29 Years Ago
by Jacinda Little
29 years ago…
A little boy sits on the edge of my mother’s green tweed couch, his eyes exploring the length of the fishing rod in his hands. His fisted hand circles…in make-believe of reeling…pulling in an imaginary fish. Meanwhile, he tips an ear toward his father’s conversation, as fishing questions and answers are exchanged.
On the other side of that fishing conversation is my father – detailing the steps necessary to casting the line, controlling the slack, hooking a fish, and removing the fish from the hook.
The little boy’s eyes remain wide. His sideways attention focuses on the information his father gathers. His hands move with quiet wonderment – reeling, feeling, and dreaming with his new pole. Well, it’s new to him.
My father is handing over one of his fishing poles for the sake of a young boy who has the desire to fish. The boy’s father is learning, so that he can teach his son.
From the kitchen, I secretly peer around the living room wall at this six year old kid. I think, so different than the others I know. He’s quiet. He hangs on his father’s every word. He’s determined, in his own six-year-old way, to successfully reel in the big one. He must live in a home much like mine. He seems to be like me.
4 years later…
I find myself in a strange but warmly welcoming home, with its own smell of roasting meat and apple pie. It is the home of the boy who’d been at my house for a fishing pole. I only know this because my father refreshes my memory.
I haven’t seen the boy since he’s been to my house for the pole. Even forgot his face until I see it again. It’s different now. Older, less quiet. In his own home, he’s comfortable, more talkative. He eats dinner with gusto, like he belongs there.
Today, I am the quiet, listening one.
After dinner, I find myself in the seat of a pickup truck. Also in the truck are the boy, his sister, and his mother. As his mother bends the truck along country roads on the way back from the market, my comfort level builds and we chatter as children do…about hilarious happenings in our own neighborhoods. About our pets. About our favorite doughnut and ice cream flavors.
Then…the conversation shifts. The boy suddenly decides that I’m stupid. That my stories are stupid. That I’m really not worth his breath. The ride is completed in silence, save the droning of country music and his mother’s occasional attempt at heightening our spirits.
On my way back home, my mom says that how little boys act when they don’t know how to express themselves. I decide that his stories were pretty stupid, too. But can’t seem to forget them.
10 years later…
My work in the office of a construction company delivers me right into the middle of male conversations. Talk of women, beer, and pending jobs flow freely through my adjoining office, and I have little sense of my own space.
Additionally, that space is invaded by a man...daily. Pleasing to the eye, his presence detracts from my attention to my job – annoys me into noticing his advances, and prompts me agree that yes, I would be at the company Christmas party that night.
At the party, dozens of people separate me from the man. But those people might as well be transparent, because he’s all I see.
His wide shoulders are rounded with easiness, his speech flowing with comfort as he stands surrounded by his peers. His laughter is physical, with a bend at the waist and a slap on his knee. He wipes his hand across his forehead and down over his right eye, a gesture that seems to wipe away laughter in preparation for the next joke.
When he approaches me, it is with a lanky gate, like that of a youthful Marlboro Man. The noisy dining hall seems to fall silent.
His blond and brown curls peek around tiny, perfect ears and grasp the edges of smooth cheekbones. His brown eyes are dark, like the mud under a shade tree the day after rain. His mouth is small with plump rosy lips. His rounded chin juts northward, as if wanting to touch his manly, adequate nose. He is packaged in smooth, tanned skin, the color of the desert at sunset.
His height and build should belong to a professional athlete, but are rather evident of his manual labor. His lengthy arms lead to calloused, crooked digits topped with wide, flat fingernails. His knuckles are broad. His hands are rough, yet sweet.
3 years later…
That wishing fisher boy, that insult-delivering 10-year-old, that curly-haired, genuine, good hearted man is now my husband. We hadn’t recognized each other at work, or at the Christmas party, or even during our first official date.
It wasn’t until our parents pointed out that we had met, years before, that we finally connected the faces of today to the faces of yesterday.
I still peek at him in secret amazement. He still listens to my stories (but without the insults). He still invades my space, but only because I’ve extended a lifelong invitation for him to do so.
The biggest change? He’s no longer fishing. He’s caught the one he wants…and I’ve been reeled in…without a fight.
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