Some gal wrote a book that says every girl wants to be swept off her feet. Rescued. A bride. But I never did.
There's a picture of me when I was little. In a dress-up wedding gown. At a toy ironing board. My mom must have made me do it. Must've tickled me at the last minute to make me smile like that. 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 need anybody. 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, "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 to be scared of me. Maybe 'cause I could hit hard and burp long and loud. That's what happens when you grow up with three older brothers.
But I wasn't with my girlfriends 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 puffy half smile. Lips like Angelina Jolie before anyone knew who she was. And a pencil-thin moustache. Your eyes were the color of Kraft caramels but I couldn't tell 'til we slow danced. Your hair was almost ebony and looked like it had been curled around a popsicle. You were dressed up. Had a skinny leather tie on and everything. Dave and I thought that was neat. Way better than a t-shirt and Levi's.
I wrote my phone number on a Dolly's cocktail napkin with a chubby, aqua, Maybelline eyeliner. Tuesday day and night came and went. Then Wednesday day. I was looking up your number in the phone book when you called. My heart forgot to beat, then remembered.
We went out a couple of times and I decided you were some kinda fairy tale prince. You opened and closed doors for me. You always smelled nice when you reached across to buckle my seatbelt. I liked the citrusy freshness of Drakkar Noir as it came off your warm golden neck in waves.
You picked McDonald's cups off the sidewalk and put 'em in garbage cans. Helped little dowager-humped ladies cross Walnut Street. You did what you said you were gonna.
But then you didn't kiss me on the first date. Or the second. I got to thinkin' maybe you weren't a fairy tale prince. Maybe you were just a . . . . And then you did kiss me, and once again, my heart forgot to beat, then remembered.
It was cold in the hallway of my third floor, over Rite-Aid on High Street, apartment. I was leaning against a door frame and you were saying maybe we should see . . . Then the warmth of you pressed against the warmth of me and it was so very nice I thought my knees would give out, right then and there. It was just like the ketchup commercial said. You know . . . anticipation.
You coulda asked me anything and I woulda said yes. But you didn't. 'Cause you're a gentleman. That's what happens when you grow up with four older sisters.
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't need you.
We closed our eyes and stabbed a map and that's where we moved. In Cincinnati, I worked and you worked. Then I said, "Well, I reckon I can have one baby. For you."
A couple years later you made me cry when you said, "I wanna move back to West Virginia." And I said, "Don't you remember me saying I'm a big city girl?" You held my face in your hands and said, "If you hate it after a year, we'll go someplace else." I knew you always kept your promises, so I said okay.
Not long after that, I decided the first baby needed company. Then a few years later, I got the notion that you should have a son. Funny thing. The way having kids can stir up things inside you.
When my childhood caught up with me, you held the sharp shards of my broken littleness in your hands. You didn't flinch. Your eyes didn't bug out. You said, "There, there. Everything'll be all right." And it was.
And then one day. when I was all alone in our hundred year old house, I held my thumb and pointer finger in front of my eyes. They were almost touching. And I whispered, "This much. I might just need you this much."