Love and Other Splendid Things

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Someone asked me once: How do you know what love feels like?

I looked up at him and his eyes were drifting behind our waitress as she walked away, like two flies hovering over a compost pile. I said: You just do. It’s like an instinct. It kicks on when you need it.

Does it make you feel kinda warm and fuzzy inside whenever you are around her?

It might. It’s different with everyone and even feels different each time. It morphs like a virus. Trust me. You don’t want to catch it.

He looked at me over his coffee. His eyes narrowed and his forehead pinched together. He said: It sounds like a disease.

That’s a good description. I smiled. His hands were rubbing the cup between his large palms. He had nice hands.

Is there a cure? he asked. There was amusement in his sand-colored eyes. He had nice eyes. I didn’t dare look at them too long.

Yeah, it’s called marriage. I laughed. It was two short bursts of energy escaping my lips, two syllables you might see in print in the funny papers while reading Mutt and Jeff on a Sunday morning while sipping coffee and eating burnt toast, with two ankle biters sitting in high chairs, the boy in front of him and the girl sitting in her booster seat next to me, face puckered and red and wrinkly like she’s ready to cry, and dishes piled up high in the kitchen sink, and the smells of the dirty laundry emanating from the laundry basket beside my chair mixing with the kitchen odors in the air. My eyes watered. Yup, I said, it’s called marriage.

Michelle, he said, then hesitated until I looked at him. Somewhere in the middle of my dissertation about love and marriage I had gotten distracted by a little girl with food all over her face sitting in the next booth. I don’t know if I told you, reader but his eyes were the color of the desert. He had nice eyes. And his hands were nice too. He had something in his hand, a small felt covered box, the kind rings come in. He put it on the table in front of me and said: Michelle, I want you to cure me. It opened. Something inside the box caught the light and held it so I couldn’t see his eyes anymore. I didn’t hear any more of what he was saying. Only the ringing in my ears. Then something hit me. I think it was the floor.

When I opened my eyes again, Hank was holding me up in his hands. He was carrying me someplace and everyone in the restaurant was clapping, even the little red-haired girl I had been staring at earlier wondering if I would ever have a little red- haired girl like that someday. I’ve got red hair. Hank called me Fyrecurl. The ring I had seen in the box, the one with the big rhinestone the size of a quarter that caught the light and ate it, I think it was a rhinestone, it was on my third finger. He put it on the wrong finger, I thought. I was going to chastise him but then he took my breath away again and said: Looks like we’re going to have to cure each other. Hank smiled.

Reader, did I tell you he had a nice smile?

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