Some gal wrote a book that says every girl wants to be swept off her feet, rescued, a bride. I never did. There's a picture of me when I was little, at a toy ironing board, in a dress-up wedding gown. My mom must’ve made me do it, probably tickled me at the last minute to get me to grin. That was never my dream. I was like the dentist elf in “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.” I wanted to be in-de-pen-dent. I didn't needanybody, least that's what I used to think.
Martin Luther King introduced me to you. See, his birthday was on a Monday. That meant an extra night to get dolled up, belly up to the bar, and shake a leg.
I always told my girlfriends, the ones who were husband hunters, "You'll never meet Mr. Right in a bar." Like I knew. Heck, I could practically count the dates I'd been on with five fingers. For some reason guys seemed scared of me, maybe because I could hit hard and burp loud. That's what happens when you grow up with three older brothers.
I wasn't with my gal pals that night. I was with my buddy, Dave. We were both on the prowl for guys to dance with. He and I spotted you at the same time, through a Kool and Camel haze, through the Purple Rain.
You had a pencil-thin moustache and a puffy half smile, lips like Angelina Jolie before anyone knew who she was. Your eyes were the color of Kraft caramels but I couldn't tell till we slow danced. Your hair was almost ebony and I thought maybe you’d curled it around a Popsicle. That night you were dressed up, had a skinny leather tie on and everything. Dave and I agreed that was neat, way better than a t-shirt and Levi's.
Per your request, I wrote my phone number on a cocktail napkin with my aqua Maybelline eyeliner. One day and night came and went, then another. I was flipping through the phone book when you called. My heart forgot to beat, then remembered.
After we’d been out a couple times, I decided you were some kind of fairy tale prince. I liked the way you opened and closed doors for me and how when you reached across to buckle my seatbelt, the citrusy freshness of your Drakkar Noir cologne would come off your warm golden neck in waves.
You’d pick McDonald's cups off the sidewalk and arc them at garbage cans, laugh to beat all whenever I said, “He shoots, he scores.” Every time you helped little dowager-humped ladies across Walnut Street, I’d get all wooshy-gooshy inside. I also esteemed the fact you always did what you said you would, always.
But then you didn't kiss me on the first date, or the second. I got to thinking maybe you weren't a fairy tale prince after all, maybe you were just a . . . And then you did kiss me, and once again, my heart forgot to beat then remembered.
That night it was cold in the hallway of my third floor, over Rite-Aid on High Street, apartment. I was leaning against the frame of the front door and you were saying maybe we should see— Suddenly the heat of you pressed against the heat of me and it was so very nice I thought my knees would give out then and there. It was just like the ketchup commercial said. You know, anticipation. You could’ve asked me anything and I would’ve said yes, but you didn't because you're a gentleman. That's what happens when you grow up with four older sisters.
Later on you said you wanted to marry me even though I wanted to leave West Virginia and never come back, even though I didn't want kids, even though I didn'tneed you.
We closed our eyes and stabbed a map and that's where we moved. InCincinnati, I worked downtown. Your office was outside city limits.
One day I said, "Oh, all right. I reckon I can have one baby, for you.”
A couple years later at Forest Fair Mall you struck me speechless which is no easy feat when you said, "I wanna move back to West Virginia.”
As we leaned on the wall that enclosed the children’s sand pit where our daughter was filling up and spilling out her pastel pink Stride Rite shoes, I threw a quiet hissy fit.
After a few minutes I glanced over at you with my sob-squinty eyes.
"Don't you remember me saying I'm a big city girl? “
You gently gripped my shoulders to turn me toward you, framed my face with your hands. When you spoke I could feel steam patches form on either side of my nose.
"If you hate it after a year, we'll go someplace else. “
I knew you always kept your promises, so I nodded.
Not long after that, I decided the first baby needed company. A few years later, I got the notion you should have a son. Funny, the way having kids can stir up things inside you. When my childhood caught up with me, you cupped the sharp shards of my broken littleness in your work-rough hands. To my surprise, you didn't flinch. Your eyes didn't bug out either.
"There, there,” you said. “Everything'll be all right.” And it was.
One morning after you left for work and before the kids woke up, I sat at the kitchen table in our hundred year old house and pondered things in my heart. I held my thumb and pointer finger in front of my eyes, noticed how they almost touched. I spoke out loud even though there was no one to hear.
"This much. I might just need you this much.”