The man who loved me first was as big as Andre the Giant. You know . . . the really big guy in "The Princess Bride." His name was Francis. It was a family name but I was the only one who knew it. Everyone else called him Frank.
He lost a whole lotta weight one summer. Afterwards, he still weighed three of me. Well . . . maybe two and a half, but when you're 6'4," that kinda weight's okay. I always wondered if he went on that diet for me.
Frank was from the bottom of the state. His daddy was rich from things that came from the earth but you'd never know it. Frank wore Wranglers and flannel shirts like the rest of the guys.
Frank loved me. I could see it when I looked in his eyes, even though I'd never been loved before. His eyes were the color of God's green velvet. You know . . . moss. And when he looked at me, the moss color would darken, like the sun was going down in the forest.
I also knew he loved me 'cause he wouldn't step back from a hug when I did. When someone that big hugs you, you can't help but feel safe. Like, when you're playing Hide 'n Seek and you're behind a refrigerator and you know they'll never find you. They'll have to yell, "Olly, Olly, in come free."
Frank loved me even though I baby powdered his dorm room one afternoon in October. I'd been T.G.I.F.'ing in Sunnyside and I was feeling ornery, like I had a bee in my bonnet or somethin.'
Frank always ran a fan in his room. Big people seem to be warmer than the rest of us. I skipped down the hall in my cut-off jean shorts and my I Heart New York t-shirt. I had an open container of Johnson & Johnson baby powder in my hand. When I ran by the common room, Stu, the photography major who sounded like a Sleestak when he breathed, said, "Here comes trouble." He had that right.
Frank left his door unlocked most of the time. I think he did that in case I stopped by. And I did, quite often, just to see his moss eyes go dark. I flung the door open and shrieked, "Boo!" Quick like a bunny, I shook baby powder into the fan wind. Then I ran.
From my room six doors down and six doors 'round the corner, I heard the roar. It sounded like the Wabash Cannonball.
Frank's hair looked like an old man's at dinner that night. He heard me fuss that all the Drumsticks were gone out of the ice cream freezer. He handed me his. "I only took one bite." I looked in his moss green eyes and felt bad. I shouldn't have baby powdered a guy like him. A guy who'd give someone like me the last Drumstick in the dining hall.
I'd always wanted to be loved. All my high school girlfriends had been loved lots of times but not me. My daddy always signed his letters with "luv," not "love." I always wondered if that was the same thing.
I guess guys didn't know that inside, I was the kind of girl who'd sing, "Stand by Your Man," even though I didn't care much for country music. The thing is, I had a hunch me and Cyndi Lauper had been separated at birth. And one time, I almost won a Madonna-Look-Alike contest.
I was in my Granny's black cotton, zip up the front, strapless and whale-boned slip and everything. I even had on 38 black rubber bracelets between both my arms. In the end though, a frat boy won. He had the frat-boy-crossdressing-is-hilarious factor working for him.
Frank gave me a hug afterwards and bought me a beer. He wouldn't let me open it with my teeth like I usually did. He pulled a Swiss Army knife out of his Wrangler's. It had a bottle opener on it. I sniffed. "Thanks."
I knew Frank was a good man, even though he wasn't 21 yet. His face was serious more often than not. In my woman's heart, I knew he'd be a 'til death do us part kinda man. Just not mine.
Sometimes I think about Frank. Part of me wonders, like I reckon all women do, what would life be like if I'd picked Frank to stand by. I best put that thought away. I've made my bed, now I've gotta lie in it.
Frank . . . if you're out there, you might not wanna know it, but I love the bed I made. Every night I lie in it with an exceedingly fine, 'til death do us part kinda guy. He may not have loved me first, but I'm believin' he loves me best.