Zac was standing in his driveway on a Thursday evening doing what he loved to do every Thursday eve, and any other day he could. He was washing his car -- easily his most treasured possession. His neighbor Alex was outside for a smoke break, and to watch the sunset. "How's it going" says Alex. It wasn't really a question, so much as a regard or an acknowledgment. He hoped it was clear that he wasn't looking for a real answer.
"Eh, you know" said Zac. "Just cleaned and dried her, about ready to put another wax job on. It's the second time this month, I know, but I just buffed her on Tuesday again, and I always like to wax her right after I buff her down."
"Looks pretty good" said Alex.
"Damn right good. In fact good ain't good enough to say it. She's downright beautiful. I love her like a daughter."
"Do you though?"
"Of course I do."
"No," Alex insisted, "do you really love her though? Or do you only love her because you took the time to make her beautiful?"
"She was always beautiful. I just do my best to make her look as good as she can."
"That still doesn't really answer the question. But okay, answer this then - why are you always spending so much of your time trying to make her as beautiful as you can when you've always found her beautiful? Would it change the way you see her if you let her rust down, or get dirty all the time?"
"No," said Zac quietly. "I don't think it would change my mind about loving her. I'd just get eager to fix her, or make her look better."
"But how would you know if the reason why you would react that way is because you love her, or if that's your condition to loving her? And how could you ever know unless you allowed her to become less than perfectly beautiful?"
"Well..." Zac spoke very quietly now, barely audible. "I guess I really wouldn't know then. Not for sure."
Alex seemed satisfied with this last comment. He started nodding slowly, threw his cigarette in the gutter, and turned back towards his house.
"And I guess I won't know, Alex. Cause you're right - I'm not gonna let her get rusted or mudded on or nothin."
Alex was still nodding as he stepped back onto his porch. "Yeah. We know, Zac. There's nothing wrong with your car, and nothing ever will be. Not without your permission."
Zac paused for a moment on his car. He bent down to pick the sponge out of the soap bucket to give his car an extra wash on the hood. "What I do know," Zac spoke quietly to himself, "is that it's a beautiful thing that I think is worth working for."
Alex walked back inside his large, sparse house, walking through big empty rooms all the way to his study at the rear of the house. Here he would begin the evening with a crossword puzzle - an appetizer, almost, in preparation for the entree of philosophy to be read. Tonight was the night he set aside for his favorite: Plato. He was the first human Alex had ever felt a true affinity for. His insights could still warm Alex almost to giddiness, no matter where he stood with the world. He took in the words of his idol that night, the patron saint of the human mind and all its potential. And he found love.
Zac went back inside his own house shortly thereafter. He went to the woman he married 24 years ago. When he snuck up behind her to run his fingers through her hair she turned around slowly. She was startled, but she was not scared. His face looked warm and strong, like a decision. It made the both of them smile. They didn't say a word to each other. And he found love.