My first memory on the ground is of my beloved, though I'm not yet calling her that. She is standing up to greet me at the airport. I feel that acute sense of disorientation that comes from physically touching a person for the first time, when their voice and mind are already intimately familiar. It feels both long-delayed and rushed into all at once. I stroke her glorious hair, and her forehead fits into the hollow of my neck precisely, this first time.
We exchange gifts in the car, after she straps her sister's child into place. More accurately, she presents a few things to me, though I have nothing prepared in return for her. I unwrap some banana bread, which is delicious. A simple, personalized necklace for me to wear. It is the only piece of jewelry anyone has ever given to me.
I keep it of course, and take it home with me later, even though my aversion to jewelry remains as it has. The personalized quality of the gift touches me.
I try to sleep on her bed while she runs errands. I've had four hours of sleep the previous night, in a dingy hotel eight hundred miles north. Breakfast was half a powdered donut. I am exhausted. For some reason I agree to go see 'Disney On Ice', because, as my beloved says, 'I just know the baby will love it, and I want her to have that experience.' Frankly, I feel certain that the baby won't understand or even notice, but I also feel like I have no business saying so, and that no one in the house will agree with me.
I could go on a tangent here, and theorize that, deep down, most parents have no illusions about what activities really benefit their child. I think that parents, especially new ones, just want to add variety to their busy lives, by doing all the things in which they can play their parental role. I mean, honestly ... which is more fun for a toddler? Fifty dollar tickets to see Mickey on ice skates, or a fifty cent kazoo? But which is more fun for a parent?
But I'm too lazy to go on a tangent.
Besides, it's something new, and it's time I can spend with my sweetheart. So after a few fitful hours on an unfamiliar bed, I rise like a zombie and slouch into the car.
I am disoriented, pushing a baby carriage around town with a girl I have just met. I feel like I've suffered a memory lapse, and the years between meeting her and starting a family have vanished. We are standing together in a thick line of parents, all shuffling their kids toward the arena doors. The sky is dark, but the air is hot, humid, and claustrophobic. I could be a refugee queued up outside a relief center, in the latest apocalypse.
As we pass, a Mexican homeboy shouts in an approving tone, "La gorditaaa!". I'm not sure if he is referring to Sherrila or to the baby we're pushing. Stocky women are just as desirable as chunky babies, in the traditional Mexican culture. I grin back, enjoying the praise in general. Maybe he and I share an affection that most Americans are too narrow-minded to understand.
Standing in line, sufficating in a mob of parents and toddlers, I mull it over. While Sherrila is not the first girl I've dated who would be considered 'chunky' by American standards, she is the first 'chunky' girl I've felt very attracted to. I'm sure the red hair, eyes, and freckles play some role, along with her general air of healthiness, but what's really turned my head is a sense of familiarity. The factual events of our lives are unconnected, but somehow they created two people who strike a balance, in communication and cooperation, to form a relationship as easily as one might take a breath.
And yes, the 'soul mate' idea is still garbage. If I pull up the floorboards of this relationship and feeling, I can see a hard foundation made of compressed experience. You want a good relationship, you have to learn how to be the person you want. Either that, or you don combat boots and roleplay yourself into a corner of your choosing. Whatever works for you.
I never wanted a pet, or a trophy, or a project, or a mentor. I tried a few, and it wasn't my thing. The red-haired companion I've got right here makes the most sense. She wants the things I want. Now if only I could get some decent sleep. And get out of this disastrously hot air. At least the dome will be air conditioned. This place is not mine, it's not me. None of my stuff is here. None of my friends are here. I don't know where anything is, I don't have my own place to stay, and I can't even think coherently. A little gremlin of panic is jabbing me in the stomach. Everyone is mistaking her and I for a married couple, out with a new baby, and there's no point in correcting them.
Disney On Ice. What can I say. This is a combination of things that make no sense, all making no sense together. At Mickey's request, half the auditorium stands up and claps along to the 'Mickey Mouse Club' theme, while he pinwheels his arms around his giant frozen head, and jigs a circle on the ice, coattails flying.
After the first 15 seconds, the baby turns around in her seat and starts grabbing at my beloved and I, exploring our clothing and accessories. Big rooms of distant spectacle are not amusing when you're trying to learn how your hands work.
We say hello to the Jewish folk in the adjacent seats -- the tickets we got are part of a group excursion -- and decide to leave at the intermission. The trip back to the car is easy. When the engine roars to life I suddenly understand a big piece of the Florida lifestyle. The daily routine of the average resident consists of moving from one air conditioned box to another. You sleep in one, you work in a different one, you shop in another, you play in yet another, and you go between all these in your own personal air-conditioned box.
But here I am, so I have to adopt the lifestyle for the time being.