Welcome to another double-feature!
Today, I’ve got one post doing double duty: answering the Love Is In Da Blog prompt, Love Letters; and also my Stream of Consciousness Saturday post, where the prompt is “contractions” – at the beginning, and also at the end for a bonus challenge.
As you’ll read, it’s also a rather important day….
It’s my Accomplice’s birthday. That makes today a bit of a special day, all by itself. However, there’s more that’s special about today.
Four years ago, he spent his birthdaay in the hospital, having had a life-threatening motorcycle collision with a deer the night before, on his way home from his last night of work before his vacation. We’d argued before he left for work, and our arguments weren’t very nice, then. There were angry feelings seething in me, so, when my phone rang and I knew it was him, I didn’t answer. I couldn’t know until the sheriff knocked on my door to tell me he’d been airlifted to the regional medical center that he’d been calling as he lay in the road where he’d landed after being thrown for about 100 feet. It was days later, when he said that he thought he was going to die, and he was calling me to say goodbye.
I’m glad he didn’t die there, obviously – and also glad we’ve learned to argue with less volatility and no cruelty.
February 20 has become a bit of a landmark day in our lives. Well, more accurately, it always has been, for him. He shares a birthday not only with his father, who is 81 today, but also with his step-grandfather. His mother will admit to taking steps to try to stack the decks for a February 20 baby, but his stepfather’s dad sharing the same day of birth is happy coincidence –
So is the fact that he and I met on his birthday, nineteen years back. It was the “busser’s alley” of Moqui Lodge, which was, at that point, perched about halfway between the tiny town of Tusayan, Arizona, and the entrance gate to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. He was one of two lead chefs at the restaurant where I had just arrived to work.
It was not love at first sight, or second, or even more. I wasn’t crazy about the wolfish way he looked at me, and he, thinking that New York state was one big city, and being as yet ignorant that I grew up next to a field alternately planted in hay, alfalfa, and silage corn, thought I had an answer to everything, in, as he put it, a ‘wise-ass New Yorker’ way.
Sparks were flying, but they weren’t from the friction of unending passion.
I wanted to hang out with people who weren’t partiers – a harder thing than you might think, since working concessions in the parks seems to attract many of those. Someone mentioned Big Jim. He didn’t party, and he didn’t like crowds. I wanted to learn how to play chess. Big Jim was one of the best players around, I was told. I wanted to hike in the Canyon; guess what? Yup. Big Jim had hiked every trail on the South Rim, many more than once, and many of those on the North Rim, too.
I’m known to be stubborn. Nope. Wasn’t going to happen. I didn’t like Big Jim, and I wasn’t going to change my mind on that score.
And so that’s the way that it was – until one night when I decided I was going to treat myself to a six-pack of Guinness. It was hugely overpriced, since Tusayan was a tourist town, and, beyond that, it wasn’t exactly cheap trucking things into that remote town on the edge of a very big hole. I hadn’t bought any in the first couple of months I was there, simply because it was so expensive, but this night, I just wanted to splurge in a minor celebration of my life-altering choice to come work there.
I was so excited, I forgot one small but very important detail. Neither I or my roommate Jenn had a bottle opener, and Guinness bottles don’t come with twist-off caps.
So there I was, with a cold six-pack of my favorite and rarely indulged-in brew, and no way to enjoy it before it got hot and unpleasant in the desert heat. I decided to see if I could scare up a bottle opener, somewhere between our dorm room and the laundry room (a likely place to find people, since, eventually, everyone needed to wash their clothes).
And that’s where I found Big Jim chatting with a couple of his buddies. And, although he’d given up drinking before I met him, he had a bottle opener and was willing to let me borrow it.
He came to our room to drop it off – and we spent four hours talking.
And, from there, we quickly became inseparable -as friends. He taught me to play chess, and, as he kept winning, he also played Scrabble with me every night, so that I could win at something, too.
And, while we played, before, and after, we talked. When he found out I wanted to know more about the Canyon, he took me to some of his favorite places, and told me stories about them. I helped him bleed his brakes, and, when I mentioned wanting to go to Sedona, he took me there, treating me to dinner on the way home from a magical day that made us a couple.
I might have always kept my first impression of him, and missed out on all this. I’m profoundly grateful that I didn’t.