He smell-ed of Old Spice and cinnamon.

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to share a story.  If it seems that this story has been somewhat romanticized, that’s because it has been.  To me, there is no greater love story than that of my parents.

I imagine not many relationships begin in the waiting room of a drug and alcohol dependency rehabilitation clinic--healthy relationships, at least--but it is the setting of my parents’ beginning.  My mother, a social worker who specialized in substance abuse, worked at the Fort Devens Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Clinic where she met with soldiers battling drug and alcohol addiction.  My father, at the time, was a captain in the army, managing a troop of 125.  As a ranking officer, it was his duty to make sure the men in his company were in the best physical and psychological condition.  So, when he determined a few of his men were using, he took them directly to the clinic.

There, my mother, dressed in a turtleneck and pearls (she’s famous for her turtlenecks) greeted the Captain with a smile and offered him a cup of coffee while he waited for an update on the progress of his company men.  He accepted, and watched as she carefully poured him a cup in the gray office kitchen.  Quick side note: Why is it that everything clinical is gray?  Nothing is ever black or white.  Always gray.  As if you can never be too sure about a clinical decorating decision.  It is better to be left in a gray area than to risk being too bold, I guess.  

Anyway, my father sat patiently in the gray waiting room, sipping stale coffee from a Styrofoam cup, flipping through an old issue of a magazine, stealing glimpses of my mother as she flitted around the small office.
He remembers her hair. 

In fact, my father vividly remembers the first day he met my mother.  It was her hair, he says, it was so long, and it kind of bounced when she walked--the kind of hair that you want to fall around you in a mane of softness when you kiss.  My father has never been an indecisive man.  No matter what the issue, he always takes a firm stand, and even if his position on a topic is utterly incorrect, he will defend his side until the death.  He makes for a vicious opponent, and an unwaveringly loyal father and husband.

My mother, on cue, boldly states she does not remember the first day they met.  It makes sense.  She was practically betrothed to another man at the time.  A great man.  “He worshiped the ground I walked on,” she says.  I believe it too.  My mother is the type of woman that inspires that kind of love.  She has a simplistic, natural beauty that is so humble and modest you can barely pinpoint what it is that makes her so radiant.  It’s almost frustrating.  You know she’s beautiful, but why?  It is her nature to be understated.  (If you can’t tell, I think the world of my parents.) 

My mother does, however, vividly remember their first date.  Newbury, Massachusetts, the UpDownstairs, dinner at 7.  He has an infectious smile, she noted when I asked her about that day.  It was like the room lit up when he smiled.  To me, it sounds about right.  I have always thought my father to be an influential, quite powerful man.  It would only make sense that his smile would be as powerful as he is.

The two young lovers got lost in one another.  They talked of books, and art, and philosophy.  They shared dreams and pasts—things one doesn’t normally disclose on a first date.  It was one of those first dates that movies should be made about.  He made corny jokes, and she laughed—not because he was particularly funny, but because she knew he was making them for her.  To her, his jokes were the love poems he would never write.

A gentleman, he pulled up to her apartment building and walked around to open the door for her.  Graciously, she smiled and took his arm and the two walked to her front door where he gently brushed her long hair behind her ear.  He let his fingers graze her cheek, lingering for a moment just below her chin before leaning in to kiss the apple of her cheek bone.  His moves were slow and deliberate, as if he were performing a sacred ritual.  She stood perfectly still, oddly patient, enveloped in a cloud of slow motion.  He smelled of Old Spice and cinnamon and she inhaled as if taking a long drag from a cigarette, filling her lungs with him.  They stood facing one another for a few silent moments before whispering good night.
            “I’ll call you. We should definitely do this again sometime.”
            A long wait by a silent phone.

Life returned to dull normalcy.  The brain floods the being with the comfort of routine monotonous details so the sugary deliciousness of the extraordinary eventually fades.  We waste away our lives forgetting the good stuff.

Like players in a tragicomedy performance, we flit around the stage, lost souls in search of our next line.  As if suddenly we have discovered the pages have been ripped from the manuscript and we must improvise the rest.  We create alternate endings and try out different scenarios, changing the scenery and the characters.  But eventually, the ending materializes as nothing we could have ever created.

Eventually, the explanation arrived, but not before an engagement proposal, a break-up, and a decision to move a few hundred miles south.  Love is cruel, love is kind, love is love. 

To Be Continued...

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