Tuesday, January 25, 2011

August 6th, 2010. I had driven around this older subdivision with its gently curved roads for nearly 20 minutes. I knew I was in Gladstone, but this particular housing area looked more like a 1950’s movie set. Not every street was marked, not a single street formed a straight line, and the directions from the woman selling soccer stuff on Craig’s List were sketchy – turn right at the fire hydrant, it’s next to the house with the sunflowers in the backyard… I’m not trying to be xenophobic, but English was quite obviously not her first language. Not really her second, either. She’d given me the street address, and I had the Yahoo map in my hand. Trouble was the Yahoo map showed more straight streets than there really were, and only one out of every six or seven houses actually had visible numbers on it. The star in the middle of the street on the map wasn’t helping. I called her again and asked if she could please just come stand on the porch or wave from the door or something. “No, I have child in bathing, I cannot be in doorway. You still coming?” Well, honestly, now I was a little perturbed, a little weirded out, and not real sure it was worth it.
I went back to the main road and went into the Quik Trip. I bought a diet coke and a bag of sour cream cheddar potato chips, directions in hand, hopeful that someone behind the counter would know where the house was. A guy got in line behind me. Not unusual for a Quik Trip, but he stood farther back than he needed to, and that was a little intimidating for some strange reason. I glanced back in his direction. He didn’t move, and I wondered if maybe he wasn’t ready to check out with his coffee and bag of glazed donuts, or was waiting for someone. Whatever.
“Is that all?” the clerk asked. I nodded, she rang up my sale, I paid and then asked, trying to sound casual and not at all stressed and sick of being trapped in suburban hell, if she could please tell me where the address was. She raised her eyebrows and shrugged and then he spoke.

“Go right out of the parking lot, take your first left, go through the first intersection, and it’s the green house, fourth one down on your right.”

If an opera-talented tenor - who smoked for several years, quit, went on a three day drinking binge, slept for 31 hours straight, was woken up by someone jack hammering the sidewalk right outside their bedroom only to discover that there was no coffee in the house - were to speak, that was the sound of his voice.
I was so busy being intoxicated by this sleepy, angry, gravelly, uber-polite voice I didn’t even really register what he said. I turned around and looked at him.
He had brown hair, glasses, a goatee and 5’o-clock shadow; his shirt was black and had murderous-looking clowns all over it, well-washed black cargo pants liberally flecked with yellow paint; the flip flops had seen better days but his feet looked like the professional pedicure was yesterday; and his eyes were the most amazingly startling shade of gray. Or blue. Or maybe mint green. No, blue. Oh wait, gray. Yeah, they kept changing as he stared right back at me. Those eyes, the scruff, the pecs under that shirt, the v shape his body made, the way he sounded, the way he was standing perfectly still but so relaxed… Oh my, I was in so much trouble. Must. Leave. Now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Oh, wait, he gave me directions.
Like an idiot I stumbled through “I’m thanks sorry did you what say?” Guh.
I was rewarded with a smile that was more shy than confident, and he repeated the directions. I tried really hard to pay attention this time. And really hard to ignore the Atlas moth that had suddenly appeared in my stomach.
I went to my car and barely remembered to look in my mirrors before backing up. Shaking off whatever bizarre thing had just happened, I reminded myself that I am a mom, a church elder, a good girl, a scout leader, and women like me do not meet men in convenience stores. Doesn’t happen. Not someone wonderful. Not someone amazing. Nope. Besides, it was a busy store, I didn’t stick around to see what car he got into, he could be from anywhere, and the chances of me winning the lottery are better than running into him again. Okay, good, I’m safe. Deep breath.

I followed the instructions, found this woman’s house, and waited several minutes for her to come to the door. The television was on loud, I could hear a toddler crying, and pretty soon she opened the door with a naked six-month old baby on her hip. “You late,” was all she said. She handed me the baby, yelled something to the toddler who didn’t even pause at the sound of her voice, and opened the front closet. She pulled out a dusty box and opened it up, saying “$50 dollar for all stuff in there, just $50, not too much for all stuff in there.” There were several pairs of cleats, none of which were the right size for my kids and only one was in decent condition. The soccer ball was not a size 3 as in the ad but obviously a size 5, and flat. The goalie jersey had so many holes I wouldn’t even have been able to dust with it, and I only saw one goalie glove. The ‘practice goal” was just a net and when I asked her where the frame was, making stupid mime-like hand motions, she just shook her head.
I told her thanks for letting me look, but that I was really looking for newer shoes and an actual practice goal with poles and everything, not just the net. She tried to get me to take the box for $40, so I smiled at the baby and thanked her again, escaping out the door. I walked back to my car and was almost to the sidewalk when I heard… oh, bleepity bleep bleep… that voice again.
“So I see you found the place…” he said. I sucked in a breath and looked to my right. There he was, sitting on the front porch of the house next door, smoking. He smiled. Bleep, and the giant moth is back, too.
Part of me really just wanted to smile, wave, get in the car and drive away, back to my boring life cleaning out closets, eating Brussels sprouts and watching CSI reruns on my kid-free weekends. But the other part, the part that encouraged me to go out with guys I’d met online – you know, the part that really didn’t want to turn into the bitter divorced cat-lady who gets stuck raising her own grandkids because she figured she was a failure as a wife, she was probably a failure as a mom too so why try anymore… Uh, yeah, guess I thought about that a little too much.
Anyway… that part won. I smiled and shook my head – “Oh, it’s you again” and turned towards him. He walked across the lawn and stopped close enough for me to see the gray in his beard and the tattoos on his biceps. We exchanged email addresses and smiles and a whole lot of electricity. His name is Roger.
August 25th – we met again for coffee. After about 11 seconds together I couldn’t imagine that we hadn’t known each other for years. It seemed… well, wrong to be getting in different cars and driving to different houses. I wasn’t even a mile from the coffee shop when my phone rang – just as I was getting ready to call him.
Labor Day Weekend – Roger and I took the kids to Irish Fest at Crown Center. On the way there, I stopped at McDonalds so that we didn’t spend $386 on food at the festival. We went through the drive-thru but when all the bags were in the car, I pulled into a parking spot to distribute and make sure we had a boy toy for the happy meal and caramel sauce for the apples and enough sweet and sour sauce to thoroughly coat the back seat of the van. Roger looked at me funny. “Are we going to eat here?” he asked. “No,” I said quietly. “I always check everything because, okay okay okay okay, they f*ck you in the drivethru…” I said, a perfect imitation of Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon. Roger stared at me with the most amazing smile on his face, laughed and announced that he was going to marry me.

I had to admit I was probably going to say yes.
And on November 13, I did. Next week – Roger hijacks my blog to tell his side of the events. Believe me, I’m just as curious as you.

1 comment:

Susan Raihala said...

*big cheesy grin* AWESOME!