Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Once Upon a February 4th: A Mid-Week Fairy Tale

Once upon a time in a faraway land called 1984, there was a girl who liked a boy with knobby matchstick knees and a wide, mischievous smile.
The girl was awkward, as most girls are at twelve, with her hair cut in the shape of a wiry mushroom. The boy asked the girl to go, and even though the girl had no idea where they were going, she said yes. She would go with that boy anywhere.
Here are a few of the places they went together: to the movies, bowling, to the mall where the boy bought the girl the new UB40 tape, Little Baggariddim. (At the time the girl thought Baggariddim must have been a town in Jamaica, maybe a coastal hamlet in England, like Bath. It is only now as the girl-turned-woman types out the name that she realizes, ah, yes, bag of rhythm.) Their song, of course: I Got U Babe.
The boy and the girl went together for one month, an eternity in the topsy-turvy world that is 8th grade romance. The girl-turned-woman remembers this month like a montage of The Wonder Years: the night the boy kissed her outside of a boy-girl party. The girl was taller than he, so she leaned against the wall to scrunch herself down. The deck was wet. When he kissed her she slipped and fell on her ass, her Guess? jeans muddy for the rest of the evening. The time the boy asked her to come over and watch Nightmare on Elm Street. It was during the day but the girl was still surprised to see his parents weren't home. It's okay, he said, and started the clicking and the whirring of the VCR. At some point the boy heard a car in the driveway and turned to the girl. Run! He said, panicked. Out the back door! And the girl, she climbed over the retaining wall and up the back hill, confused and with dirt under her fingernails. Later, it could only have been a week or so, but still, later: the boy and the girl sitting on that same hill above his house, the smell of the warm, dry grass sweet. He kissed her and they lay down. He tried to feel her boob so the girl stood up. Time to go. The next day the girl heard that the boy had told all of his friends that they had flattened out the grass together. She pulled her shirt out in front of her as someone told her, trying to make her boobs disappear. Then she broke up with him and went home and listened to her UB40 tape, "Don't Break My Heart" on repeat.
Fast forward to seventeen. A different awkward. The girl is ready to flatten out the grass. They get back together. And then break up. And then get back together. And then break up. The girl's father tells her that all she has to know in life is 3 things, the order of which is of paramount importance: 1. What You Want To Do, 2. Where You Want To Do It, and 3. With Whom You Want To Do It. The girl knows her father does not mean do it do it, but still, she has already messed up royally. She only knows the answer to one of those questions, and the answer is The Boy, which is, of course, the answer to the last question, and thus not the right order at all. The boy and the girl get back together and break up for a few more years.
Again with the fast foward. Legally the boy and the girl are now a man and a woman, but they still see each other in the warm, sweet glow of a grassy hill. His knees are still knobby, her hair still wiry, although a straightening iron helps with that. They have now been together off and on for 15 years. They live together, buy their first house. All around them their friends have married. Conversation gets awkward at Thanksgiving dinner. The boy does not believe in marriage. The girl agrees, sure, yes, totally, and she pulls the front of her shirt out to hide. Because of course she does believe, but she also does not want to be that girl, the girl who believes in unicorns, the girl who fastidiously follows the Glamour magazine recipe for Engagement Chicken.
One morning in early February the girl is leaving for work. She has PMS, a zit. She is cranky. Bye, I love you, and the boy, he grabs her in the hallway. Let's get married, he says. Fuck you, she says. No really, he says. Fuck you, I'm late for work. She remembers a trip they once took to Costa Rica, how they had stayed at a place called Casa Romantica, how she had slipped on the slick wet tiles during a rainstorm, bending back a toenail. How walking on the beach one day the boy insisted she pick up a certain seashell. She had thought then, this is it! And her heart raced as she bent to flip over the seashell only to find yet more sand, wet and flat, sand and more sand surrounding her bloody toenail. That was not it, but this was: a random Wednesday morning in the hallway with cramps and a fuck you as the answer. Yes, she thinks, this is it. Engaged on a Wednesday, the boy and the girl get married that Friday. For two days she calls him her fiance and giggles, and then: her husband. There is no ring but forever after the boy and the girl carry the switchplate cover from the light in the hallway. It is made of brass, circa 1972, like them.

Friday, February 4th, 2005: The girl wore a dress she bought on sale for $39 at Anthropologie. The boy wore his grandfather's shirt. There is nothing I can say that will truly marry you, the justice of the peace says, it is what you say to each other that unites you. Afterwards, they meet their friends at The Tonga Room to toast themselves with drinks shaded by bright paper umbrellas. They dance.
Better than any Once Upon a Time, the girl feels timeless, the order of things of absolutely no import. Her cheeks hurt from smiling. At the end of it all, as they take halting happy steps down the steep street to catch a cab home, the girl slips on the sidewalk.
That summer they host a huge reception for their family and friends. The girl wears a white dress that is technically a bathing suit cover up simply because it has dingleberries on it and she loves dingleberries; the boy wears shorts. They do not know it, but the girl is two weeks pregnant, and soon this:
Becomes this:
Once Upon a time there was a girl with hair in the shape of a mushroom. She loved a boy with knees like rickets. Theirs is not a fairy tale of tulle and the perfect tick-tock time kept by a metronome, but it is magical all the same, filled as it is with sand, the sweet smell of grass, sun flat on their backs, fuck you, slips and yet more sand stuck in the cracks.
To my husband who is forever The Boy: I still don't know what I want to do but I know I want to do it with you, Happy, Sad and Everything in Between, Ever After. Happy Anniversary.
Love,
The Girl

55 comments:

JennyLo said...

This is beautiful! Happy Anniversary!

Aartee said...

You have such a way with words! Happy Anniversary!

amy b.s. said...

Now that, is a love story. Happy Anniversary!

Becca said...

Wonderful writing and happy anniversary!

Jen said...

Happy anniversary! What a romantic story!

~a of SkanksForNothing said...

you story is perfect. happy anniversary.
abby

Bluestreak said...

you know how you can have a few days where you read tons and tons of blogs and nothing really stands out but then you read a post that grabs you and is memorable and wonderful? this was that post for me.

Simply AnonyMom said...

BEAUTIUL! You have a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.

zakary said...

Oh, I love it. You guys have such a great story!

Jennifer said...

Totally love that!

Days of Golden said...

That just made my morning :)Congrats!

monkey said...

you found a dress at anthropologie for $39?
it's so great, being that we're the same age, to hear all your references and smile in knowing.
i think nightmare on elm street was the ultimate date movie.
and do you remember how the word 'go' had such a bountiful fullness to it? it was almost whispered, revered, full of hallmark possibility.
happy anniversary :-)

Sparkie said...

You kill me every time you pull out one of these. Thanks for making me cry at work.

Carolyn said...

What an awesome story Congrats!

amber {daisy chain} said...

happy anniversary! love that story, I remember having drinks with you guys in the Tonga Room like it was yesterday...maybe we should go back for old times sake?

Katie said...

What a WONDERFUL story!

I am Trish Marie said...

Happy Anniversary!

Robin said...

You made me cry - in a good way. Happy Anniversary!

Ameya said...

This is wonderful! Happy anniversary!

I really, really love what your dad told you (even if it's not always the case ;) ) I need to remember it to tell my own future kids someday! :)

Vanessa said...

Sigh... I love a great love story!

Misplaced Country Girl said...

That was beautiful!

tara said...

Now that, THAT, is an amazing story. If that isn't the best anniversary present, I don't know what is. Wishing you many more years of happiness :)

Susie said...

That is very sweet. Thank you for sharing.

I *Heart* You said...

what a story!!! love it so much. and what a beautiful family you make! happy anniversary!

Sarah said...

Cute story. Happy Anniversary!

Petunia said...

What a beautiful story the two of you have written together. And you sure can tell it like a pro! Happy Anniversary.

hej said...

That BOY flattened the grass with YOU!?! ....
.... I need to have a talk with him.

suzannemarques said...

what a sweet sweet love story.
sniff!

and happy anniversary!

Jules said...

Happy Anniversary. :)

just a girl... said...

okay I now I a know I am fixing to start my period. I cried through this entire post. And now I am cracking up at my crying. Beautiful Post.

corine said...

This was very sweet. happy anniversary to you guys.

Richie Designs said...

you are OFFICIALLY my hero.


love that you were engaged two whole days. brilliant, I may copy it all

L said...

*wiping happy tears from eyes*

with love from Pittsburgh...

MJ said...

Happy Anniversary!

Andrews cried just a tiny bit when he read this. It's true! (*Sorry honey....I just had to, I couldn't help myself.)

This was so sweet! Give Bryan a big hug for us and tell him we said Happy Anniversary.

I still laugh about the "flatten the grass" and Bryan's Dad's account of you running out of their house. :)

{michelle} said...

Love the way this is written, congratulations and happy anniversary to the boy and the girl!

Rosalie said...

Oh Great. Greg saw this and now probably expects the same.
Xo
Ro

Maggie May said...

This is wonderful, a wonderful read and tribute to marriage!!!

Oh Brother! said...

Duuuuuuude! My WIFE so sold me out!

Ok, maybe a cried tiny tiny bit. I love you guys and know the story well. A wonderful love story and am proud o say I had front row seats (except to such events as "flattening the grass," thank GOD!)

Happy wonderful miraculous amazing anniversary :)

Love,

bro

Annie Empiric said...

All the fluff and crap of a wedding is just to cover up the fact that the heart isn't full. It needs a little extra comethin' somethin'. A cherry on top if you will. You are envied. Happy Anniversary!!

Kwana said...

Oh wow. You blow me away. Happy anniversary!

coco+kelley said...

oh, suz, you always make me tear up! i'm so glad i stopped by today so i could catch this beautiful story you tell so well :) happy (late) anniversary! and thank you for a not-so-fairy-tale fairy tale.

~*sis*~ said...

all that and ub40 too....happy anniversary!! :)

beachbungalow8 said...

why do your posts make me dissolve into tears? damn. great as always S.

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

Perfect! Happily ever after.

Patois said...

I loved reading this. I wish it went on and on. I guess it does. You just haven't written the rest. Happy anniversary.

ama said...

So beautiful. You're a really wonderful writer. You & Lorrie Moore. All Best, Ama

Megan said...

You tell such a wonderful story, I hope your anniversary was sweet!

jennie said...

trying hard...to not tear...up at...work...

happy anniversary

Anna said...

This is the sweetest thing I have read :)

Lisa said...

I've never seen your blog before today and yet I read this and started crying. At my desk. At work. And I never cry. Happy Anniversary! :)

j.walk said...

Beautiful story. I stumbled upon your blog today and found myself smiling at the screen reading your love story :) happy anniversary!

julochka said...

another blog friend directed me to your story when i posted about my own anniversary today. loved it! :-) so glad she pointed me in your direction. :-)

Brilliant Asylum said...

Wow. I am tearing up in my cubicle as I read this. You are a lucky girl.

Pink Wallpaper said...

i love your story...it makes me smile.

dolcechic said...

Awww I love this story! I hope you had a Happy Anniversary!