The Cry

December 5, 2009

After M proposed to my daughter, there on a Florida beach, she cried.

She was so happy.

Then confused.

Then incredulous.

“You really want to marry me? Are you sure? Do you really, really want to? You want to be engaged to me?” Each time he said, “Yes, of course!”

After an appropriate length of time that tender moments like that require, M said, “We  have to hurry back because everyone is waiting to hear,” which made my daughter cry even more.

When they got back to the apartment where her future brother-in-law and his wife were waiting, my daughter burst into the room screaming, “Hey! I’m engaged!”

They came forward to honor them, then stopped. “Ooh,” the future brother-in-law said to my daughter, “You may want to wash your face before we congratulate you.”

My daughter, according to her, fit right into the beach scenery, as a castaway. The Florida humidity had not been kind to her hair, which poofed to eight times her normal volume and curl. Four great streaks of black mascara bobbed and weaved down her cheeks, beginning at the eyes and reaching the corners of her mouth. Her pants were folded up to her knees. And yes, M still wanted to marry her.

Over the last few years, my daughter has cried on several occasions in front of M, mostly when she leaves him to return to Utah, or when he leaves her to return to Texas. My wife saved most of her crying until after we got married, which I believe was daily for the first year. Before the wedding, I remember her crying only once.

We’d known each other for eight months before we starting dating in earnest, and that earnest dating lasted about a week before I was ready to dump her.  I really liked her, but she was thirty, and I was twenty four. The age difference was starting to bother me. I figured it was best to cool things before something more serious happened, like marriage. I wanted to end things while things were still at the casual stage. As I recall, we went out to a dance at the college, and afterward K took me to a secluded area of town and jumped me. I was extremely inexperienced, especially for a twenty four year old. I’d never had a real girlfriend, because I was at times too shy, too insecure or not interested, and most girls, I felt, did not seem to take an interest in me anyway, not like K did that night. So, there we were, parked. She didn’t say much. She just moved over close to me and starting kissing me. I was shocked. Up to then, I considered myself pretty repulsive. But since K was doing all the driving, I figured I’d go along for the ride. And what a rough ride it was! K was trying out this new French kissing technique, and I thought she was going to pull my tongue out by the roots. Still, I didn’t complain.

After that night, we were for the most part inseparable. We did everything together, and we talked. We had to. I had to tell her to knock off that new tongue technique. During that week, we agreed that we were perfect for each other. We laughed, we made out, we cuddled, we made out, we watched a movie, we made out. I was the happiest I had ever been. When the weekend ended, I went back to school and K went back to work. During first period, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I never wanted to see K again.

She called my apartment a few times to talk, but by then I had no feelings whatsoever towards her, and I think her cousin, who happened to be my roommate and best friend, told her how I was feeling…or not feeling. K persisted until she reached me by phone (which wasn’t hard to do in those days because there was no Caller ID and no cell phones.) She asked me if I wanted to go on a picnic.

“No,” I said.

“What’s wrong?” she said.

“Nothing.” I said.

“Then let’s go on a picnic.”

“No.”

“Do you want to talk?”

“No.”

“Are you OK?”

“Yes.” And so on and so on. I spoke as monotone and as monosyllabic as I possibly could.

Eventually she persuaded me to go on a picnic. K planned everything. She picked me up at 8pm on a very cold October night. I had no idea where we were going, and I didn’t ask. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember saying much at all on that half-hour drive. We ended up at Salem Pond, a place K learned about only a week or so before because someone had brought her there to make out. I remember the place was well lit. The grass was frozen, and the trees were anointed with frost. The trees, the lights and the little hillside where we sat reflected in the water, which only doubled the beauty of the place.

K set a blanket on the frozen grass. She had sparkling cider (neither one of us drank alcohol), grapes, some crackers and a couple of plastic champagne glasses. She was wearing her mink coat and pumps (that’s what she always called them), and she was doing her best to lighten the mood. I wasn’t biting. I sat there as stoic as can be. She decided to talk about us. I let her know, there was no us.

“How can that be? We had an incredible week. You’re trying to tell me that you feel nothing.”

“Yes,” I said.

That’s when K started crying.

“DAMN KENT! DAMN STAN! DAMN DEVIN!” With each name she screamed, she would wave her champagne glass full of sparkling cider to and fro. Sparkling cider was flying everywhere. I was a bit nervous for her mink coat. At age thirty, K was sick of the guys in her life, guys like me who didn’t feel like committing, and she wanted answers. So I gave her one.

“You have the biggest brick wall built around you, and no one can get through.” Looking back I think that was probably the dumbest thing I ever said. Frankly, I have no idea what I even meant, but I felt better for saying it. We segued into a deep, meaningful discussion. I can’t remember any of it. All I remember is before long, K was sitting in my lap, and we stayed on that blanket for close to two hours.

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