>> Friday, May 8, 2009 – Stories in my Pocket
I jostled into Texas on an eighteen wheeler. Everything to my name sat stacked in a tiny corner of the truck, wearing the original bubble wrap of wedding gifts yet to be plugged in, dishes yet to see a sink.
A family friend had offered me and my inaptly named Isuzu "Trooper" a ride on his western route. He averaged about one word an hour during the 20 hour drive. It was perfect, really. I didn't need to be chatted up like I was getting my hair cut. I was content to drift in and out of daydreams.
We turned into a tired parking lot shadowed on either side by blue-tinted brick two stories tall. I ran into the office to get the key.
"You got yursef an ice box, and stove and such. Rent's due top a tha munth." my landlord drawled. The ancient TV blared as if yelling to be recognized and rescued, lost in a sea of junk. There were three cats, as best I could count. The friendly one rubbed her ears against my jeans as I signed my married name the same way I doodled it during a tedious history lecture a couple years back. Now it was for real.
"Month to month, right, for military?" I asked the question to which I already knew the answer. But what I really wanted to know was how long these sixty days would feel, and what the heck was an ice box.
The untrusty Trooper and I were unprepared for the gushes of biting cold that tumbled February weeds across the northern Texas horizon. It took several tries before the old truck woke and sputtered a slow hello to her new neighbors. In five minutes flat, my belongings traveled from the bed of the truck to the floor of my apartment. It's possible there was more living space on the semi. Fortunately, we were as short on stuff as we were on space.
It was time to unpack the beginning.
Though he marched less than a mile away, I was still 24 hours from a reunion with my groom. It was tech school, after all, and most were kids just a couple years beyond their first driver's license. The Air Force doled freedom sparingly in the form of an occasional day pass. And there was to be no special treatment for the 23 year old newlywed.
So while he saluted and studied, I sorted and folded and hung the fabric of our future in the tiny space we shared (then unknowingly) with roaches and mildew.
Continue to Part 2.
The hopes of what we might become piled far higher than the worries of losing what little we had. Our heads were packed wall to wall with promise while our hands swung unburdened.
I picked an empty cart out of the line up and swerved wobbly wheeled past the produce. Floating through the commissary, I collected everything from the pantry basics my mother had assured me we'd need to the frozen appetizers my mother would never have bought.
Next I found shelter for the groceries in the meager shelving and antique fridge. (Oooh, this must be the ice box!) The kitchen boasted no three-pronged outlets, so my shiny new mixer churned out chocolate mousse on the living room floor, under the shadow of the arm chair with more than a spring loose. Sit at your own risk, I would smirk and warn, when I gave him the grand tour.
Oh yes, the tour. When he finally came home--so strange that it was our home--I proudly led him room to room, cupboard to closet, reciting bargain prices on everything from orange juice to cinnamon bread. He stopped me halfway through the grocery inventory.
"You bought microwave popcorn?"
"Yes, isn't that the kind you like?"
"Yes, no, I mean, it's great. But, I was just wondering. Did you buy a microwave?"
It was only the first in a long line of stories where I would serve as the punch line. We grinned and dreamed out loud about the next place we'd live. We'd keep the popcorn. No sense taking it back. Someday soon we'd have a microwave and a place to plug it in.
We were never richer in hope than when it was all we had, still undashed and only slightly deferred.