“I just wanted to give him a compliment,” she muttered contritely. “I’m sorry.”

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The Sacrifice

By St. John Campbell

We were sitting around the burn barrel in Cally’s backyard when the generically pretty girl nobody knew looked across me and asked Brent, who was sitting on my other side, “Can I tell you something personal?”

“Sure,” he said.

“Because, it’s not important, but I feel compelled to say it,” she said.

“Okay,” he said, right past me again.

“It’s just that:  you’re amazingly handsome.”

He nodded.  “Thank you,” he said.  This was nothing he hadn’t heard before.

“I just mean:  you’re perfectly proportioned …”

“Uh huh,” he said.

“Your face is absolutely chiseled …”

“Thank you.”

“Your hair is neatly trimmed …”

“Uh huh.”

“You’re just … I am absolutely compelled to tell you that you’re an amazingly handsome man.”

“Well thank you,” he said.  “That’s really very nice of you to say.”

“I hope that wasn’t too forward.”

“No,” he said.  “If you feel … I mean if you’re compelled to say something, you should say it.”

“Thank you,” she said.  “You’re just … wow.  Handsome.”

I shook my head at Brent.  “God,” I said loudly, “I hate sitting next to you.”

He laughed, but her face fell.  “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said.  “I didn’t mean …”

“No, no,” I said, holding up my hand.  “I know.”

“I didn’t mean it like …”

I pushed my hand further forward at her, “it’s alright.”

“I mean you’re …” she stopped, hesitating for the words.

“Don’t go there,” I said.

“Distinct,” she said, and I sighed.

“Which is a good thing!” she added.

“Please,” I said.  “Quit while you’re ahead.  Please.”

“Okay,” she said.  “Okay.”

I nodded and smiled at her.

“I just wanted to give him a compliment,” she muttered contritely.  “I’m sorry.”

Brent and I looked at each other.  I’d known him long enough to be sure he’d appreciated my joke, just as he’d known me long enough to know that, deep down, I have a thing for generically pretty girls who look right through me.

If she’d laughed … if she’d understood that the thing I’d said was true because it was funny just as much as it was funny because it was true … I would have had a chance.  I would have become visible right in front of her eyes, and could have charmed my way inside her head, like Don Juan swinging from a rope onto a castle balcony.

But she hadn’t laughed.  No, she hadn’t laughed at all.  Instead, she’d thought my feelings might be hurt.

There’s nothing I can do with that, and Brent and I both knew it.

“So,” she said, looking back from me to Brent, trying to follow her bold opening gambit, “what were you guys talking about?”

There was a pause, and I wondered if Brent wanted to get laid tonight.

“Schopenhauer,” he lied.  “We were having an intense discussion about Schopenhauer’s idea that aesthetic beauty is the closest thing we have to spiritual salvation.  He said Wittgenstein got there too, but I think the case is ambiguous.”

He paused, just long enough to watch her struggle.  “Do you have an opinion?” he asked.  “What do you think?”

“I …” she looked at us both.  “Wow.  You guys are …” she opened and closed her mouth, and her eyes drooped.  “I think I’m going to get a drink in the house.  Do you want anything?”

“I’m good,” I said.  “Thanks.”

“It’s okay,” he said.

“Okay,” she said, slowly turning around.

Brent and I looked at each other.  “What you don’t get,” I said, “is that Wittgenstein’s later writings are better viewed through the hermeneutics of Renaissance Christian mysticism than Russell’s symbolic logic.”

“That’s interesting,” he said.  “So a pseudo-emanation approach?”

Her shoulders slumped, and she walked away.

There was a long pause.

“Thanks, man,” I said.

He grabbed my hand and, briefly, squeezed.


St. John Campbell is a pseudonym

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