James had everything a young man could want, well, almost everything. He’d a full scholarship to Rouvin University where he was a straight A student. He had a paid internship at Tap Pro Inc, and was building out a plan for his own business. He’d a mother and father who loved him and a sweet grandmother he’d visit every other weekend.
Yet, even with all this, he felt himself incomplete. You see James was waiting to meet the one. The girl he couldn’t stop thinking about, the girl he’d do anything for, the girl who’d make his life full and rich.
Julie was a biology major. She worked as a barista at the campus coffee shop and spent all her free time (which wasn’t much) volunteering at a local wildlife rehabilitation center. She found her volunteer work most fulfilling, and hoped she could eventually get a full-time job working with animals.
There was only one thing missing from her life and that was Mr. Right.
Then one fateful day it happened. James entered the campus coffee shop and ordered a sixteen ounce cup filled with as many espresso shots as would fit. He’d a midterm early the next morning, and was preparing for a long afternoon of study.
He was standing next to the pickup counter scrolling through the study guide on his phone, when a beautiful voice rang out:
He looked up and saw her peeking out from behind the towering espresso machine. He noticed the curls of her auburn hair sticking out from under her green uniform cap. Her hazel eyes, the gentle curve of her face, she was like an angel.
Julie noticed him too, his scruffy black hair, his untucked button-up and his deep brown eyes that seemed to swallow her soul.
In that moment, they both had the same thought: this must be the one!
James skipped all the way back to his apartment. He knew it was crazy, he knew it was reckless, but he also knew that Julie was the one. The person who’d make him complete. So he took the chance, he asked her to dinner and she accepted. It was like the universe was smiling down on him and everything was falling into place.
He moved his hand upward in a coffee drinking motion, only to realize he didn’t have his drink. He’d been so entranced with Julie, that he’d left it sitting on the pickup counter. Normally, such a revelation would have led to panic, but not today. How could he worry about a little caffeine deprivation when he’d found the one?
He spent the whole afternoon preparing for the date (researching to find the best dining options, buying flowers, ironing his suit again and again.) He wanted everything to be perfect. After all, he knew this girl was his other half. The person who’d complete him.
Julie’s heart was pounding. Butterflies fluttered in her chest. She’d lost her concentration. She forgot to put espresso in an old professor’s drink, and added it to a small child’s chocolate milk instead. She wrote the wrong name on almost every cup, even misspelling the name Ed.
Her fingers where unsteady, her mind was elsewhere. She hardly noticed the mob of angry customers swarming the pickup counter yelling obscenities.
A boy had asked her on a date–a real, live, boy. She’d never been sure of anything in her life until now. He was the one, her missing piece!
When her concerned manager asked her if she wanted to leave early, Julie fled the building. There was so much to do: shower, second shower, hair, make-up, call all her girlfriends for advice… She’d no idea how she would do everything in time!
When James came to pick her up that evening, they were both so overwhelmed they could hardly speak. So they didn’t. They just sort of giggled as they skipped hand in hand to the restaurant.
Unfortunately, neither of them realized they were skipping down the path to their own demise.
The next few weeks were blissful for the new couple. They spent hours gazing into each others’ eyes, whispering sweet nothings, and holding hands while spinning slowly through wheat fields.
Normally, James would have been horrified to learn that he’d failed a midterm (after all he’d never failed anything in his life), but he just didn’t care. What was one midterm to a man in love?
Julie’s grades were also falling. She couldn’t focus on her books, and daydreamed through class. She even freed all the mice from the lab once with the gentle words: “How can I vivisect you, little friends? I’m in love!”
The mice then joined her in a musical number about her newfound feelings. It came to an abrupt end when her horrified professor entered.
James’ advisor reminded him that he needed to keep his grades up or he’d lose his scholarship. James noted this, then fled the meeting as soon as he was dismissed, eager to be with Julie.
This continued for weeks. Julie stopped volunteering at the animal rehab so she could spend more time staring at the clouds with James. After several missed shifts, the rehab asked her not to come back. She was disappointed at first, but then figured it didn’t matter as long as she had her other half.
Finally, James’ advisor regretfully informed him that he’d lost his scholarship. James was horrified and spent the next several classroom hours wondering what happened. He ignored all the calls from his parents, since he did not want to speak with them until he had a plan. He needed to find time to resume his studies and bring his grades back up but did not want to use any of the precious time he had with Julie.
He decided he’d skip the visit to his grandmother’s, at least for a couple of weeks until he was able to get his scholarship back. This led to more calls from his parents which he ignored.
Julie finally lost her job at the cafe and ran tearfully into the arms of James. Together they bemoaned the cruelty of the universe.
“Not to worry, my darling,” James reassured. “I still have my job with TP inc, when I graduate we can get married, I’ll support us both!”
Julie was overwhelmed with joy. She gave up all thoughts of being a biologist and spent every moment dreaming of being the perfect wife. She didn’t need her dreams, James would complete her!
James was shocked the day TP declared bankruptcy. He was so depressed, he didn’t even bother to collect his box of cubical ornaments and sticky notes. He’d no scholarship, no job, angry parents, and was months behind on his business plan. But he still had Julie, what more did he need to be complete?
Then it came to him. Julie was the only thing in the world that mattered anymore and he was going to show her that. He was going to do something crazy, something reckless, something illegal, something his parents would never approve of, and all for Julie!
He was going to spray paint her name on the underside of the Mackerel Valley River Bridge.
It was an old open spandrel bridge made up of three arches, each hopping over a different obstacle. The first obstacle was the Mackerel Valley Expressway, the central arch spanned Mackerel Valley River itself, and the third spanned the cleverly named River Road NorthWest.
It was a beautiful piece of historic masonry and James felt the only thing that would make it more lovely, would be the name of his beloved in radiation green. He planned to do it right in the center of the arch over the expressway where it would be most visible.
He arrived in the middle of the afternoon with a backpack full of paint cans. If you think vandalizing such a public place in broad daylight is a bad idea, you are absolutely right. However, James was new to being a rebel and frankly, he didn’t care if all the world saw him immortalizing that heavenly name.
The area was busy, cars zipped up and down the expressway and a group of workmen cleared away the brush from the roadside. James strolled past the workers, trying to act casual while keeping out of sight behind their heavy machinery. He ducked past a tractor, a cherry picker, and then finally began his climb up the bridge from the shadow of a wood chipper that was parked beneath.
The workmen were so engrossed in the chopping of trees and clearing of weeds, they didn’t notice James as he edged around the spandrel columns toward the center of the first arch.
But someone else did.
“James?” Cried a familiar voice.
James looked up to see the face of his other half staring down at him from over the railing.
“James, no!” Cried Julie. “You still have me, remember? And plenty of companies make pointless smartphone accessories, you’ll find another job! I promise!”
James was confused until he saw other faces peering over the railing, some with expressions of mild curiosity, others wide-eyed with horror. It was only then that James realized they all thought he was going to jump.
James laughed. It was a reckless, laugh that could only come from a man in love. “Oh Julie, I could never leave you! I’ve climbed this bridge for you!”
“But why?” she called.
“Because love is a crazy thing—a wild, uncontrollable thing! It should be proclaimed from the mountaintops, but since there are no mountains here, I’ve chosen the side of this bridge. I am going to paint your name here on top of the world!”
A few of the bystanders awwed, but most just grumbled and went about their business.
Julie pressed her hand to her heart. “Oh James,” she called. “My name would be incomplete without yours!” She climbed over the railing and began working her way down to him. She ignored the garbled warnings coming from the police bullhorns at the top of the bridge and the profanity of the workers below.
Finally, she joined him at his perch. Then, clinging to the masonry, they each spray painted the other’s name in such a way as to make a seasoned graffiti artist smack his face to his palm. Then, hand in hand, they began inching back around the columns toward the base of the bridge and safety.
When they made it to the last column, Julie gazed into James’ eyes.
“You complete me,” she whispered.
“And you me,” James returned.
He leaned in to kiss her.
But I am afraid this story doesn’t end with a kiss. You see as they reached for each other, James lost his footing and tumbled off the bridge. Instinctively, his grip tightened on Julie’s hand and she too slipped off her perch.
Together they fell straight into the open funnel of the wood chipper below.
And that is how James and Julie tore each other apart (literally and figuratively).
Was that ending to gruesome for you? Clearly you haven’t read many fables. Sometimes fables have to be gruesome to effectively teach their moral. And the moral of this story is never park a wood chipper under a bridge.