Friday, June 04, 2021

Sarah And Renee Called Each Other Thelma And Louise


never really deciding or caring which one was which - it was their friendship that was important. They’d been friends for over twenty years, working together as attorneys for the same county and rising slowly through the ranks to eventually become judges. They were both smart, professional women who’d fought the sorts of battles that women still fight today, but back in the 60’s and 70’s when there were a lot fewer on the front lines. Along with their careers they bonded over the problems of raising children, getting them into college, and dealing with husbands who either strayed, moved out or died.  All of their children were smart and eventually made it through college, and most had found good careers, stable marriages, mortgages and children.

But along with the stable ones, they each had one gypsy child, whom they’d decided early on should never meet, fearing these free spirits would fall in love, get married and never be able to support themselves. I know it sounds a little ridiculous and was probably one of those conspiracies that began as a joke but was maintained over the years more out of habit than serious intent. Whatever the case, I never knew Mom’s friend Sarah had a daughter named Rachel until I was thirty-five years old, when I paid a surprise visit to my Mom just before they were arriving to take her out to dinner.
I probably don’t even need to tell you what happens next.

The first time I ever saw the woman who would become my wife she was wearing a sun dress and walking through my mom’s front gate just behind her mother. Her hair was light brown and fell in waves and curls around her shoulders and down her back. She was too far off to make out much more than that, so while technically it might not have been love at first sight, but by second or third sight I was probably hers for the asking. I’d just flown in from Manila after six months traveling around Southeast Asia and the Pacific, so I was filled with stories, giddy with jet lag and happy as hell to be back. And thanks to sunshine and intestinal parasites, I was not only tan, but thinner than I’d been in years.

I wish I could remember more from that first dinner together because it must’ve been hilarious: Rachel and I amiably chatting away while our mothers looked on helplessly as the attraction they’d spent so many years trying to prevent began to blossom in front of their eyes. What was obvious to them though was hardly even suspected by us, and the laughter, soft smiles and lingering glances that were their worst nightmare we probably regarded as casual flirtation at most. We had no idea that we were not only falling in love but that it would eventually lead to our getting married and having a child together, let alone that this entire chain of events had not only been predicted but actively conspired against for at least a dozen years by our dinner companions who were normally quite talkative but that night seemed strangely quiet.

There’s a romantic notion that the end of things can be seen in their beginnings - that the seeds of death are present at the birth and that you can determine the way something will end by looking for clues hidden in its beginning. While I love this as a concept - as some metaphysical abstraction or literary device - it’s hard to believe that real life is quite so poetic. But that said, let me tell you about the exact moment I knew Rachel and I would become lovers.

It was the morning after our dinner and Rachel called asking if she’d left her purse in my mom’s car. She had so I told her not to worry, followed by a predictable and relatively innocuous remark about “that old trick…” playfully implying that she’d left her purse behind on purpose. She said “Oh my God, what an ego!” with the kind of mild exasperation appropriate to that level of banter: a sort of verbal eye-rolling that would’ve seemed perfectly normal except that somehow it wasn’t. There was something about the way she said it - just the slightest blush of genuine embarrassment, probably undetectable to most but unmistakable to me, that let me know instantly and with absolute certainty that she was mine. That was the beginning of what would be far and away the happiest years of my life.“Oh my God what an ego…” Those were the words that began our romantic relationship, so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what was responsible for its end.