Transcript

457:

What I Did For Love
Transcript

Originally aired 02.10.2012

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/457

Prologue.

Ira Glass

I've known Kristy a few years. And she's been going through a rough time. When her boyfriend dumped her, she wanted to do something. She wasn't over him. And she had all these feelings. And it's hard to just sit there. And she thought about standing outside of his window and serenading him. She's a singer. That's her job. She sings. But she actually had tried serenading a guy once.

Kristy Kruger

That really didn't work out. I would like to say, as a woman, I believe there is a serenade double standard. Where it's kind of OK for a man to go throw a rock at a window, but when a woman does it, it's sort of like, call the police. There's a singer/songwriter on my lawn.

Ira Glass

Kind of like you're a crazy person.

Kristy Kruger

Yeah.

Ira Glass

And she didn't want to be a crazy person, right? She didn't want to stalk him. She didn't want to bother him. But like I say, she had all these feelings. So she wrote him a letter every day that she did not send. And she started collecting stuff that she knew that he would like. And she kept it. She just kept it in a box underneath her bed. She's also got food for him in her freezer, these pastries that he likes that she saw and couldn't help buying for him.

And she knows that he doesn't want to get any of this stuff from her. So what is she collecting this stuff for? She has no idea.

Finally, she figured out a way to reach out to him that she thought might be appropriate.

Kristy Kruger

He was a prankster. He loved pranks.

Ira Glass

Including phone pranks. And so Kristy explained to me that as she would drive around the country from one music gig to the next, she tried to do something that she thought would talk to that part of his personality.

Kristy Kruger

I started writing his number on bathroom walls across the United States.

Ira Glass

What?

Kristy Kruger

Yeah, I started writing on bathroom walls, "Ladies, please help me out. I really want my man back. Please call--" and then I put his number. "And tell him his chalupa really misses him."

And then I wrote, "Say your city and state, please."

Ira Glass

I see. Because you knew that he doesn't want to see you, so you don't want to be calling him. That would be clearly out of bounds.

Kristy Kruger

Right. That's how I cleared myself of that, by having other women call and text him.

Ira Glass

Is it possible, though, if he doesn't want to hear from you, that this is even worse?

Kristy Kruger

Well, and that's eventually what happened. Two months later, I received a very cold, dry text. "I hope you're doing OK. But please knock it off with the bathroom walls. Desist with this."

Ira Glass

Yeah. So Kristy tried a more constructive route. She started to learn these sad, old country songs, Floyd Tillman and Hank Williams. And she formed a cover band to play them that she calls, The Town Criers-- get it? Town Criers-- in Denton, Texas, where she lives. I asked her to send me one of those songs, and they are really, really sad.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

All of the stuff that Kristy has done since the breakup-- recording this music, playing the prank, buying all that stuff for her boyfriend-- she says she just can't help herself. She still has feelings, and she just has to act.

Kristy Kruger

I was raised that you can always get what you want out of life, you just have to work hard. And my dad never really explained to me that that didn't apply to love.

Ira Glass

Well, today on our radio program, we hear people try all kinds of things, work hard in all kinds of ways for love. Including, I have to say, a few ways that I bet you have never heard of. And they do it because they just can not stop themselves. Like every country song ever written would tell you, they've got no choice. From WBEZ Chicago, it's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International. It's a special Valentine's Day edition of our show, "What I Did For Love." I'm Ira Glass. Stay with us. Kristy Kruger.

Act One. Best Laid Plans.

Ira Glass

Act One, The Best Laid Plans.

When you hear what this first couple did for love, I think one of the things that is most incredible about it is the kind of couple they were when they did it, which is a really great couple.

Kurt Braunohler

We were always like the most solid of all the relationships of our friends and everything like that.

Ira Glass

Kurt Braunohler met his girlfriend on the third day of college. And in all of the ways that we think of what makes for a good relationship, I think that they were doing better than you, or me, or most people. They had a lot of fun together. They could talk about anything. They didn't really fight. Happy sex life.

Kurt Braunohler

We really just got along very well together. We traveled well together. We were the place that friends would come when they are having hard times, and they would stay with us. It felt like very adult. Even when I was 23, it felt like, I'm kind of married, even though neither of us had ever, ever discussed getting married.

Ira Glass

So what happened?

Kurt Braunohler

Well, after we had both turned 30, one day I just kind of was thinking about why we had never talked about getting married. We had never, ever talked about it, seriously or otherwise. And whenever anyone would ask us, we would always just kind of brush it off and say, oh, we'll get married when we have kids. That's what we would always say.

And I remember, we were sitting in the living room and it was October. And I just said, hey, I want to talk. And I said, why do you think we haven't gotten married yet, or even talked about it? And she just kind of like looked at me and thought for a second. And then she said, well, I think that before we get married, we should probably sleep with other people.

And you would imagine that that would come as a huge shock to me, like hit me hard. But for some reason it made sense to me. I was like, OK, very calmly. And I guess the reason--

Ira Glass

Wait, wait. How did that make sense?

Kurt Braunohler

I've thought a lot about this. And I think that there's a few reasons. We both had this kind of arrogant notion of our relationship, that it could survive literally anything. We had known each other our whole adult lives. We were each other's world. So really, I don't think we thought that we could destroy this thing.

Ira Glass

I talked to the girlfriend who did not want to come on the radio. And she said, basically, that she had only had two boyfriends in her life, her high school boyfriend, who was not a good boyfriend at all, and Kurt, who was great. But she met Kurt, she said, when she was 17. She was 30 when this happened. And she said that she felt like maybe she missed out on something in her twenties, experiences that other people had. And she didn't want to regret that.

A warning, I should say, before we go any further in this story. We're going to acknowledge the existence of sex between adults. Nothing explicit.

So they sat on the couch, and they talked this through.

Kurt Braunohler

The next part of that conversation was the logistics. Do we break up? Do I move out? Do we just do this while we're living in the same house together? And we kind of came up with this idea of borrowing this Amish concept called rumspringa. And rumspringa in the Amish world is when you're 16, you're allowed to be not Amish for two years. And then when you turn 18, you decide whether or not you come back to the fold.

Ira Glass

And during those two years, kids get drunk. They sleep around. They try drugs.

Kurt Braunohler

They do lots of meth.

Ira Glass

They do lots of stuff.

Kurt Braunohler

So we decided to have a rumspringa from our relationship. And that's the other crazy thing is that we decided that 30 days was enough. Because probably within 30 days, sleeping with other people, we'll get that all out of our system in 30 days.

It turns out, it's really difficult to all of a sudden become single at 31 when you've never been single for your entire life. Because all of a sudden, I'm in New York City, and I'm single. And I essentially have the emotional tools of a 17-year-old boy.

Ira Glass

Because the last time you had dated, you were 17.

Kurt Braunohler

The last time I dated I was in a dorm room. Also, it wasn't like I was single in New York City. Because being single in New York City is, I think, the majority of it is being just very lonely and being on your own. Whereas this was very different. I was in a race. I was in a 30-day race to sleep with as many people as I possibly could. Because after 30 days, I was going to go back and then get married.

Ira Glass

So there's a time clock ticking.

Kurt Braunohler

Every single-- it was almost to the minute where I'd just be like, if I wasn't out somewhere trying to meet someone, I was like, this is wasted time. I am wasting my time right now.

And also, because of the fact that we were both-- my girlfriend and I were both very competitive with each other that we didn't speak during that 30 days. But I think in both of our minds, we had a competitive nature of being like, I need to sleep with more people than she does. And I think she felt the same way.

Ira Glass

That's true. She did feel that way. I asked her.

So before they started the rumspringa, they took a last romantic trip together to New Orleans over New Years. And they had a great time. And then on January 3, after they both cried a bit, Kurt moved out for a month.

So suddenly, single at 31, time clock ticking, where do you start?

Well, Kurt called this woman that he knew just a little bit and had a date on the very first or second night. He can't remember which it was. And at dinner, he told her the entire situation. He laid the whole thing out, that he was seeing somebody, they were taking this break to sleep around. And this was a rule that he made for himself, that he was always going to be honest with any woman that he met during this month. He was going to be honest up front.

Kurt Braunohler

And that's the weird thing. That's the thing that I still, kind of when I think back on this time, that I don't understand. Like I don't understand how these women that I met during that time heard this story and were like, OK, let's continue with this date.

Ira Glass

What would they say?

Kurt Braunohler

I think most of them, the overwhelming response was like, "wow" and "I can't believe you're telling me this."

Ira Glass

Kurt was staying on a futon on a friend's living room floor for the month in this apartment where there was no door between the living room and the bedroom where his friend was sleeping. And he brought this woman back on the first date. And they made out a little bit. And then they set another date.

Kurt Braunohler

I think it was probably for the next night or the nine after, something like that.

Ira Glass

And what happens?

Kurt Braunohler

What do you mean? What happens on the date?

Ira Glass

I guess I mean, do you sleep with her? Since the whole point of this story is you're trying to sleep with--

Kurt Braunohler

Yes.

Ira Glass

I mean, suddenly I felt very modest about asking. But yeah, no.

Kurt Braunohler

Yes, we ended up sleeping together.

Ira Glass

Yeah.

Kurt Braunohler

Yeah. It was amazing. It was yeah, totally turned my head around. It really did feel like having experiences like I would imagine I would have had as a teenager. Where sex was this very powerful thing and it kind of overwhelmed you.

Ira Glass

A day or two after that, he picks up a woman at a bar, something he had never done before in his life. And he goes home with her. And from there he's off and running. But remember, he has the emotional tools of a 17-year-old.

Kurt Braunohler

I was emotionally getting involved with these women. And that was against one of our rules that we had come up-- my girlfriend and I had had a rule saying, no relationships. We don't get into relationships with people. We're just going to go out and sleep with people to see what it's like.

Ira Glass

Oh, I see. But you didn't actually know how to just go out and sleep with somebody without getting emotionally involved.

Kurt Braunohler

Not at all. I mean, the first date I went on, I immediately was, like, head over heels for her. And I knew her for six hours.

And I didn't know how to date. I didn't know how to date casually. So what I really was doing was just acting like a person who had been in a 13 year relationship with these women that I had just met.

Ira Glass

Like, how does that mean? What do you mean?

Kurt Braunohler

Immediately holding hands. I remember that I would-- my impulse would be to say, "I love you" during sex. That would be my impulse, because that's the only way I was used to having sex.

And I remember the first time that I did end up having sex, I started to say I love you, and then just kind of swallowed it and made it seem like I was coughing. And that didn't happen just once.

Ira Glass

Kurt says it was just a month of incredibly intense feelings. He'd feel this crazy elation or he would find himself walking down the street weeping.

The girlfriend told me that she, meanwhile, is having escapades of her own. She'd be out all night, drinking and dancing, going to exclusive clubs with Mexican high rollers, doing crazy things with European tourists. It was just what she wanted, actually.

And both of them told me that the weirdest thing about that time was that the person that they wanted to talk to most about what was going on and share it with was each other. But of course, they weren't speaking.

Kurt says that one of the most amazing thing to him that was kind of a revelation during that time was something-- I've never actually heard anybody talk about it aloud, but I totally related to this-- was how quickly he would find himself in the home of a complete stranger.

Kurt Braunohler

Yeah, I had never gotten to see other people's apartments so much. That's what I kind of was fascinated by, getting to see all these different people's apartments and seeing how everyone lives. And I loved that. I loved that part of it so much.

I was like, look at this. Like I'm seeing, this is all your stuff. This is the stuff you keep on your bedside table.

And also, having like really weird experiences I'd never had before. Of like women picking me up, I had never experienced that before.

I was so confused, because it was a bartender. She was a bartender. So she just kept giving me drinks, free drinks. And I was like, why is she giving me all these free drinks? But it is fascinating to see, if you stay at the bar until 4:00 in the morning, then all a sudden-- I had never been aware of it before. But then, all of a sudden, looking around me, like, oh, all these people are pairing off. Look at how this happens.

I'd been at bars until 4:00 in the morning, but I was always-- it's all of a sudden uncovering this whole level of single life in New York City that I just had not been aware of before.

Anyone in New York City I feel like can have sex any night of the week if they just follow two rules, which is stay at the bar until 4:00 in the morning and dramatically lower your standards.

Ira Glass

So after a month, Kurt and his girlfriend get together and talk. And they agreed that a month was not enough for this. They both said, it was just obvious the experiment hadn't run its course. They both wanted more time. So they decide on a second month, which then becomes a third month.

And for Kurt, as time went on, it got harder and harder to stick with the rule that they had made of not getting into any relationships. He was just muddling about how to figure out how to do that. In his head, he would think, when is something actually a relationship?

Kurt Braunohler

And I think in my head I was like, three dates. Three dates makes a relationship. That's what I defined. And so then I would try to not see people more than three times. That was increasingly difficult.

Ira Glass

It was difficult because he was giving women two opposite messages at the same time. He would tell them that he just taking a month's break from his real relationship and this isn't serious. But then he didn't hold back any of his feelings.

Ira Glass

What I felt like kept happening was that I would act like I wanted to be their boyfriend. And then, after three dates, would just abruptly end it, with no explanation whatsoever. And definitely, people would yell at me and call me names. And I feel-- to this day I feel-- I feel horrible about that. Because I was just, I was acting like a crazy person. I was acting like a person with absolutely no boundaries.

Still, it was hard to stop himself while it was going on. And when we talked about it, Kurt's best explanation for that was--

Kurt Braunohler

When I was a kid, I had a dog. And one day, the cat knocked a five-pound bag of sugar off onto the floor. And my dog was about nine pounds. He was a toy poodle. And he ate all five pounds of sugar in one day. And then he was sick for three days afterwards. But I always think about that day for him, how amazing that day must have been, where like eating all of that sugar and eating it. And then going away from it for a little while, and being like, I can't stop, when is this going to happen again? And then he just started vomiting and vomited for three straight days.

And that's how I felt. I knew this was bad. But I was like, when is this ever going to happen again?

Ira Glass

I asked Kurt's girlfriend if all this happened to her during the rumspringa too. If it was hard just to have sex without emotion entering into it at all. And she said, absolutely not. Quote, "You mean dudes that I meet at bars or parties or whatever, those people?" She said, "I didn't tell anyone anything about my background or the situation."

And I asked her, wait. So you wouldn't explain, I'm on a break from a relationship. She said, no, because it sounds crazy. I told her that Kurt would reveal all of that, which she knew. And she said, yeah, yeah, Kurt's way too open. But, quote, "That openness probably just made him more appealing to the ladies."

By the end of three months, Kurt started to fall for this woman that he met in Australia. And this time, really actually fall for her in a real way. And this made him, of course, feel differently about his relationship with his girlfriend.

So he flew back to the States, stayed at their old apartment. And because this is the most comfortable relationship that has ever existed between two people, of course they dealt with it all right away, very straightforward.

Kurt Braunohler

And we woke up in the morning, and we went and got brunch. And we brought it to the park, the way we had always used to do on Saturdays. And we just sat in the park, and talked, and we broke up.

And that's the thing. I can't point to something that was bad about our relationship. Except for knowing that I feel like it had run its course.

We organically got to the point where we both thought this was a good idea.

Ira Glass

This, the rumspringa?

Kurt Braunohler

It's almost like the relationship had an expiration date, but we didn't know about it. And then, all of a sudden, we came up with this really complicated, crazy plan to put the test on it at the right place where it would break. And it broke.

Ira Glass

His old girlfriend said something similar. She said she had probably wanted out of the relationship before the rumspringa, but she was just too scared to admit it to herself. The rumspringa gave them a way to break up.

They still are very, very close. They talk a few times a week.

Kurt says he would not want to do a rumspringa again. But he came out of this experience believing that it is important to force things to a decision with someone. And that it's healthy for any relationship to be evaluated now and then.

Kurt Braunohler

I do have a theory now. I do have a theory about if I do get married in the future. What I think I would want to do is have an agreement that at the end of seven years, we have to get remarried in order for the marriage to continue. But at the end of seven years, it ends. And we can agree to get remarried or not get remarried.

Ira Glass

Why?

Kurt Braunohler

Because I think you get to choose and I think it would make the relationship stronger.

Ira Glass

I don't know what I think of that. Because I think, actually, one of the things that's a comfort in marriage is that there isn't a door at seven years. And so if something is messed up in the short-term, there's a comfort of knowing, well, we made this commitment. And so we're just going to work this out. And even if tonight we're not getting along or there's something between us that doesn't feel right, you have the comfort of knowing, we've got time. We're going to figure this out. And that makes it so much easier. Because you do go through times when you hate each other's guts. You know what I mean?

Kurt Braunohler

Of course you do. Yeah.

Ira Glass

And the no escape clause, weirdly, is a bigger comfort to being married than I ever would have thought before I got married.

Kurt Braunohler

Really?

Ira Glass

Yeah.

Kurt Braunohler

I had never thought of it that way. I like thinking about it that way, you just see so many examples of where people don't think that way.

Ira Glass

Both Kurt and his girlfriend feel like the rumspringa got them where they needed to go as a couple. Even if that place was different than they intended when they began the whole thing. Sometimes what you need to do next as a couple, you can't even tell what it should be. The best you can do is hold your breath, make a guess, and jump.

[MUSIC - "30 DAYS," RUN-DMC]

Coming up, love stories between a kid and someone who is not a kid, and a duck and someone who is not a duck. And Jeanne Darst and someone who is not Jeanne Darst. That is in a minute, from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International, when our program continues.

Act Two. 21 Chump Street.

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our program, for Valentine's Day, What I Did For Love. Stories about people who believe in love and do all kinds of things for love. We have arrived at Act Two of our program. Act Two, 21 Chump Street.

Last year, at three high schools in Palm Beach County, Florida, a bunch of young police officers were sent undercover to pose as students. These were recent graduates of the police cadet program. And they blended right in. They went to classes. They ate in the cafeteria. The hung out on the basketball court during recess. They had fake Facebook accounts, of course. They even took the state's standardized test, the FCAT. Police officers were there undercover because parents and principals had complained about drugs being sold at the schools. Only the principals at the schools knew of their presence. No teachers knew it, no parents knew it.

Now, maybe it is hard to imagine a love story coming out of this situation, but one did. A love story where somebody went out of his way and took action at a key moment for love. Robbie Brown tells what happened.

Robbie Brown

The plan was called Operation D Minus. And one of the schools included in the plan was Park Vista Community High School, where a kid named Justin Laboy, an 18-year-old honor roll student, was in the last semester of his senior year.

And Justin could hardly believe his luck when a very pretty new girl-- everyone had noticed her-- showed up in not just one, but two of his classes.

Justin

The name that she used was Naomi. I think it was Naomi Rodriguez. And she sat in front of me, but then I sat next to her. So I started talking to her. Oh, hey, my name is Justin, you know. Oh, I'm Naomi. I'm from New York, this and that. Oh, really? Me too. And I had a hat that said New York on it too, because I was trying to show her that I wasn't lying or faking it.

She said she was from Queens. I'm from the Bronx. And she was Puerto Rican and Dominican. And that's what caught me even more. I was like, oh, man. OK. And I was Puerto Rican. And I was talking to her a little Spanish. She talked to me in a little Spanish.

And then I just got really close to her. I got attached real quick. I was like, wow, look at this.

Robbie Brown

What did she look like?

Justin

She was about 5' 4", black straight hair, light-skinned. She was mature body-wise, so that caught a lot of people's attention. But the things that she did that I thought made her a real student was that she would sleep in class. She wouldn't do her homework. I would have to wake her up all the time, be like, hey, listen, wake up. You're going to get in trouble. Hey, oh, you didn't do your homework? OK, I'll let you copy my homework.

Because, I mean, I take my classes seriously. But with her, it was different. I was just like, oh, man, you know? Wow, you know, she's cute. I could talk to her. I'd get in trouble once in a while. It would be like, Justin, stop talking. OK.

Robbie Brown

Justin's a good-looking guy, popular and well-liked. He'd had girlfriends before but nothing that lasted. Nothing that seemed worth holding on to. But Naomi seemed different.

She was a good listener. She didn't seem to gossip or play games. She seemed very adult.

Justin

It's the maturity level that I really cared for. I told her a lot of my feelings. I told her how I felt for her. I mean, I'm not the type of person to open up to you unless we have a really good relationship. And I was just opened up so much. I told her about my whole life story, about my parents. I told her problems I had.

Robbie Brown

What was it about her that made you trust her? That made you feel like you could open up to her?

Justin

She had told me that she came up here with her mother. That they was having problems in New York, so they came over here to Florida to settle down, to have a better life. And little stuff like that, telling people, I believed that, oh, wow. OK, since you're telling me stuff like this, then I can tell you about my life.

Yeah, I'm having hard troubles with this person right here. Or I'm having trouble with my parents. Little stuff like that makes people bond together.

Robbie Brown

Justin believed he was seeing the signs that Naomi was starting to like him. Like him like him.

They walked together in the halls. They would text during class. He says she even let him kiss her on the cheek. And he serenaded her in front of their entire class.

Justin

I'd be like, oh, I'm going to sing you a song. She'd be like, oh, OK. And then I'd just start singing. And then I'll get all blushed up. And be like, oh, man, what am I doing? OK, let me continue. I'll start rapping to her, and then I started singing. And I mean, I even danced too. So I danced for her and I--

Robbie Brown

You really liked this girl.

Justin

Man, it tore me apart. I was like, oh my god.

Robbie Brown

So you felt like all the signs were good?

Justin

Oh, of course. I felt all the signs were good, because I never got a non-sign. So therefore, I was just like, OK, everything's good. I know I'm taking it slow. I know I'm taking it good. Usually, it doesn't take me that long to get a girlfriend when I start talking to them. So when it took me-- I found it kind of odd. I was like, wow, I'm such a great dude. And we're hanging out. What's the next step? I don't care about sex and everything. I just want to know if you're going to be mine.

Robbie Brown

So she was playing kind of hard to get?

Justin

Yes. I mean, me, I love that. So it attracted me even more. I love girls that guys can't have. So I'm like, this is awesome.

Robbie Brown

And in hindsight, she was probably playing hard to get for a different reason.

Justin

Yes, for a different reason.

Robbie Brown

All of this built up, inevitably, to Justin asking Naomi to prom. She's a senior, I'm a senior. Our last year, I don't know where we're going to be after this. So let me just step up, and be a man, and do what I got to do.

So I went up to her in class. And I was like, listen, I know you don't know anybody in this school that much. And I don't want to go to anybody in this school. And I feel really attracted to you. Would you like to come with me to prom? Oh, that sounds nice. OK. Excuse me, let me think about it.

I was blushing red. I was like, oh my god, what if she says no? What if she says yes? And after she gave me the OK, yeah, around the more of a yes side, I was OK. I was good. Good.

Naomi

You know, prom was coming up. And I guess he needed a date.

Robbie Brown

I interviewed the undercover officer who played Naomi. She's a 25-year-old new recruit with the Palm Beach School's police force. She wouldn't give me her real name, and only agreed to a phone interview if her supervising sergeant could listen in. She wouldn't talk to me about any specific cases, or kids at the school, including Justin. But she did confirm that she was asked to prom. She doesn't remember it quite the way Justin does though. Mainly, she says she didn't say yes.

Naomi

I told him I wasn't going just because, since this is not where I spent the last three years of high school, I didn't really want to go to the prom. And I had to pay for the ticket and everything else. I was like, no, it's too much money for me. And he bought it.

Robbie Brown

Justin and Naomi didn't end up going to prom, of course. Partly because of what happened next.

One day at the beginning of April, after Naomi had been at school for about three months, she and Justin had a conversation about drugs.

Justin

She asked me if I smoked. And I told her, no, I do not smoke. But if you need anything, I'll be more than happy to help you out. So like I said, I'm not a drug dealer. It's hard for me to get drugs at all. So it's not like she told me this day, and then I got it for her the very next day. It took me a while, you know?

She would text me, and I would text her. She'd be like, do you have it yet? No, I don't have it at the moment right now. And she would be at school, hey, do you have that yet? No, I don't have it right now. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm really trying. My heart is to get it, and I can't get it. Because I liked the girl.

Robbie Brown

What are you thinking as you're trying to get this pot to sell to her?

Justin

I'm thinking, what the heck am I doing? Like I had never done this in the school before. So I'm really scared and skeptical about it, too, at the same point. And I'm like, oh, man. OK. So I'm asking my home boy. And my friend is like, no-- I don't know. Because I don't hang out with guys like that.

Robbie Brown

Maybe Justin didn't know guys like that, and maybe he did. The police say he told Naomi he smoked pot. Justin says he was just trying to seem cool to impress her. But what's certain is he did find somebody who would sell to him, a person his cousin knew, he says.

So a couple days after they first talked about it, Justin brought a rolled up baggie of marijuana to school for Naomi.

Justin

And I was petrified. I was like, oh my god. I'm actually going to do this.

So we were in class. And I sat right next to her. And she was like, hey, do you have that? And I was like, you know what? Yeah, I do. And I was like, OK, we're going to wait a few. Because I'm not going to be like, oh, hey, give it to her in her hand, slide it. But she was like, OK, put it in my purse. OK. She put her purse on top of my desk. And then I slid it right in there.

She goes, OK, now take the money. I was like, no, I don't need the money. It's OK. Just have it. You can take it.

She goes, no, please take the money. You make me feel bad. So 10 minutes passed. And then we're still arguing about it. I'm like, please. No, I don't want the money. And she goes, no, just take the money. Take the money. Please, take the money. It will make me feel better. I'm just like, OK, you know what? Just so you could just shut up, I'll take the money. Don't worry. You're making me feel bad, now that I'm taking the money from you.

Robbie Brown

How much money?

Justin

$25.

Robbie Brown

And this was at school?

Justin

Yes.

Robbie Brown

Justin would later find out it's a felony in Florida to sell marijuana. And the penalty is even harsher for selling it on school property. In other words, Justin had made an irreversibly bad decision. The worst decision of his life, he says. And since he was over 18, he was legally an adult when he made it.

Finally, in May, the police did a big sweep. They arrested 31 people at several schools, almost all of them students who had sold small amounts of marijuana. Justin was one of them.

Justin

And they said that I had sold to the undercover cop. And I'm weirded out. I'm like, whoa. Who did I ever sell to? And then it just popped into my head that the only person that I ever did give anything to was this female. And I was shocked. My emotions were running. I was just like, oh my god. This is so mean. This is so messed up. How can she do this?

I mean, if it was a guy doing this, if a guy ever tried to come up to me like this, I would have put my hand in his face straight up, and said, no, get out of my face. Please, get out of my face. I don't associate with that. But it's just a female. It's a different feeling that you get for a female than you would when you have your home boy or a guy come up to you and ask you a question like that. Oh, hey, do you smoke? No, no, I don't. Get out of here. It was a different feeling that when you get from a girl you like. You're not going to turn down the person that you want to be with.

Robbie Brown

When I talked to the officer who plays Naomi, she said she had no regrets about her undercover work. She's a cop. And she sees it the way a cop does.

Naomi

These kids need to wake up. They need to realize they can't be doing this.

Robbie Brown

And using undercover officers has gotten results. The police in Palm Beach County tried the same tactics again at another group of schools last semester. So far, they've arrested more than 80 people. All have pled guilty to charges ranging from selling cocaine and pills to bringing weapons on school property.

Justin took a plea deal, three years probation in exchange for pleading guilty to the felony charge. His lawyer told him that if he went to trial, it would be his word against Naomi's. And they disagreed about the drug deal.

He says she kept asking him to sell her marijuana. She says he brought it up first. He says she insisted he take money for it. She says he just took the money without prompting. Either way, the police had Justin's text messages telling Naomi he would get marijuana for her. So Justin's lawyer advised him, just take the plea.

But before the deal came through, he spent more than a week in jail going over and over in his mind what had happened. And still thinking, in spite of himself, about Naomi.

Justin

I would have a good time when I would be with her. And I would be with her all the time. And that's why, when all this collapsed and caved in, I felt so-- it just hurt.

Robbie Brown

Have you had any contact with Naomi--

Justin

No, not--

Robbie Brown

--since you were arrested?

Justin

Not at all.

Robbie Brown

Have you tried to send her any messages?

Justin

No. I don't have any contact with her whatsoever. If I would, I would love to have a conversation with her. No disrespect or anything.

Robbie Brown

What would you tell her?

Justin

I would tell her, what the heck did she do?

Robbie Brown

Justin had planned to go into the Air Force after high school. He said he wanted to make something out of his life. And now, with a felony conviction, the Armed Forces, any part of it, was off the table. Justin is applying to community college.

He says now the whole thing seems kind of unbelievable. He was an honor roll student, a first time offender with no criminal record. And of all the high schools in all the towns in all the world, she walked into his.

Ira Glass

Robbie Brown works for the the New York Times in Atlanta.

Act Three. Cold Stone Dreamery.

Ira Glass

Act 3, Cold Stone Dreamery. This next story, like that last one we just heard, is about a guy who yearns for someone, yearns. And this someone is not giving him much back. And this someone may not actually be good for him at all. Except in this story, the guy is a duck. This story is from Ben Loory.

Ben Loory

A duck fell in love with a rock. It was a large rock, about the size of a duck actually, that was situated off the bank of the river, a little past the old elm.

Every day after lunch, the duck would saunter off to admire the rock for a while.

"Where are you going?" said the other ducks.

"Nowhere," said the duck. "Just around."

But the other ducks knew exactly where he was going. And they all laughed at him behind his back.

"Stupid duck is in love with a rock," they snickered. "Wonder what kind of ducklings they will have."

But there was one duck, a girl duck, who did not laugh. She had known the strange duck for a long time and had always found him to be a good and decent bird. She felt sorry for him. It was hard luck to fall in love with a rock. She wanted to help, but what could she do?

She trailed after the duck and watched him woo the rock from behind a tree.

"I love you," the duck was saying. "I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you more than the stars in the sky. I love you more than the fish in the river. I love you more than, more than--" And there he stopped for he could think of nothing else that existed.

"Life itself?" said the girl duck from behind the tree. She hadn't meant to pipe up. The words just sort of leapt out of her.

The duck spun around to look at her. He was terrified.

"It's OK," said the girl duck, waddling out from behind the tree. "I know you're in love with the rock. In fact, everyone knows."

"They do?" said the duck.

"Yes," said the girl duck. "Yes, they do."

The duck sighed and sat down on the ground. If he had had hands, he would have buried his head in them.

"What am I going to do?" he said. "What am I going to do?"

"Do?" the girl duck said.

"How can it go on like this?" Said the duck. "I love a thing that can not speak, can not move, can not-- I don't even know how it feels about me."

The girl duck looked at the rock. She didn't know what to say.

"I know," said the duck, "you think I'm crazy. You think it's just a rock. But it isn't just a rock. It's different. It's very different." He looked at the rock.

"But something has to happen," he said, "and soon. Because my heart will break if this goes on much longer."

That night, the girl duck had a hard time sleeping. She kept paddling around in circles, thinking about the rock, and the duck, and his heart that might break.

She thought long and hard. And before morning, she had an idea. She went and woke up the strange duck.

"Things happen when they must," she said, as if it were an extremely meaningful statement.

"So?" said the duck.

"So I have a plan," said the girl duck, "and I think that it will work."

"Well, what is it?" said the duck, nearly bursting with excitement.

"We will need help," said the girl duck. "And it will take some time. And also, we will need a cliff."

Two days later they set out. It took four ducks to carry the rock. They worked in teams and traded off every 15 minutes.

Everyone joined in, even though they laughed, for ducks are all brothers when it comes right down to it.

"The cliff is over that hill and then quite a ways to the south," said the most elderly duck. "I remember flying over it when I was fledgling. It looked like the edge of the world."

The ducks trudged on under their rocky weight for hours. For hours, and then for days.

At night, they camped under hedges and strange trees, and ate beetles and frogs.

"Do you think it will be much farther?" said one of the ducks.

"Maybe," said the old duck. "My memory is not so good anymore."

On the sixth day, the ducks began to tire.

"I don't believe there is a cliff," said one of them.

"Me neither," said another. "I think the old duck is crazy."

"My back hurts," said a third duck. "I want to go home."

"Me too," said a fourth. "In fact, I'm going to."

And then, all the ducks began to turn for home. The rock fell to the forest floor and lay there. The strange duck looked imploringly at the girl duck.

"Don't worry," she said. "I won't leave you."

They watched all the other ducks flee homeward. And then they hoisted the rock onto their backs and trudged on.

"What do you think will happen when we throw it off the cliff?" said the duck.

"I don't know," said the girl duck. "I just know it will be something."

Finally, they came to the edge of the cliff. The drop-off was so great they couldn't see the ground. Just great white clouds spread out before them, like an endless, rolling cotton blanket.

"It looks so soft," said the duck.

"Yes, it does," said the girl duck. "Are you ready?"

The duck looked at the rock.

"This is it, my love," he said, "the moment of truth. And whatever happens, please remember, always remember, I love you."

And the two ducks hurled the rock off the cliff together.

At first the rock simply fell "like a rock," one might say. "Like a stone." But then something began to happen.

It began to slow. It began to grow. It began to change. It narrowed. It elongated. And it also spread sideways.

"It's becoming a bird," the girl duck said.

And it was. It was becoming a beautiful gray bird, really not that unlike a duck. Its wings began to move slowly up and down, up and down. And it dove down, and then coasted up. It looked back over its shoulder at the two ducks on the cliff, and it called out just once, "Good bye."

And then it was going, going, getting smaller and smaller, flying off over the blanket across the sky.

When they reached the pond, the other ducks gathered around and clamored to hear what had happened. The duck and the girl duck glanced at each other.

"Nothing," said the girl duck. "It fell."

In the days that followed, the duck stayed to himself. The girl duck went and swan around in circles. She thought about that rocky bird flying off into the sky. She saw it over and over in her mind.

And then one day, not too many days later, she looked and saw the duck come swimming up. He was carrying a small salamander in his bill.

"For me?" the girl duck said.

And the duck smiled.

Ira Glass

Ben Loory, reading a story from his book, Stories for the Nighttime and Some for the Day.

Act Four. Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Ira Glass

Act Four, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

When you're first falling for somebody, there is that period where you don't know if you should trust what is happening just yet, or should you trust them? And this question mark hangs over the whole thing. And part of what you're doing for love is gathering information to erase that question mark.

Jeanne Darst met this guy, and thought of him as a fling and not serious dating material. At first, anyway.

Note to sensitive listeners. Once again, we refer to the existence of sex in this story, but give no details about how it works. Anyway, here's Jeanne.

Jeanne Darst

It was a pretty romantic set up. He was photographing me for a work thing.

My first impression of him was that he was a little silly, like a lot of men in Los Angeles are. Wearing goofy, expensive sneakers like a rich five-year-old and mispronouncing words. But also, super likable.

As we were talking about the layout for the shoot, he asked me, what do you think of monogamy? Later, when we had been dating a while, I asked him why he asked me what I thought of monogamy. And he said, because I wanted to date someone who wanted to be monogamous.

The second time we met, he asked me to his house for a margarita. When I told him I was sober, he said, that's amazing. I'm sober a lot of the time too. I haven't had a drink for eight days.

The ridiculousness of this was somehow exceedingly charming to me. Someone who, in trying to play down their drinking, has no idea that everything they're saying is screaming I'm an alcoholic.

Normal drinkers don't know how many days it has been since their last drink. In the way that, say, I couldn't tell you when I last had red potatoes.

I guess I had thought that I would play in his power of now world for a week or two. That Jake and I would have fun, and that would be that. But things were quickly, well, better than that. We had a lot in common. He was divorcing like me, had a kid my kid's age. He understood having dinner at 5:30.

He was sexy, and sexy, and had good ideas about things to do. He'd call and say, let's take the boys to an outdoor movie at the golf course tonight. And when I'd be in the middle of a work thing and realize we were all going to starve, I'd get a text saying he was making sandwiches, and bringing blankets and pillows, and picking us all up.

He called me Fox-- constantly. I forgave this because I thought it was a professional tick. And after my divorce, I wasn't looking for an argument.

I soon realized he called everyone Fox. Hey, Fox. My neighbors, his agent. He probably called his own mother Fox. What's up, Fox, how's the arthritis?

My friends don't want to be called Fox. They really, really don't want to called Fox. But again, I let it ride because he worked in the fox industry, and had done a lot of drugs, and was pushing 50. Maybe he couldn't remember anyone's name.

Despite his stale vaudeville sleazy photographer routine, he seemed to be a lot more serious about getting serious than I was. After about a month and a half, he told me he was in love with me. I didn't say the same back because, while I was definitely crazy about him, something was off.

For instance, I sensed that Jake needed to make a connection to other women as well-- everywhere we went. Like the sales lady at CVS. Who the hell cares about this person? Can we go? Do you really need her to think you're terrific?

A month later, we went to New York for work and Thanksgiving. And he went down to use the building's gym. Ad his journal was right there. Right there.

I'd like to tell you that I had some hesitation about whether to open this thing up and read it. That I thought for even one single second about right and wrong. But I didn't.

In his diary, there were some interesting entries. But let's see, the one that jumped out was Friday was [? Miho ?], Saturday was [? Kiku ?], Sunday was Jeanne. [? Miho ?] and [? Kiku ?] are clearly women's names. So again, that was Friday was [? Miho ?], Saturday was [? Kiku, ?] Sunday was Jeanne.

And then he wrote, "What's going on with me?" Three women in three days? What's going on with you? Well, a lot, apparently.

And then I read that he did not have an attraction to-- page turn-- white women. White women like me.

I knew he had dated some Asian women and his ex-wife was Asian. He had Asian assistants, but I didn't think too much about it. I guess that's why I got Sunday.

Maybe it was my fault. I probably should have said right at the start of the relationship, I'm not Asian-- before anyone got hurt. Me. Before I got hurt.

I felt like I had been thrown across the room. Delusion is one thing. Self-delusion is in my bones. But lying? Those aren't my people, liars. There's no style in lying. There's no honor, no panache. And there was no need. I was going way slower than he was, had, in fact, suggested to him that we keep things loose, see other people. But he insisted he did not want to see other people.

I then read in the journal, "There are some real red flags with Jeanne."

Red flags, me. I've got red flags. I've been flagged. You're banging two other women on this page alone and you flag me?

I decided then and there that I had just been handed my new stage name, Redd Flaggs-- two D's, two G's.

I stopped reading, and grabbed my jacket, and headed out to meet my friends. I texted him what I had done, and said I would get my things later. I got a text back saying, "Don't run, Jeanne. Talk."

Don't run? Don't run? I can't put on my Nikes fast enough, Fox. I never talked to him again.

The following morning, I drove to a house in the country for Thanksgiving with my sister, and her husband, and two kids, and a bunch of old friends.

I had woken up sick, and by the time the car pulled into the driveway, I had laryngitis and couldn't speak. So for the next two days, in this house in the woods, I couldn't say a word.

I sat by the blazing fire outside, the white girl whose boyfriend didn't like white girls. Yes, he was a jerk. But I was a snoop. I now actually felt bad about what I'd done.

That night, everyone else took turns telling me their snooping stories, trying to cheer me up. My favorite was one from my sister, Liz.

Liz

He started out-- it was one of those relationships where he started out super enthusiastic, like showing up at my office and calling all the time. And giving me presents, and really, really into it.

Jeanne Darst

This was back when she was about 24 and dating this musician. After four months, it went suddenly, unexpectedly cold.

Liz

So I just wanted to find out what happened and why he changed his opinion.

I was at his apartment. He went into the shower, and he left his diary sitting out, which is something-- he was always writing in his diary. It was just sitting there, sort of burning a hole in the nightstand, as I was sitting on the bed. And I finally couldn't take it anymore. I just figured, I'll just take one little peek. Just to sort of see what he's thinking about. And you get that feeling when you're going out with someone, you don't really know them, and you're just trying to get to know them better.

So the first page I opened to I see what basically looks like a to-do list. And it's like, buy new guitar picks, get air conditioner fixed, call Grandma on her birthday, or something. And number four was break up with Liz. So it was just like the saddest-- it was the most mundane list of boring things that he eventually had to get around to doing. And I was the fourth on the list?

And then, I guess looking for more info, I just kind of quickly flipped through to see a couple things. And just, my eye-- your eye is just searching for your own name. And I saw something about like, problems with Liz. And one was like, Liz's boobs are too big. And I was like, what kind of person says that about someone? It wasn't like I was 80 years old, and I had like the world's saggiest ones. I was like, are you crazy?

Jeanne Darst

She's too pretty.

Liz

Yeah.

Jeanne Darst

After reading his diary, she ran home and called him up and broke up with him, beating him to the punch, basically. Liz isn't all that hung up on snooping being wrong. She just feels like it always bite you in the butt.

And she's right. Reading Jake's journal did bite me in the butt. Some of what I read was so gross, there were unsavory details that I haven't talked about here. Details that I don't like having in my head.

This is the high price of wanting to know the truth, you know the truth. And I don't want to snoop anymore. But it wasn't the dumbest thing I've ever done. It erased the question mark that hangs over every relationship at the beginning and gave me a clear answer.

It was horrible and devastating, and I'm glad I did it. I mean, without the proper intel, how was I supposed to know Jake was a liar? My sister, Liz, even liked him.

Liz

He was just always like peppy and funny. And was like, huggy. And I don't know. Calling everyone beautiful, and sexy, and foxy.

Jeanne Darst

Ugh, Fox.

Liz

Fox.

Jeanne Darst

God.

Liz

It's not so bad, is it?

Jeanne Darst

Yes.

I got hurt. Redd Flaggs got hurt.

I don't think I'll ever read anyone's journal again. I never want to know what someone thinks of me in that kind of way ever again. It's too intense. I know I'm not Asian. I know I had reservations about Jake, instincts, which is why I read the journal.

Ira Glass

Jeanne Darst. She's the author of the memoir, Fiction Ruined My Family. She is single.

[MUSIC - "LOVE'S GONE BAD," CHRIS CLARK]

Credits.

Ira Glass

Well, our program was produced today by Jonathan Menjivar and myself, with Alex Blumberg, Ben Calhoun, Sarah Koenig, Miki Meek, Lisa Pollak, Brian Reed, Robyn Semien, Alissa Shipp, and Nancy Updike. Our senior producer is Julie Snyder. Seth Lind is our production manager. Emily Condon is our office manager. Production help from Matt Kilty. Scouting help from Elna Baker. Music help from Damien Graef and Rob Geddis.

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS]

Kurt Braunohler, the guy in Act One, used to tell a version of his rumspringa story on stage-- he's a comedian-- in a show called, "The Amish Guide to [BLEEP]."

Kristy Kruger who sang the song at the top of the show is on the internet at kristykruger.com. Both Kristy and Kruger are spelled with a K.

Our website, thisamericanlife.org. This American Life is distributed by Public Radio International. WBEZ management oversight for our show by our boss, Mr. Torey Malatia.

I keep asking him to come onto the radio program and do his Michael Jackson imitation. He always says--

Justin

Oh, that sounds nice. OK. Let me think about it.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass, back next week with more stories of This American Life.

Announcer

PRI, Public Radio International.