“Nobody ever lies about being lonely.”
The words leapt off the screen at me as I watched From Here to Eternity for the first time last night. Beyond the cinematic beauty of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr making sand- and sea-filled love on the beach, this rather quiet look at complicated people triggered a sweet concoction of sadness, nostalgia, longing, and reflection inside me.
But that’s what good stories do. They connect.
In each of the characters I saw reflections of my own personality and past. The determination to stick to a preconceived plan, no matter how shallow, simply because it was the original plan. The fleeting magic of lust crashing into love with few words needed to express the deepest, most turbulent of emotions. The pain of separation and longing for something one knows deep down truly can not be. The commitment to one’s own definition of “right” whether it lines up with others’ ideals or not. The comfort found in conformity.
The similarities I saw of myself in both of the main female characters were unsettling yet comforting. It made me feel not alone in my twisting path of firm decisions with the caveat that I’m always allowed to change my mind. Until it’s too late of course. Because you can only trapse down a path so far before reaching the point of no return. What stops that turn could be one’s own tolerance for pain. Or, more likely, the unwillingness to hurt the ones one loves.
In a scene two thirds into the film Alma, a beautiful woman working at a private gentleman’s club, explains why she isn’t going to marry Prew, an infantryman in the army. The dialog goes like this:
Alma: Because nobody’s going to stop me from my plan. Nobody, nothing. Because I want to be proper!
Alma: Yes, proper! In another year I’ll have enough money saved. Then I’m going to go back to my home town in Oregon, and I’m going to build a house for my mother and myself, and join the country club and take up golf. Then I’ll meet the proper man with the proper position, to make a proper wife, and can run a proper home and raise proper children. And I’ll be HAPPY because when you’re PROPER you’re SAFE!
Prew: You’ve got guts, honey. I hope you can pull that off.
Alma: I do mean it when I say I need you. ‘Cause I’m lonely. You think I’m lying, don’t you?
Prew: Nobody ever lies about being lonely.
I understood this on so many levels. The desire for safety being her driving force in life, even at the sacrifice of love and passion. His incredulousness at her choice. The irreconcilable poles from which they both were operating. That sometimes there is no answer. That sometimes there is only the present.
The older I get the more I am beginning to accept that the stories that touch me the most are not the ones with happy endings. In my own life I see a series of beautiful moments—these little time capsules of perfection—that I hold tight in my memories. I don’t get to stay in those moments. I have to keep moving. And sometimes that means I’ll be lonely.
Prew was right. That’s not something anybody ever lies about.
P.S. This is my 400th post. That seems a significant milestone somehow. Thank you all for staving off the lonely.