It's an interesting thing to have not known a time without her. Her armor-penetrating laugh has been the same since my family moved in across the street in the fall of 1973.
She sat across from me at our breakfast table with that impossible smile. Her first question for me was "what is your favorite color?" - I told her with great confidence green was amazing, but she preferred purple because it was the mix of two colors she didn't like that formed the perfect color,
"Blue and red on their own are boring, buh' combeened day make PURPLE. look at it - PURPLE!"
She said it with that couple-of-teeth missing perfection. Its still the way I'll say the word sometimes.
I can remember watching her blossom into a young woman and shying away as pubescent awkwardness overwhelmed me like a tsunami. Without cheerleader squads for chess club or the physics honor roll, she never noticed me. She married the quarterback, I'd watched from across the dance floor romancing her.
My braces eventually came off. I embraced my nerdy talents, letting go of all the confusion of being a boy and grew into my own man, I let the winds of college and then grad school carry me far away. I never really forgot her, but had accepted that our lives had taken different paths.
I came home one summer, the small town of my youth still pulling out all the stops for 4th of July. As I drove up to my childhood home, I noticed the "for sale" sign across the street.
"Falkner's place up for sale?"
"Oh honey, that's just a sad, sad story....", Mom began.
Her blonde prince charming had started spending more time down at the local pub than at home. He had driven home one evening swerving and striking another car, killing the family inside. There had been a very public trial, and he eventually found himself locked away for a great long sentence.
The overwhelming costs of the trial and the ensuing legal bills forced them to sell the house. Their divorce proceedings played out in the small town like a Hollywood romance gone bad. His anger over their inability to have children had driven him to drink and find lots other female company - - it became fodder for the kinds of vicious rumors and painful assumptions small towns specialize in. She was working in the local bookstore to make a living, It seemed that all the luster and promise of her life had been wiped away.
When I first saw here again after so many years, she was seated in the city park. She was feeding bread crumbs to ducks at her feet. She wore her hair in ponytails with simple purple bows.
We both remember seeing other suddenly. We both recall working hard not to cry at seeing each other after so much time and so many circumstances and decisions making their impact on us.
She did indeed sell the house, moving into a lovely downtown apartment above the five and dime we'd both rushed to with our allowances so many years earlier. We started trading long letters to each other. I invited her into the city on the train a few months late. We went out on what we both called 'that first date'.
Tomorrow morning, she and I will get married. Both our mothers are, of course, claiming that they knew it would happen eventually. The table centers at the reception include technicolor piles of crayolas and white paper tablecloths.
Beautiful girls are seldom happy, intelligent boys are seldom beautiful, but I'm sure it's what we've always wanted for each other.
I am sure that every word, every touch that she and I share - they color me in.