He only knew that he loved her at first sight. He only knew that he never wanted to leave her side. He only knew that he didn’t want to think about the complications loving her would cause.
They met on December 8th. Their eyes met across the room. They moved towards each other. Images of West Side Story flashed through her mind. But it was different for her. People did not disappear, the spotlight did not focalize on them. Instead, they were painfully aware of their differences. He came from a different part of town, or so he thought. They couldn’t even talk to each other. They just stood there looking at each other. Words just didn’t come to mind for either of them. They couldn’t resist getting to know each other. Finally, the first words: “Bryan.” “Jess.” Their hands met and neither one wanted to let go.
One week later, they finally saw each other again. They had spent all of their time apart thinking about each other. The second conversation went better. They went out. People stared at them. Caucasian men eyed Bryan. African American women glared at Jess. Hispanic men and women felt uncomfortable around them. This was something different. This was something uncomfortable. They were doing something strange. But Bryan and Jess couldn’t help the way that they felt. They couldn’t change their skin color. And they would not want to change anything about their lives. Bryan is a rising star in his law firm and Jess teaches a group of high-spirited fourth-graders. They just clicked, like two people meant to be together.
They had to get used to people staring at them. But if that were the worst situation they had to deal with, they would have been grateful. One night at a bar, Bryan’s ex-girlfriend started yelling at Jess in a drunken stupor. She accused Jess of stealing one of the few smart black men in their neighborhood. Jess stood her ground very well and resisted the temptation to fight and argue with Bryan’s racist ex-girlfriend. Jess simply talked about the love that Bryan and she shared. She talked about how much she respected Bryan and his family and how, to her, race had no place in love and respect.
It was worse went they went to visit Jess’s family. Jess was raised in the deep South. Her immediate family had grown accustomed to Bryan. He was smart, clean-shaven, polite and kind. He really loved Jess, and for her parents and sister that was the most important thing. But for the other members of the large extended family, it was not enough to overshadow his dark skin color. The first time Jess invited Bryan to Thanksgiving, her extended family couldn’t stop making racist jokes. Her parents made excuses for them, saying they were raised in a different era and that they didn’t know any better. But Bryan was used to jokes. He was used to being looked down on. Patiently, he tried to respect them. He tried to be the bigger man, because he loves Jess.
They fought. They argued. It seemed as though it would never work. They kept getting stuck on the future. Wouldn’t it just keep getting worse? How could they avoid offending people? They alternated between two extreme arguments. One argument was that they should forget the rest of the world. It was their relationship. They were happy, so why should anyone else care? They loved each other and never wanted anything to change. They wanted to forget everyone else. They wanted to offend every stranger who stared at them. Sometimes they overacted, and they kissed in public. Nothing else mattered to them. However, no matter where they went though, someone always looked at them, judging them. The other alternative was pessimism. There was no hope for their relationship. It did not matter how much they loved each other. They would never be able to have a successful relationship and so they should not even try. They should just say goodbye and hope for the best. They should hope to find someone else whom they could love as much. There was no possible future. Their children would always have problems and their grandchildren would have problems. Everybody would always stare at them.
For them, these psychological issues were almost more insurmountable than other problems. They got used to people looking at them, but it became easier and easier to handle. Maybe society was improving, maybe they were just getting used to it. They started seeing more couples like them. They moved to a big city, where they were surrounded by people who had their own problems. They decided that changing the setting would help them. They changed jobs, met new people, made new friends and started their new life together. They worked together to make a difference for other couples like themselves. They agreed to find a balance in their lives. Even in the big city, there were people who judged them and their relationship. However, by spending half of their free time together, they grew to appreciate each other and their love and respect grew as well. This way, they remember what brought them together in the first place and this brings them strength to persevere through the criticism. In the end, they express their love for each other and for all humans. This is the most important part of their relationship. They show that the question of race should not be a necessary aspect of human interaction. The color of skin does not make us who we are; it does not define our identities. It’s the way that we treat people that matters the most.