MY LIFE HASN’T EXACTLY GONE as I predicted either. And I don’t just mean the career thing. I probably don’t have to tell you, there’s a woman involved. Isn’t there always? This one was a girl, actually. I was in college at the time. And like all bartender-give-me-another-double sob stories, this one ends badly.
Beth and I met my junior year at Portland State University. It was a drizzly Saturday morning in the South Park Blocks and the Farmers’ Market was in its second weekend of the season. I was there, not because I was health conscious, nor did I have a particular fondness for fresh vegetables, but because I heard it was a good place to pick up babes. Babes who were health conscious and therefore slim and trim. This was back before my beer belly would rat me out as a fraud.
“Excuse me, do you know what this is?” I asked the freckled redhead I’d been eyeing for the last half hour. Stalking, actually, though the crowds allowed me to mask my depravity. I was holding up what looked like the offspring of a beet and a Swiss chard: a purple bulb sprouting leaves all over.
“That’s kohlrabi,” she said with a smile like fire to my inner caveman. “It’s a kind of cabbage.”
“Whew!” I said in mock relief. “For a minute I thought it was Audrey 2.”
She cocked her head and pursed her lips apologetically.
“Guess you’re not a fan of Little Shop of Horrors,” I said, feeling stupider than usual.
“No. It doesn’t sound familiar.”
I put down the kohlrabi; I didn’t want her to feel threatened by it. The look on her face at that moment left room for doubt. I can’t say I blamed her—I’ve kind of got an outer caveman, as well: I’m short, wide, and have a big head. And I’m one of those unfortunate guys who have to start shaving our faces from the collar line up—on a V-neck. Add thick, curly hair to the picture and I resemble an Airedale.
“I’m kinda new to this vegetable thing,” I said, in an unscripted moment of candor, then added, to cover up my gaffe, “I mean, having so many choices. We don’t have most of this…uh, these things where I come from.”
“Where are you from?” she asked. It was too early to tell if she was interested or just being polite. That’s always been a problem with Portland girls; they put up with a lot more shit than California girls, so it’s hard to read the signals.
“California,” I said, “but please don’t hate me for it.”
She sighed dramatically and did this little foot stomp thing that I would later come to love. “Why does everybody think we hate Californians? I mean, that gets so old!”
“Sorry,” I said, cursing to myself, “I think it might have something to do with the bumper stickers that said Don’t Californicate Oregon.”
“Oh, so this is how we educate ourselves now? Bumper stickers?” Her sarcasm was tinged with humor, so I figured I’d go for broke.
“Well, if you don’t hate Californians, how’d you like to get together next week for some kohlrabi and a movie. Say, Little Shop of Horrors?”
She sized me up for just a moment before replying. “Naw, thanks, but no.”
My heart sank—I’d gone all-in and come up empty.
“Somehow I don’t see you cooking exotic vegetables, and I sure as hell ain’t gonna cook on a first date. What’s your Plan B?”
And that was how it began.
Love at first sight? Maybe—if you believe in that shit. I just know that I spent every waking minute thinking about her for the next six months. And she couldn’t get enough of me either. Friends—mostly hers—thought we were a mismatch: the coarse heathen with the foul mouth and the hippie-chick rebel from an evangelical Christian background. Most of my friends just called us Fred & Wilma, as in Flintstone.
Those were easily the best six months of my life. Not only did I have more sex than in any six-month period before or since, but I loved waking up every day just to be with Beth. We would run away every chance we got, either to the coast, her favorite; or to the mountains, mine. It was only ninety minutes either way, so we ran away a lot. Sometimes we would study, but usually we’d just fuck.
Whoever tells you that doing it on the beach is romantic is full of shit. I got sand in orifices I didn’t know I had and it chafed like a motherfucker, even after a shower. I much preferred it up on High Rock, with a view of Mt. Hood. We’d lie there on the precipice after a summer thundershower, amid the steaming stone, in a magical world all our own. It was enough to make me a romantic, if only for a few hours.
If I’d been a real caveman, that’s when I would have dragged her back to my cave and made her fix dinner. And with her God-made-the-woman-for-the-man upbringing, she probably would have, too. Instead we’d go to Timberline Lodge for dinner and watch the sunset, or down to the Shack for Taco Tuesday. That’s what was so awesome: it didn’t really matter. We just loved being together.
This is where the movie script says she dies tragically in a skiing accident or something. In reality, it was nothing nearly that romantic. In fact, it was downright ugly. And I don’t really feel like going into it; it’s too fucking depressing. Suffice it to say that her parents discovered our relationship—God’s Cherub cavorting with a Minion of Satan. They used everything in their arsenal to split us up, and they won.
The worst of it is, we were still in love. Let me tell you, it would have been a hell of a lot easier if we’d had some big, nasty blowout of a fight and vowed never to see each other again. This pining shit sucks.