The Ugly Familiar 2: Destiny Sold

Part 1

Devil and the deep blue sea behind me
Vanish in the air you’ll never find me
I will turn your face to alabaster
When you find your servant is your master

When I went to bed on April 1, 1993, I put the pregnancy test under my pillow. The smooth foil wrapper seemed like it might hold something as insignificant as coffee biscuits, a trifle to be enjoyed mid-afternoon, not something to be peed on first thing in the morning.

I woke when the light was barely nudging its way into the apartment. While Robert slept on, blankets pulled tight over his head, I reached under my pillow for the pregnancy test and tiptoed to the bathroom.

Standing next to the sink, my bare feet cold on the tile floor, I ripped and tore at the foil wrapper, first with my hands, then with my teeth, and finally with fingernail clippers. My hands were shaking so hard I had trouble pulling down my underwear. I feared I would drop the test in the toilet; I couldn’t afford another one so I clutched the plastic stick with both hands while I peed on it.

By the time I finished peeing on the test (and on my jitterbugging hands), there were two bright blue lines in the results window.

I washed my still-trembling hands, then brushed my teeth. I flossed. I washed my face and brushed my teeth again. I stared at myself in the mirror for a long time.

When I slipped back into bed next to Robert he asked, “What was it?”

“Positive. I’m pregnant.”

“I thought so,” he said before he turned over to face the wall and went immediately back to sleep.

My stomach rolled over and I felt a weird hungry nausea (or was it a nauseous hunger?) so I got up and made two pans of Rice Krispies treats.

A week later, I was in my parents’ kitchen, having just thrown away my breakfast, thereby skipping the intermediate steps of consuming and then vomiting said breakfast. I had planned to keep the pregnancy a secret until after the wedding so that people wouldn’t think we were getting married just because I was pregnant.

We were not, in fact, getting married just because I was pregnant. We were getting married because we were foolish and young and we didn’t know that the problems in our relationship were not the sort that would improve over time, and because we didn’t know who we were or what we wanted and marriage seemed as good a way to fill the time as any other.

Plus, of course, the hormones.

My mom was at the counter, wiping something, when I decided that I had to tell her because eventually, someone was going to hear me barf, and that someone would be my mom, and she is not a stupid person who would be unclear about what that barfing meant.

“Mom? I have to tell you something.”

She turned from the counter to look at me sitting at the table and she looked normal for a second, like I was going to tell her that my car insurance bill was late and I needed help paying it. Suddenly, before I said a word, her face changed. “You’re pregnant, aren’t you?”

I nodded.

My mom hollered, “Wendell!”, summoning my dad.

We three sat at the kitchen table in our usual family-conference positions, but what was there, really, to say?

Not much.

Part 3

Sloppy Firsts

His name was Jack, and I shared my first kiss with him.

Except shared isn’t quite the right word. I was fourteen years old and desperate for a real kissing experience. I hated to be the only one among my friends who had not yet been awkwardly groped in a dark room by a pimple-faced, greasy boy.

We were at a dance, me and a hundred or so of my closest friends, and when Jack led me toward a small room off to the side of the party room, I followed willingly. He stood with his feet about three feet apart to minimize our height difference, opened his mouth wide, and started some kind of spitting-and-sucking routine that didn’t seem anything like kissing as I had imagined it.

In the ensuing months, Jack made out with most of my girlfriends and eventually, we started calling him The RVC, short for the Rainbow Vacuum Cleaner. Do you remember the 1980s ads for those carpet cleaners? The went into great detail about how the machine shot water into the carpet, then sucked it all back up. Kissing Jack was sort of like presenting the lower half of your face to a Rainbow Vacuum Cleaner and letting it have its way with you.

For several years, I thought that was my first real kiss, until I had my first real real kiss, the kind that makes you go all watery on the inside. That kiss happened in the soup aisle at a grocery store, which just goes to show you what an extremely romantic person I am.

The soup-aisle-kissing relationship was long and melodramatic and chaotic, as relationships that get their start in grocery stores are wont to be. It ended when I was 26 and I’d been in relationships my entire adult life, so I thought I’d try my hand at casual dating.

The first guy I went out with took me back to his mother’s house after dinner. He showed me his bedroom where all the model airplanes of his childhood were dangling from the ceiling. He tried to kiss me, but I dodged his face.

The next guy I went out with drove a truck so huge that I couldn’t get into it (and I’m not short), but he refused to pull up to the curb so I could get in. Instead, he got behind me and shoved on my ass until I went sprawling across the bench seat. Kissing him was lovely, in spite of the giant truck. That’s probably because I didn’t kiss the truck but instead kissed the man. Also because I convinced him to keep a little footstool in the back of the truck so we could avoid the ass-shoving-and-subsequent-sprawling episode the next time.

Why did I kiss a man who insisted on shoving me in the ass? I can only assume that I was a) very lonely or b) feeling very badly about myself. Probably both.

After a few unremarkable dates, there was the guy who took me to Harrigan’s. We were on our way to his car when a panhandler approached us and asked for some money and my date yelled at him. I was so horrified I gave the panhandler a five dollar bill, which caused my date to drive me home in silence and dump me off at the curb in front of my house. Nobody tried to kiss anyone that time.

Then I had the Macaroni Grill-athon. When I went out with a new guy, he would almost ask me where I lived. “Over near Winrock Mall,” I always said, and nine times out of ten he would say, “Oh, there’s a Macaroni Grill over there! How about we meet there at seven?” This was how I had three first dates at the same restaurant in one weekend – dinner Friday, lunch Saturday, and dinner Sunday.

I don’t even like Macaroni Grill.

The first man during the weekend of the Macaroni Grill-athon ordered his meal and, when it arrived, tucked a napkin into his shirt, hunched over, and shoveled his pasta into his mouth as if there were locusts hovering around him, waiting for their opportunity to steal his meal.

The second man that weekend showed up over an hour late because he was waiting in line for gas at the station that had the cheapest prices in the city that day. I was just leaving when he arrived and I stuck around to eat, mostly in the interests of a free meal.

I ended up dating the third man for several months mostly because he was about eleventy-trillion times smarter than my ex-husband, which was a refreshing change. Sadly, he was about as exciting as a bowl of vanilla ice cream (kissing included) and eventually I called it off.

I stopped dating then. Single life was beginning to seem very appealing, so I took a one-year dating hiatus.

Then, one night, I had a dream. I was chasing people around a shopping mall, asking them to hug me. No one would (seriously, would you?), and I ended up standing in front of Dillard’s screaming, “Won’t anybody touch me? Why won’t anyone touch me?!?”

Huh. That’s not good.

The next day, having run through all the hook-ups that my friends had to offer, I signed up for Match.com, but just the one week trial. I was too broke to pay for a real membership.

Little did I know that across town, Brian was signing up for a one week trial at Match.com, too, although he was not too broke to pay for the real membership; he was just too cheap.

We met at a local coffee shop called Double Rainbow** and I knew right away that we would be something. I didn’t know we’d get married, but I knew we’d have something special.

On our third date, he kissed me for the first time and my guts turned to jelly and my thoughts went to mush, but it was also as comfortable as coming home after a long vacation.

The best love affairs are like coming home, if home involves roller coasters and fireworks. First kisses can be awesome, but 1,000th kisses are great in a different way.

Also? I have never once thought of any kind of household cleaning tools while I was kissing Brian, so that’s a major plus.

I kissed my share of frogs, but I figure they were all worth it (yes, even the RVC) because I ended up with a pretty damn great prince. Even if he’s not very princely and is, in fact, just an ordinary man, he’s my home. I like him even better than roller coasters.

What are your most memorable first kiss experiences?

*His real name is neither Jack nor RVC.

**They changed the name to Flying Star years ago, but I can’t make it change in my mind.