked-about power couple. Ross felt small and he ached inside, but he couldn't tear his eyes away for some reason. In some strange, sick way he liked ripping his own heart out like this. He watched as Chip ran a firm masculine hand up her body and back down again to grope her butt with his greedy flaunting touch. Even Connor knew to drag Ross away from a scene like this.
"Come on, dude, let's go." He threw a sweaty arm of camaraderie around Ross, and the two gangly boys walked off together, away from that whooping gang of Prom Queens and everything that's in your dreams...away from her.
A few blocks down the road, Connor jabbered on into Ross' tired ear as they neared their houses. "I'm tellin' ya, dude, you gotta lower your standards and be realistic if you intend to get laid before going to college. Rachel Green is just a fantasy. She's probably not even a real person! She sure as Hell isn't gonna give you the time of day. It's like a fuckin' monarchy at this school. At least 50 guys would have to die before we'd get elected Prom King. No, no, forget that, they'd probably bring in some football jocks from another school, or even another country before they'd give us a crown."
Ross hung his head to the ground, watching the same stone he'd been kicking for five blocks. "Nobody's trying to be the Prom King. At least I'm not."
"Good, that's good. Lower your standards, man, be realistic. Speaking of lower standards, what about Sandy Bergman? Don't you two have something going on?"
Ross shrugged. "Sure...sort of...whatever." And truly that's what most things were to him, just a shrug, and a "whatever," and just another nameless "thing" that could come or go, live or die, for all he cared. And now Connor was going on about this Sandy girl as if he could force himself to care, or to even pull her out of a whole gallery of monotonous faces.
"You may as well just blow your virginity on Sandy before she runs off with some band geek and leaves you in the dust. Her ass won't be as sweet as a cheerleader's, and she won't be as experienced as that mega slut Rachel Green, but--"
Connor didn't finish that sentence. Ross whipped around in a sudden beastly reflex of rage and shoved him hard in the gut. Connor was caught by surprise and toppled to the ground. Ross' eyes were on fire. A nerve had been struck. He stood over Connor and waited, no, begged for retaliation. This wasn't playful boyish monkeying around in the schoolyard. This was serious warfare among men. At least it had the potential to be. Luckily Connor was all talk, and didn't have it in him to start brawling just for the sake of vengeance. And Ross was a passive soul who wouldn't hurt a fly unless you pushed and pushed and pushed him until his blood boiled and he snapped. There was no more fire in his eyes. The rage melted into the same shy and gentle grace that was there before.
"I'm sorry, dude," he said. And he offered his hand to his fallen friend. This Connor refused and got off the ground by himself, but he shrugged apologetically.
"I know I have a big mouth. Whatever I said that pissed you off, I'm sorry."
"It's all right." Their strange altercation went unnoticed on the quiet suburban street. They walked on together, only a half block away from Ross' house.
"So are we going to the football game tonight?" Connor asked.
"Yeah, sure. Oh, and I think Will wants to come too."
Connor cringed. "Ah man, I hate that kid. He's so damn fat! You should hook him up with your sister."
"All right, enough with the cracks about Monica's weight."
"Or what, you'll shove me again like a little pussy boy?" he said jokingly.
"Hey, you're the one who didn't fight back."
"Hehe, I'll get you when you least expect it, buddy boy!" They were right in front of the Geller's beautiful Colonial style house. Connor playfully swatted Ross upside the head and walked off toward his own house further down the road. "Pick me up around seven for the game. Oh, and try to hook Will up with Monica so we don't have to take him."
Ross threw him one final eye roll of the afternoon and chuckled. "See ya later, douche bag."
When Ross was almost to his front door, Connor shouted over his shoulder, "Hey, don't forget to picture my face when you're jerking off tonight!"
"I'm gonna picture your mother!" Ross shot back. Speaking of mothers, Judy Geller promptly opened the front door, curious about all the hollering going on outside her house. "Uuuh, hi Mom," Ross said rather sheepishly.
"Hi sweetie. I'm sorry Monica took your car today. Do you want a snack?"
"Uh sure. I mean, I'll get it myself." Ross slinked through the door past his mother. He had been somewhat distant from his parents lately. He loved them dearly, but he just wanted them out of his face, and off his back at all times. He wanted his doors shut, and his life left a mystery to everyone. It was a teenage phase, just like everything, right? Well, perhaps not everything.
In the kitchen he threw together a hasty sandwich and wolfed it down by the sink. He noticed something on the refrigerator door that caught his eye. And how could it not catch anybody's eye? That's the reason she was in this world, wasn't it, to catch eyes. It was her face and her haunting beauty doing a joyful little cheer (for him? for anybody) and she was blurry on a newspaper page and her features not well captured by a shoddy camera lens. But it was good enough to draw him in, sandwich in hand, and admire her like a spectator from the theater seats watching her dance. It was an article in the local newspaper about the Homecoming game tonight, and it featured her, who else? Her smile was mega-watted and worth a million bucks. It made him believe in God, and the possibility of true and imminent perfection in a maddening world. He felt Judy's hand on his shoulder, and he flinched slightly.
"Oh, doesn't Rachel look lovely in that picture?" she chirped.
Ross felt awkward and uncomfortable. This was one of those moments when he wanted to exile himself to his bedroom and be alone with his all-consuming thoughts of her. "Yes," he answered bluntly.
Judy looked at him, slightly concerned by his tone. "Are you all right, Ross? Tough day at school?" She noticed the way he was nervously eyeing Rachel's picture, so lovesick, desirous, and sad in a way. She was well aware of her son's epic history of adoring Monica's gorgeous best friend. He didn't answer. He looked like he wanted to get away. She reached over and took the picture off the refrigerator. "Here, would you like to put this in your room?"
"No, mom, geezus!" He threw his half-eaten sandwich on the floor, and bolted up the stairs to his room. He snapped, much like he'd snapped at Connor just a few minutes earlier. What the hell was he capable of under circumstances such as these? He slammed the door and took a little comfort in the four walls of privacy now enclosing him, but not much. He collapsed on his bed and stared at the ceiling. What more could he do? He was lost in the same old teenage sagas of angst, all of it tied in some way to this all-consuming business of love. He felt so lonely and small, and at so many losses. This was the reason he snapped at his mother. He just couldn't stand being confronted by anyone who thought they "knew" of all the passionate traumas he suffered under. It was somehow mocked and belittled in their sight. They couldn't console it, or touch it, or even approach it. It was all his.
And you know why? Because people have a cruel way of disregarding young love and denying it's sincerity. They belittle it, discount it, reduce it down to "puppy love" that god awful term that means nothing, just something the old skeptics say when snubbing the youth. Some loves are silly, it's true. Some are phases, some are crazes, some are born to die in a day, and that quickly they fade. But as for Ross, even in his high school days when everything else was young and dumb, his love for Rachel Green was still the truest thing of all. He was in love with her. It was love, it was love, it was love. Who could honestly tell him he was wrong? No one questioned the love he felt for his parents, or his sister, or even his damn dog ChiChi. Why couldn't he love a radiant golden cheerleader who set the world on fire with her smile? He had quit debating the sincerity of it. He didn't have to explain anything to anybody. It just was.
He pulled off his sweaty gym clothes and got in the shower. He didn't want to see Connor tonight. He didn't want to watch football tonight. He felt touchy and weird and all tangled up in strange contradictions that fogged his brain. The shower was nice. Nice warm seclusion. But the water was growing colder by the second. Isolation is cold, you know. So he got out and threw on some clothes and made himself call Connor about the football game.
He sat on the bleachers with his friends, buried in the massive whooping crowd of Friday night teenagers. He watched his love top the pyramid at halftime and perform adorable little cheers for the crowd in all her spirited bombshell grace. "I love you," he whispered while the crowd was roaring for the team. And it might sound strange, but he swore there was a world of little girl sadness and voids she'd been hiding behind a smile all her life. He could see it wasn't all butterflies and sunshine in her world. Maybe she was too young and naïve to know this about herself at that point. Maybe it was the sadness only others can perceive when looking into your weary eyes. How did he know? He just knew her. He was the only one seeing her as more than just a glossy sexual doll, the way Elton John must've seen Marilyn Monroe when he wrote "Candle in the Wind," or something to that effect.
"I love you," he whispered again. He was such a sweet and honest kid. And he would always be there.
I wish you knew, I wish you knew...and he did wish to be known and acknowledged. Everybody does. But it could go on like this, and he would never question it or ask that it be undone, or wish for a world without a golden girl named Rachel Green and a dovey-eyed boy to love her.
I was born loving you. Thank you. Thank you for being you.