Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In General - Chapter Who

As is true of everyone born in the eighties, her numerator would never equal the denominator American pop culture had designated for her. She spent most of her twenties grappling with this - the acceptance of her own mediocrity irrelevance insignificance in the face of all that fame, romance, technological revolution, and war she was raised in - a tumultuous endeavor to say the least. Never before had a generation been afforded the time and wealth to scrutinize the discrepancy between what it was told it could achieve and what it had actually achieved. So maybe for her he was a "win," a shaved man in a storm of beards and mustaches. When the great American memoir refused to be written, the award-winning independent film stalled out in the editing phase, the year in Nepal was forgone for a weekend at Mt. Hood, and even the herbal garden fell to aphids, there was still a good man to show for her efforts.

As is true of all men, there were things she could know about him, and there were things that she would never know about him. The things she could know were these:
  • He used bigger words when in the presence of his father.
  • He had letters from his first love in a tattered blue envelope tucked away in his old box of comics (between Cerebus and City of Others).
  • When he lied each sentence was preceded by a single blink, like a spanish exclamation point.
  • When he drank he forgot to put the toilet seat down.
  • He believed wholeheartedly in the segregation of certain food groups; should a potato cast an eye on an egg or chicken leg, the entire plate must be discarded.
  • He had a one inch scar on the inside of his right thigh where a Christmas tree once tried to revoke his right to procreate.
  • At the end of a long-overdue orgasm he cried out the sound of two Pterodactyls fighting.
The things she would never know were these:
  • There are two loud notches in the belt of shame he wears (the belt worn by all men, in fact), two acts of cowardice he committed in his teens that he can not shake. Both involved running and both are irreversible: he ran from his grandfather's 80th bedside birthday and he outran his younger brother in what was to be their last MS Society Marathon.
  • The night of his 25th birthday he'd staggered alone through the streets of Northeast Portland smashing phone booths with a tack hammer he'd tucked into his jacket.
  • Some nights he pretends to nod off when she talks about her mother.
  • She has the third best breasts, fourth best thighs, 2nd best face, worst laugh and best hair of every girl he's ever been with (if the true nature of his sexual indexing was ever revealed to her, she would certainly reconsider homosexuality).
  • At the end of a long-overdue orgasm he sees the cool, calm pink of her cover and douse the small fires of old lovers in his short-circuited brain like a Pepto-bismol commercial. As he watches this he mourns each in turn---a tear for each breast once tongue-traced, a sigh for each neck he's sniffed---his breath hitching to accommodate the dictatorship of her love rushing into his lungs.

As is true of all women, there are things she would tell him, and there are things he is expected to know. The things she would tell him are these:
  • Few things in this world could sedate her the way that hot cocoa with steamed chocolate milk did.
  • She kissed two girls in her second year of college; both tasted like old peaches and both lacked the willfulness she'd come to expect from lips.
  • Her father's cancerous death was disappointingly anticlimactic: where she'd expected to find resolve, meditation, and profundity she'd only found trivial banter, then disorientation, and finally the endless drip of his despairing bowels.
  • The colors that came out of her during her first miscarriage were unlike any she'd ever seen in four years of Fine Arts classes.
The things he was expected to know were these:
  • A woman will give up all the adoring things he's ever said about her "creative" haircuts in exchange for one truly thoughtful birthday gift.
  • In the matter of families and lunacy, one must respect the delicate double-standard wherein terms like "crazy," "manipulative," "free-loading" and "asshole," could only be ascribed to one's immediate family, and not that of one's partner, no matter how many times her brother had borrowed one's sedan.
  • A man must never attract attention to the present; a women loves the boy she first met, the boy who made a joke about bringing his own toilet paper while they both waited for the bathroom at the Bonfire... and when she realizes that boy is gone and a man sleeps in his stead---a farting, snoring, dream-killing man---she will hate the bait-and-switch of it all, hate herself for being a mark.
  • A woman can only forgive something that she is sure will never happen again.
And so, in the fall of 2009 their relationship sailed through the two-year mark, made tenuous at first by the hiccups of his drinking and her lack of income, but fortifying with each new secret shared and each new pet name declared, until one Monday morning in February when the first trout arrived on their doorstep.

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