The Best Birthday Gift

October 3, 2012

I used to fall asleep in high school. History 101. Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia can be boring, even to a fifteen-year-old boy.

Then I noticed the girl: four seats up, on the right, the one with the hourglass shape and the beautiful neck. She wore bell-bottom jeans and a tight  sweater, white stripes against a sky blue background. It looked painted on. Incredible.

She turned to whisper something to a friend, and that’s when I saw her eyes. Green, with gold flecks. I could melt in those eyes. I wondered how it would feel to touch her long brown hair, or hold her hand. What music did she listen to? Did she like pizza, or read Tolkien?

She’d never go out with a loser like me.

That Tuesday afternoon, the teacher sent us to the auditorium. We were supposed to watch an important new movie about slavery. Roots, or something like that. There would be a quiz later. I sat in the back, so I could sleep. Just then, the girl walked in and sat in my row, two seats down. She glanced down at me, just once, and smiled. Sleep was out of the question.

I bumped into her on the stairs as we left and made some stupid comment about the movie. Something about the good old days of owning women. When she laughed, I couldn’t breathe.

I’d bought an ounce of pot the day before. Maui Wowie. I asked her if she wanted to go out to the park for a smoke, but she had Driver’s Ed. Then I told her it was my birthday, and she said okay. Talking to her, it was like we’d known each other for years. As we walked outside, the autumn light sparkled in her eyes. When she smiled, my heart tumbled, like dying leaves. I could have stayed there forever.

She told me she had to go. Her family was moving to Plymouth, she said, a town half an hour away. A new school, new friends. Other guys. Half a universe from Richfield. It was hopeless. I asked for her number, but they didn’t have a phone yet. Because of the move, she said. I gave her mine instead. I knew she’d never call.

The next night, the phone rang. Her friend Mark was coming into Richfield that Friday night, and she could catch a ride out, if I still wanted to see her.

“Who’s Mark,” I asked. She told me he was just a friend.

I’d forgotten to put away my bull snake before she arrived. At some point, he climbed out of the front pocket of my overalls to greet her. She didn’t scream, even though I later learned she hates snakes. We walked down the street to the shopping mall and had pizza. She told me about her new school. I told her she should read The Hobbit.

We were in the kitchen when we first kissed. It was magical. I fell in love then, and knew I couldn’t live without her. After she left, I said she would be my wife. My brother laughed. “Yeah, right. Have another beer, bro.”

Two years, five months, and one week later, we were married. And even though my car broke down on the way to the church, and she had bronchitis on our wedding night, it was the best day of my life.

We raised two beautiful kids. Walked them to school, and read bedtime stories. We bought houses and cars and furniture, did the things grownups are supposed to do. And somewhere along the way, I became a fool.

My thoughts turned inward, to better jobs and more belongings, to figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. My thoughts and words should have turned to her. As the years passed, I lost her, this woman with whom I’ve shared everything except that which is essential to a marriage: honesty, and trust. Because of my self-centeredness, I failed to see the simplest fact: I already have everything I need, and the only thing of importance is today, this moment, with her. Together.

I wish now that I’d talked to her, really talked to her, like that day in the park. I wish now that I hadn’t squandered all those years, that I’d spent more time with her, watching the sun go down, the snow falling on the trees, and the way the flowers tilt after a hard rain. But wishes won’t fix a broken heart.

I think about that night in the kitchen, and realize that girl is more precious to me today than ever before, more beautiful, if that is possible. The lines on her face, her playful smile. The way her cheeks dimple when she laughs, and how her bangs stand up in the morning, looking surprised. And her eyes. Those incredible eyes.

I could learn a lot from a fifteen-year-old boy who slept through history class.

Take my hand, darling, come with me. Enjoy what time we have left, and relearn that which we once knew. I love you, Nordic Warrior Queen. Please be mine, forever.

 

3 Comments for this entry

  • Kim Hanson Kirscht says:

    Oh my. That was beautiful. I think you are both very lucky.

  • Mom says:

    Guess I read too much, I still think you are very
    romantic. Your memories of Diane when you were still
    in high school. Very touching. You are both very lucky
    to have such a great love for each other.

  • Mom says:

    re-read this story after reading your latest ubercat tale and it is even more beautiful than I originally thought.

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