I know his story has already been bled dry in the media, but there’s something about his story that really hit home for me. It’s safe to say that I already know when a segment in American Idol is about to pull the emotional strings like a puppeteer would his marionette. The sappy maudlin melody comes in, the camera shots are in slow motion, and you know they’re about to highlight a part of the contestant’s story to tug at your heart strings. Maybe it’s a sick baby or relative, or a rejected child out for his parent’s approval, or a dead loved one, anything at all to elicit a tear or two. Although this segment had all the hallmarks of the usual Idol sob story, something about Chris’ story rang genuinely clarion. Here was the guy walking the walk even before he had the chance to talk the talk. Everyone makes their wedding vows with such determination and conviction, only to flout some of the most basic like fidelity, for instance. And here comes a guy who stood by his girl, even if on the surface, she’s but a shell of her former self. Their ordeal is tough to watch in a less than 5 minute segment, but these people are permanent residents in the story we merely visited.
Isn’t this what we’re all looking for? Stripped of the romance and the fairytale embellishments and the wine and roses, you look for someone who’d walk down the road of life with you. Not just in those grand gestures, but in the everyday grind, and especially during the moments of ugliness and despair. They showed a video of his proposal to her (I think she worked for Starbucks) with videos and lights flashing from cameras. Nice, right? But he was also there for her when no one was there to witness, to celebrate, to commiserate. I’m sure there were many times when it was just him and her, or at least what seemed like what was left of her, and he stayed.
When old couples say that the fiery storm of passion will eventually die and will be replaced instead by much smaller, much quieter steady flame, many singles protest, insisting they want a relationship that will rage on for the rest of their union. It’s hard to explain how it’s not the same, but it’s not necessarily less. Arguably it’s superior on many counts. Ask your parents (if they’re in a successful long-term marriage) or any couple who’ve survived the ravages of the years, and you’ll get the same sentiment. It’s this quiet simmer that makes you stay when all the attractive raiment have been stripped away, when all is left is the barest of souls, the very essence of the person you’ve chosen to love. So it wouldn’t matter if they’re older, or uglier, or fatter, or sick, or disabled, or a mere shadow of their former glorious selves, it doesn’t matter because what you love is beyond reach of the unkind years. It would be untouched by age or disease.
It makes me wax philosophical because he lives what many merely aspire for. We get to eat popcorn as we watch his tale like a movie, and when it’s done, we go back to our lives, none the worse for wear. They on the other hand, don’t get to leave; they are the movie. And when Chris finally sang his audition piece, it was the coup de grace. He sang The Script’s “Breakeven”. Of course the song was about how, in break-ups, hearts don’t break even. But Chris singing it brings it to a whole new level. In their situation, their hearts don’t break even as well. His heart breaks seeing what his loved one is going through. His heart breaks not knowing if he’ll ever get back the version of the girl he’s loved with all his heart. His heart breaks choosing between another less complicated life and staying because he can’t leave when she needs him the most. Her heart breaks putting her man through all this. Her heart breaks seeing the difficulty he’s going though as he puts up with challenges in her life. Her heart breaks thinking if she’s depriving him of a happier life elsewhere.
You can tell it hit a raw nerve. It’s the aspect of love at it’s most unattractive, but at the same time it’s love at it’s most unadulterated. I don’t know if Chris will coast to the finals on the wings of his story, but his tale will stick with me for a long time. If I can do that for someone, or if I’ve found someone who’ll do that for me, I’d consider myself mighty blessed.