“Why did you come to Seattle?”
“I came to Seattle for the love.”
“The love? But Seattle is a desert.”
“I was misinformed.”
Back at the beginning of this century, absent being in a coma, being a hermit monk somewhere on a high mountain, or being sunk to your neck in the middle of a cypress swamp, you could not escape the story of “The Runaway Bride:”
“The runaway bride case was the case of Jennifer Carol Wilbanks (born March 1, 1973), an American woman who ran away from home on April 26, 2005, in order to avoid her wedding with John Mason, her fiancé, on April 30. Her disappearance from Duluth, Georgia, sparked a nationwide search and intensive media coverage, including some media speculation that Mason had killed her. On April 29, Wilbanks called Mason from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and falsely claimed that she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a Hispanic male and a white woman. Jennifer Wilbanks gained notoriety in the United States and internationally, and her story persisted as a major topic of national news coverage for some time after she was found and her safety was assured. “
At the time Wilbanks was the plat du jour of selfishness and fear in our blighted age and was the “Story of the Decade” for as long as her story lasted. When she finally showed up and confessed she was parsed and probed, drawn and quartered, and generally eviscerated by the rapacious media until she was little more than a damp spot on some discarded surgical sponge.
I despised The Runaway Bride from the first moment it was revealed she had simply freaked out and taken the geographic cure by getting gone to Las Vegas. It was a match made in hell. Along with Wilbanks sane people have to hate Las Vegas too — a place that promotes itself by proclaiming the whacked-out psycho’s vacation destination of choice. Being a psychopath’s institutional refuge is a pathetic reason for a town to exist, but cheap and low places need to work with what they have. After all, nobody would mistake Vegas for Vatican City until, of course, they build a 1/3rd scale model of Saint Peters and slam six thousand slots into the basilica — something I am sure is in the planning stage.
“No matter how many in the media beat up their peers
for paying too much attention to this tawdry tale,
it reveals a deeper truth about ourselves and our lives.”
Still, Vegas was the perfect place for The Runaway Bride to select as the terminus of her bus ticket. Once you go psycho in America it seems you have to pass through at least a Las Vegas of the mind and soul even if your final destination is someplace much more mundane like… Albuquerque.
Let her go. Let her go. God bless her,
Wherever she may be.
She can search, search this whole worldwide over…
— St. James Infirmary
In sum, Wilbanks freaked out, flipped out, bugged out, came back, fessed up, and was forgotten in a wave of lawsuits…. ”then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.”
That’s the story. That’s the surface. Let’s strap on our Sea of Love scuba gear and dive.
Let’s look instead at what lies far below the personalities of this pathetic drama and into the deeper principles which illuminate why this tawdry little tale had such a large impact.
Father forgive the media, they know not what they do. But sometimes they do things right in spite of themselves. “The Runaway Bride” was one of those stories. And no matter how many in the media beat up their peers for paying too much attention to this tawdry tale, in the end it reveals a deeper truth about ourselves and our lives.
“It seems to me that if we knew the secrets of all our hearts,
we’d know that love goes missing in our country thousands of times an hour. “
What we are really seeing here is something that has an abiding interest to humans because it is something that happens — in their secret hearts and deeper souls — to millions of human beings every single day. This particular iteration is a modern passion play in which people act out on the stage of the nation our daily common tragedy entitled: Love Gone Missing.
It seems to me that if we knew the secrets of all our hearts, we’d know that love goes missing in our country thousands of times an hour. True it doesn’t usually go for a run, take a taxi, and grab a bus for destinations thousands of miles away, but that can often be the end of it.
Love goes missing in a moment of fear, of spite, of words spoken or left unspoken, in the blink or wink of an eye or in a spoken sentence only half-heard or remembered wrongly.
Love untempered by fire or by ice is a skittish thing in our lives. We think we know what love is, but we really only know what we’ve been told love is — at least at the beginning.
We’ve been told Love is the white-hot passion that comes at the beginning of romance and is supposed to sustain itself at that level of heat across the decades. When that expectation burns through the weak vessels that we are, love goes missing — off on a quest to find the next pile of fuel on which to burn. Go to a Family Courthouse in any county in this country on any day of the week and you’ll see, scattered about the corridors and waiting their turn before the judges, the scorched waste, sodden ash, and family rubble left by this fools’ fire.
We’ve been told that Love is seen in the increasingly lavish weddings whose example is the 14 bridesmaids, 600 guests bash that our current poster child for Love Gone Missing fled from. With such a monstrous beginning, what love could not go missing either before or soon after. No real love can measure up to such grandiose beginnings. After all, Princess Diana had only 5 bridesmaids at her wedding and we all know about the bloody tunnel in which that love gone missing ended in a Paris night.
In my life I’ve seen love go missing in a single, secret,
brief and enraged glance on Christmas Day.
I’ve heard love go missing months before the front door slammed.
Wise people and scriptures all tell us that Love, if it is not to go missing, should be built carefully and slowly until what lies inside Love is seen and grasped. The contemporary Love we are told should not be centered on the soul but on things. We are told that Love needs to be seen in the world through things — the place setting from Tiffany’s, the endless objects from the multiple registries, the proof positive of the house becoming the ever larger house as we flip our homes every three years to get our nice appreciation rise. And so we seek to buttress and shore up Love by meeting the expectations of others in the material realm. God forbid you fail those expectations, for then, in an instant of selfish decision — that always opts for better and not for worse — Love Goes Missing.
In my life I’ve seen love go missing in a single, secret, brief and enraged glance on Christmas Day. I’ve heard love go missing months before the front door slammed. I’ve seen it go missing in me in a hundred silent moments where I did not speak my heart and in a hundred other moments when I spoke my heart falsely and far too quick. And the only thing I think I’ve learned about love gone missing is to let it go — and I’m not even sure about that no matter how often it is repeated to me.
For most of us, when Love Goes Missing it is not easily found again. When it goes missing it goes — near or far in space — a long, long way away and we don’t have the town turn out to walk search grids for our family, or issue nationwide alerts, or offer $100,000 rewards. Love just goes and once it goes we may struggle to find it for a time, but by that time it is far out of reach and beyond our puny power to locate.
But even if one could locate it, what good would that do?
Love gone missing can’t be compelled to return like some runaway bride taken through the airports with a cloak over its head — an apprehended perpetrator of the non-crime of going missing. Love’s a wild force in our too domesticated and ordered lives. Once gone missing, for whatever reason, Love can’t be just taken back as it was even if it is found. For if love gone missing is found and returns, it always remains a shattered vessel.
Love gone missing takes with it the hostages of trust and truth
but they don’t come back with it if it returns.
Yes, I know that in the endless bromides of our modern Therapeutic State Religion one is supposed to find the heart, the mercy, the compassion, and the patience to pick up every little shard of what has been shattered and, with our ample supplies of therapeutic superglue, painfully and tediously put it all back together as it was.
Except, of course, Love can never be what it was before it went missing.
Love gone missing takes with it the hostages of trust and truth but they don’t come back with it if it returns. They’ve been buried somewhere en route in graves long forgotten, far off the map. Even if you could accept it without them, you’d still see the fine hairline cracks in the vase you put back together together. You’d both handle the love like a rare museum object, always looking for the next soft place to store it so that it could not break or escape again. Love under constant guard will never be entirely free from the craving to go missing once again. At any time and for any reason. Sometimes for no reason at all.
So, like so many other things that ring deep in the changes of our hearts, we look for what to do; for how we can fix what cannot be fixed by us. If we find love gone missing and if it seems to have been returned to us we look to repair the rare and delicate thing. But it is, we find, like trying to repair a Swiss Watch with sledgehammer. Nobody human has that delicate a touch.
Perhaps it is better, in the end, to learn to let Love be. Nobody says you can have only one love with one person. If there can be, and there is, room for more than one love in one life, perhaps there can be more than one love in one love. Maybe the answer, if answer there be, is not the easy answer of repair, but the harder answer of starting all over from the gross and shapeless clay of love.
Maybe you worked too fast at the first pass of love and threw on the wheel of your days a lopsided and thin pot, something that had, deep inside it, some emptiness, some pockets of thin air that you could not see from outside, but that caused it to crack inside under the long heat of our lives of days and hands.
Not everything that’s pretty is strong.
Perhaps the best thing to do with love gone missing is, as said before, to just let it go and get it gone. It seems cold to say that no search will find Love again as it was at its inception, but that’s probably the truth. At the same time, and in the always inscrutable nature of love, to know that love has gone missing is not the same as knowing that love itself is gone. That’s the thing that we always seem to miss; the thing we most need to remember.
Maybe, if you take the time to improve your skills on the wheel of life, you will be able at some point to take up the clay of that love and, kneading more patiently, centering more carefully, and shaping with caring and constant hands a better, stronger vessel.
True, it might not be as fine and pretty as the first more delicate one, but it could be good and serviceable and steady. Not at all as likely to shatter on a glance or a word or a silence or a shadow… and just go missing.
Maybe, just maybe, like all things here on the great wheel, such a remade love could — in time — be coming around again.