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My True Love

Love is awkward, love is weird. It confuses, it defies, it ignores all your plans. It is quick to screw up and quick to regret. It trips and falls, it hurts and bleeds. Love stares you in the eye and dares you to give up. But love is love, and for some reason, it’s all we want.

She couldn’t help noticing how his white dress shirt was stretched skin tight over his belly, which hung slightly obtrusively over the waist of his starch black pants. He always seemed so uncomfortable in that suit, yet he insisted on wearing it whenever they went out to even a moderately “nice” restaurant. His thinning, dirty blond hair was shaggy and unkempt, and he kept reaching up to brush it out of his eyes.
She talked about class, and he laughed and listened, while she became distracted by the gravy dripping onto his skinny, shoelace tie, and the way the steak sloshed between his teeth.

He bitterly bemoaned the architectural flaws of the bank his firm was putting up, the ones no one else seemed to be capable enough to realize. It came up at least ever other conversation they had. She smiled patiently and agreed adamantly. Sometimes she loved his intellectual chatter, the way his hands moved as passionately as his words spit out of his mouth. But sometimes it just got to be too much.

Just smile and nod, smile and nod.
**

He had looked great that night. His wavy jet black hair gelled and parted ever so perfectly. He wore a purple dress shirt under an expensively simple blazer, looking as if he’d been born to wear them.

He insisted on choosing the priciest wine on the menu, and then relegated the choice of appetizers to her. She no longer flinched at the small black prices listed on the side of the dishes. He’d have been insulted if she considered them even for a second.
Halfway through the first course (salad of greens and craisins – her favorite) he stopped mid-sentence and put down his fork. He reached across the table for her hand. She stared into his pale, grey-blue eyes, lost herself in the smooth curves of his jaw, the creases of his smile, half-lit by the dim candlelight.

“You’re so beautiful,” he whispered, as if in awe.

A smile spilled across her face. All she wanted was to stare into that face, hear the notes of his voice, be monopolized forever by their harmonies.
**

He gulped down a thrust of wine, and swallowing hard, looked up at her.

“You look pretty…” a smile flitted across his face, then he shifted some dirty-blond hair out of his eyes and stared down at his plate, as though contemplating the chicken.

“Thanks,” she speared a green bean determinedly, then looked up, and seeing his thoughtful face, laughed. “What’s so interesting about the chicken?”

He slowly grasped hold of his knife. “I’m planning my course of attack, this is a very greasy bird, and I find that such food tends to avoid capture…”

At her snort, he looked up and grinned, “Even after death.”

“Well,” she said slowly, chewing away at a rather tough piece of fish, “Your talent for making people feel alive – or animals for that matter – seems to have gotten a bit out of control…”

He nodded, trying to keep from smiling. “What can I say, sometimes a person’s most awesome attributes get in the way…”

A twinkle in her eyes, she responded pointedly, “Like their overwhelming sense of modesty.”
***

The sky was streaked with violent bruises of red, orange, and purple. Among them, the setting sun glowed hot like the last ember of a once blazing bonfire. A cool wind rippled though the field as they lay there, side by side, watching the world spin around them. Suddenly he leaned up on an elbow, turning to face her.

“It’s been a h*** of a summer.” The twang of his accent was a softly strumming guitar.

She nodded, the cool grass tickling her neck.

He just sat there for a moment; he’d never been one for many words. He opened his mouth, but couldn’t seem to find the words, and dropped his head with a sigh, biting his lip in frustration.

She reached over and took his hand, tracing the ridges and the plains, the calluses, the bumps, a topography she knew by heart.

“It doesn’t need words,” her voice was soft, as if he was a small animal she didn’t want to frighten away.

He looked up and the dying sun hit his mop of curly golden hair. He nodded and leaned in, pressing his lips against hers. His hands locked in her hair, she clenched the back of his shirt in tight fists, and they rolled over and over and over in the grass in the middle of the yawning field, under the canopy of a thousand dying suns.
***

He sneezed. Loudly. It sounded like a train’s final rumble as it heaves into the station.

She felt her face grow hot as heads turned ever so subtly to glance at the noise-making phenomenon in their midst.

“Bless you.”

He nodded and reached for a napkin; too little, too late. He looked up and chuckled.

“You look like you’re at a funeral.”

“I wish.” The words slipped off the tip of her tongue before she could catch them, like a precious wine glass about to be safely tucked away in its case, tumbling and shattering with a painful crash.

For a long moment his face mirrored the confused shock rolling around in the pit of her stomach.

Then he began to laugh.

It started as a low rumble in his throat, and began to snort out of his mouth and nose in gasps. You can always hear the train before you see it.

At first the noise felt hollow and awkward, like a bad romantic comedy, where they fall in love and end up in bed in the first twenty minutes. Then the shattered pieces of her words seemed to fuse under the heat of the incoming train.

She felt a smile creep across her face, an unwilling participant. A peal of laughter escaped from her throat, massaging away the pain.

They sat there facing each other, locked in each other’s gaze, shaking in each other’s laughter.

The train was in the station.
**

The room was filled with a smoky haze, and it was all she could do to keep from coughing. Then there he was, pushing his way towards her, the crowd parting like the Red Sea to let him cross. Her eyes swept across him with wonder, in his bomber jacket and faded jeans. Even from across the room he settled the queasiness in her stomach, soothed the tickle in her throat.

He reached the table and slid into the seat next to her, depositing the beer bottles on the tiled tabletop. He curled an arm around her.

“So how you doing?” The words dripped slowly from his mouth, the way things always did, like honey, sweet and lazy.

She laid her head on his shoulder and gazed into his chocolate brown eyes.

“I think you know.”

He brushed her lips with his own, the fuzz on his beard tickling her cheek.

The man on the sate shouted something indecipherable into the mike.

He looked up. “That’s me…I’ll be right back.” He slid his arm out from under hers, and stood up. Gazing down for a second, he smiled slowly, “Drink the beer. But watch me, beautiful, ‘cuz tonight it’s all for you.”

She laughed softly. “I know.”

A few minutes later he was up on the stage, bathed in the hazy dusk of the floodlights. As always, she felt a stab of pride in her stomach, knowing that even if in these moments the rest of the world got to share a little bit of him with her, he was really all hers, and hers alone.
He stood there in front of them, alone with his guitar and his melodies, the rest of the band always seemed to melt into the background. His fingers began to weave along the strings, a tapestry of melody. His voice purred, and he seemed to dance in the light of a world above the seedy bar of clinking glasses and obnoxious laughter.
He seemed to float away on a cloud of his own making, tugged gently by the streams of notes, but still anchored to the ground, as he looked into her eyes from across the room, and never let go.
“Won’t you love me…
Always…
Baby…”
**
Despite her protests, he insisted that they order at least three desserts between them.
“Because I know you want to,” he explained, “Tonight, no diets, no calories, just enjoy.”
She gave in, largely because the mere thought of the crème brulee she’d seen in the restaurant window made her salivate ever so slightly. And she had a feeling he knew that too.
A few minutes later the waiter arrived with four desserts stacked and balanced on his arms.
“I think I’ll go for the crème brulee for myself,” he remarked musingly, shaking some dirty blond hair out of his eyes, examining the dishes.
Then he glanced at her face and burst out laughing. “I was joking…Don’t worry, don’t worry, you’d think I’d ever forget your weakness for this bizarrely hardened custard?” He picked up the icy treat and slid it across the table towards her.
She grinned. “I should have known,” and picked up her spoon. She paused for the slightest second, then thrust her spoon deep into the custard, swallowing the first few gulps in a matter of seconds, feeling like a little kid.
Suddenly she stopped self-consciously, remembering him sitting across from her. But when she looked up, he was busy devouring his chocolate pudding with so much vigor, he was practically inhaling it.
She laughed, despite herself, little flecks of crème brulee flying across the space between them.
He looked up. “What?”
“You’re a mess…” she continued laughing.
Indeed he was, with little chocolate splotches around his face, like a mutated form of chicken pox, and his tie now had a chocolate stain to match the gravy from the main course.
He grinned. “So are you.”
She reached up with a napkin, and wiped her face, coming away with custard and little caramel chunks. “I guess so.” It occurred to her that she wasn’t the slightest bit embarrassed by the state of her visage, and for some reason the thought left her light, giddy, and a little daring inside.
He swallowed some chocolate pudding and remarked, “You can’t really enjoy desserts with manners can you?”
She shook her head, caramel melting on her tongue, “I guess you’re right…”
A few minutes later, the table cleared, she looked at him expectantly, “shall we go?” She was in the mood to go out for a walk, do something fun, something stupid.
“Wait.” He suddenly looked distinctly uncomfortable. “Um…” He paused and chuckled with a sigh. “This is a lot smoother in the movies I guess…”
Her mind began to race with possibilities, her stomach, crammed with delicious food, tightened with anticipation.
He stood up rather abruptly, and she was about to follow, figuring that he’d decided they better leave, when he fell forward on one knee in front of her, thrusting a small black case from his pocket, and her mind froze over.
**
She was halfway through the champagne when she spotted it, a sparkling diamond resting on the bottom.
Her heart nearly stopped. She looked up, “Oh my God.” The words stumbled out breathlessly.
His grey-blue eyes seemed to gleam in the candlelight. “Well, finish your champagne first.”
She picked up the glass automatically and began to sip, unable to process what was happening. The sip became gulping, became chugging. With the glass empty, she set it down on the table slowly, unsure of what to do.
He reached over, his eyes on her the whole time. He slipped out the ring and stood up.
He knelt slowly in front of her, the rest of the world fading away around them, white noise to the dazzling rainbow of words that poured from his mouth.
“You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known, and your heart is made of a purer gold than any I could ever buy you in a jewelry store. Will you do me the greatest honor possible, make me the happiest man alive, and marry me?”
She reached out a hand, and brushed her fingers along the curve of his jaw. She ran a hand through the perfect waves of his hair, wondering what she’d one to merit the picture of perfection at its knees before her.
Then she nodded, unable to find the words, to draw them from her throat.
And she pulled him to her and their lips met beside the glowing candles. She felt a warmth spread through her bones, and it seemed liquid gold was running down her throat. She was encased in a haze of glory she never wanted to escape from.
**
After awhile they just lay there in the grass, worn out and breathless. The air had gotten cooler, and she lay in nestled in the warmth of his body, his muscled arm wrapped around her, her head on his chest, his chin notched on top of her head. They fit together like two puzzle pieces, made for each other. The world seemed to have stilled to a hushed peace as they lay there, exhilarated and exhausted.
Suddenly he pulled away and sat up. She looked up in surprise. He eyes blazed with some hidden fire.
“I have an idea,” he whispered.
He stood up, towering over her, his golden hair like her personal sun in the darkened evening.
“Come on, stand up!” A smile quivered at the edges of his lips.
She stood, brushing some grass from her legs, slightly bemused.
He hesitated for a second, and then knelt in front of her and then stared up at her, as though worshipping her like his own personal goddess.
And then she knew what was happening.
She felt tears begin to crinkle in the corners of her eyes. Her heart beat faster and faster, as though trying to win in a race of excitement.
A smile broke out across his face.
“God I love you so much. I know I’m just a simple guy, in a seriously complicated world, but God I love you. Will you marry me?”
The tears were streaming down now, liquid joy wetting her cheeks and lips.
She fell down to her knees and wrapped her arms around him, whispering in his ear, “Yes, yes, a million times, yes…”
**
The music soared and throbbed, his body gyrating, unaware of the room around him. His voice cried out in pain, then fell to a soft pleading. Moments later it was filled with simmering anger, then with unendurable joy.
She was captivated by him, body and soul.
Suddenly, he leaped off the stage, guitar and all, his lips still moaning a love ballad.
And once again he made his way across the floor, the crowd parting in surprise, as he strummed and sang his way towards her.
Pride blossomed in her chest. Even now, in front of everyone, he was all about her, and everyone else knew that they were each others.

“I’ve tried
So many ways
To Tell you
How I feel
Now Don’t look away
Cuz Baby, this is real…

His voice flew away on a crescendo, spinning up and up and up to the clouds beyong the ceiling. Then his voice softened, and he stared down at her, anchored to the Earth once more.
“This is real…” He slipped off the guitar, ignoring the crowd staring at them, or perhaps luxuriating in it.
He reached across the table and took her hands, “I’ve tried so many ways…this is the last. Marry me.”
Her mouth dropped open, her eyes widened, her heart stopped. But still her eyes were locked in his, and it was that which kept her there, which loosened her tongue and moistened her throat, and re-started her heart.
“Yes!” she shouted the word to the rooftops, to the world, hoping everyone everywhere could know that in that moment a new world had been created, one floating above this one. One soaked in a liquid of heaven.
**

She couldn’t quite seem to hear the words coming from his mouth. She could see his lips moving, but her mind refused to unglue, to process. But she didn’t have to hear him, there was only one thing a bended knee and an open box with a ring in it could mean.

This is it.

She blinked her eyes, wondering what she expected to change when they opened again a millisecond later.

She swallowed hard, and her hands curled and uncurled in her lap, as though testing to make sure she was really still there, intact and working.

She realized he had fallen silent, and was staring up at her. Staring up at her in the badly fitting suit, and the twin-stained tie, and the sweaty palms with their black box offering of a new beginning.

But also an end.

“So,” his voice was tight and quiet, almost tired but not quite, “You’ll marry me?”

In that moment they were all there with her. The wealthy bachelor, with his perfect hair and perfect words, the simple country boy who wore the sun on the crown of his head, and the crooning musician anchored to the Earth by her gaze. They rose up and swam around her head, like scrapbook photos from alternate universes, the ones she had lived over and over in her head.

Then one by one they dropped and faded away like fallen leaves blown away in the autumn wind, reminding you to go out and find a winter coat that will withstand the coming cold.

A coat that will keep you warm and safe for the coming winter wind, and hopefully hold and protect you for many bitter winters to follow.

She laughed, stirring from her reverie and focusing in on his apprehensive face.

She reached over, and with a finger wiped a smudge of chocolate from his face. Putting it to her lips, she took in the sugary goodness.

“You know what,” she said matter-of-factly, “I think I will.”

A smile exploded across his face, and laughter from his lips, a picture of love, albeit a little chocolate stained here and there.

And she forced herself to forget, so that one day she could look back and remember.

And all she would remember was the liquid love soaking her brain.




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