The Story I Never Tell Part 3
Every aspect of my book was difficult for my husband, but let me back up. Brett and I go back a long way. The backstory is important.
I met my husband one month after I turned 23. He was 24. It was pretty much love at first sight though we didn’t know that at the time. There’s a lot to the story that makes me think our finding each other was the work of God, which is why this backstory is important. I met him at a party with too many men and too few women. It was a Mark Barnes pay party at The Mayflower, the Friday after Thanksgiving, and I wasn’t allowed to go to parties. My father was overseas at a conference and my friend Sue called and told me to come out with her and a couple of other friends, and usually I would just tell her I couldn’t go, a fact she already knew, but nonetheless she called. I asked my mom and she said, “When is the party.” And I said, “Sue will be here at 10.” And my mom looked at me incredulously and said, “You’re leaving at 10? You should be returning at 10!” But, by whatever miracles, she said yes. Sue took this unprecedented accession very seriously. We walked into this party mad with men and bereft of women, and she didn’t leave my side. Any guy trying to pull up got about 30 seconds and she was moving me along. My mother had left me in her hands, as far as she was concerned, and she would not fail in her duties. But the ratios were bad. At least 100 men came up asked me where I was from, and when I answered that I was Indian, they replied, “What tribe?” People were stupider then. Thankfully that interchange took approximately 30 seconds, and Sue would pull me away, just as the guy stuck a slip of paper with his number on it into my hand. There were no trashcans and I am loathe to litter; all those slips of paper went into my tall, black boots. Sue looked like Veronica Webb, and she was wearing the hell out of a black cat suit at a party with bad ratios. You’d think she’d have troubles of her own, but so dedicated was she to the mission of babysitting me for my mom that she was fending men off with her mind alone.
In this way, when a man standing behind me asked what part of India I was from and I turned around to answer, “Kerala,” to which he replied, “Oh..that’s a 22 hour plane ride with a stop in Paris or London, isn’t it?,” and my brain locked in and something inside me twinkled with recognition, Sue was noting the 30-second limit. She started to push at me and to make our excuses. He pleaded for exception. Sue said, “We don’t know you. You might be crazy.” He replied that he knew our friend Jessie. He said, “Ask her, Jessie knows me.” Sue gave him the slant eye, lip-twisted look like, “Yeah, right Jessie knows you.” He said, “Wait a minute. Let me get a pen.” Sue said, “We’re not waiting, you might be crazy.” From somewhere he got a pen, he tore a slip of paper, he wrote down some information. He handed it to me. He told me his name. His slip of paper went into my boot with a hundred others.
I got home after 3am. I pulled off my boots in the dark and went to sleep. I woke up at 8am, rolled over and opened my eyes. The entire floor was strewn with paper, like Mardi Gras, like New Year’s Eve, like the New York Stock Exchange, and sitting just so atop my blue telephone was one small slip of paper. I reached down and picked it up; it was Brett’s number, the only person from the entire night who didn’t ask me what tribe I belonged to, the only not-Indian person who knew how long the flight to Kerala was, the only not-Indian person who, in the 1990s, who knew what Kerala was. It was 8am on a Saturday morning after a night when he, like I, had gotten in after 3am, but I called him anyway.
A girl answered. I asked for him, even though. He’d been asleep, but he took the call, even though. I didn’t know him and I asked, “Who was that girl?” He didn’t know me and he answered, “My twin sister.” I didn’t know him and I believe him. It really was his twin sister.
We didn’t see each other again for a month, but we talked on the phone every day from that day onward. We went on our first date December 23, 1991. We went to Tony and Joe’s Seafood in Georgetown. The fountain outside the window was frozen but the lights were changing colors and shining through the ice and I looked to my right and saw all that and my ears pinged…or they popped or something, and I knew right at that moment that this was the man I was going to marry. I looked back at him, this poor man who didn’t yet know we would one day be married and I wondered how I would break the news to him.
We left the restaurant and it started to rain. He pulled me under an awning down the steps toward the water, closer to The Sequoia, and he tried to kiss me. I pushed him away and I said, “I’m sorry, but you can’t kiss me unless you are planning on loving me and being with me forever.” He looked me up and down and said, “Okay.” And so we kissed.
I tell this story often enough. It’s such a good one in a life full of stories. He always balks and says, “I just wanted to kiss her.” Maybe so, but he’s still here. People wonder how I could ever have said such a thing to a man on our first date, but the answer is so clear. It’s because I knew I was going to marry him when my ears popped at the fountain. Once God has let you know, then you can speak plain. That part was so very easy, the beginning of us. The beginning of us is the story I always tell. It’s what comes later that is the story I never tell. But I’m going to tell it. I’m telling it. But this blog post is already 300 words too long.