Not a Concussion, but Maybe a Slight Butt Bruise

The past four days have knocked me squarely on my rear. Three flights, up and down, up and down. My things, my books. His things, his books.

His friends. My friends. Family. Lots of help.

My bike, his shelves. Bags of clothes, boxes of DVDs. Different copies of Catcher in the Rye, American Gods, The Shipping News, The Road. Same copies of Norton. That’s what you get when English majors fall in love with each other. Conversations about Harold Bloom and Stephen Greenblatt. Also about Mad Men, Buffy, and the Utah Jazz.

And also about how we’re going to play basketball against his brother and sister-in-law and win. Of course we’ll win.

His Spanish books. My French ones. Comparisons of the forthcoming lune de miel/luna de miel.

And maybe blushing a little.

Putting together three more six-foot shelves. Lining the walls in the guest room. We’ve called it the study. But there are also his guitars and amp and my clarinet.

Thank goodness for cheap particle board. Precedes first-anniversary paper, which becomes appropriate in a year and 32 days. My bike tool with several types of screwdrivers and miniature wrenches works with a former roommate’s hammer. The books now have a home. They didn’t like the floor. I didn’t like them on the floor.

Someday they’ll actually be organized.

I threw away four boxes of school papers that were not appropriate for a first anniversary. Much easier than I thought it would be.

My diploma cover waits for a BYU diploma. It waits to sit next to a diploma from the University of Utah.

The irony of his blue Snuggie and my red one.

We have his television. His Playstation. My Wii.

My spices. His boxes of cereal.

When we run out of food, at least we’ll have books. We can eat those, but most likely the mass-market paperbacks first.

People have been so generous with the registry. Thank you.

Newly developed photos of a recent bridal shoot. His black suit and purple tie. My white dress and purple bouquet.

My Reilly. His May.

His past stories, mine. Share now to make future ours.

More conversations, more time together. More love and acceptance than I have ever known.

Sitting upright, legs out like a doll’s, disoriented. Sore. I shake myself present. The moment comes into focus. These past four days, damn.

Our happiness. All ours.

Ingrid Michaelson, Salt Lake City, April 19, 2012

Last Thursday after commencement, some friends and I went to the Ingrid Michaelson concert at In the Venue in Salt Lake City. The music was fun, and Harper Blynn opening for her made the show extra special.

On several occasions, Harper Blynn was the backup band for Ingrid’s husband, Greg Laswell. They’re good friends. So it feels like a nice little community when the openers are friends with the headliners. Then I talk as if I’m friends with all of them. If only I were a smidge as cool.

I still tend to call Harper Blynn by their former name, Pete & J, and I have autographed Pete and J albums, but I don’t have any Harper Blynn ones. Which I need to fix. Anyway, Harper Blynn performed their cover of Beyonce’s “Halo,” and they did their usual brilliant job of it.

Ingrid performed a lot from her new album, Human Again, but she also played some older tunes.

My friends and I ended up standing behind two tall couples, whose PDA was pretty gross. We started out behind some shorter people, but we were also underneath a glaring hot light, so we wove our way through the crowd and somehow decided being behind those couples was better. At least it was cooler. And when one of the guys slouched to hug his girlfriend/wife, I got to see Ingrid on stage for about five seconds! I felt tall and amazing.

We sang along and laughed and despite being behind tall people who knew they were blocking our view, the concert was a lot of fun. Totally different than the last time, almost a year and a half ago, when we waited outside in line for over an hour and then walked into 5 inches of snow after the concert ended. This time we walked out into slightly cool air and clear skies.

If my camera weren’t broken, I would post pictures. Alas.

Here’s the setlist:

Fire
Palm of Your Hand
Soldier
Parachute
Do It Now
Blood Brothers
Ghost
Fools Rush In (Elvis Presley cover)
The Way I Am
San Francisco
In the Sea
This Is War
Overboard
Black and Blue
Ribbons

Encore:

Maybe
You and I
Chain

They Say It’s Tacky to Include Registry Information with the Announcement

This past Saturday a friend threw a bridal shower where a few of my favorite people in the world came. She and her sisters brought a lot of good and refreshing food and drink, like

strawberries
chips and salsa
veggie tray of carrots, celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas
chocolate chip cookies
ginger snaps
apple juice
lemonade
root beer

We sat around and talked for a little bit. Some people got reacquainted, like Amy and my mom. Did I mention my mom was in town? She is the incontestable coolest person in the world.
Some people got to know each other for the first time.

These people came:
Cynthia
Helen
Emilia
My mom
Maddie
Pleasy
Kylie
Amy
Reilly’s mom also came toward the end of the party.

Those people brought these gifts, most of which are from Bed Bath & Beyond, where Reilly and I are registered. As they are listed, the gifts do not correspond to the guest order:
salt and pepper shakers
placemats
coasters
finger paint
canisters
book about who to marry
bedding/comforter
hand mixer
90-minute massage

Gifts surprise me. It thrilled me to receive them. It sometimes blows my mind that people like us so much.

We played the game where two teams create dresses made out of toilet paper. I have creative friends, and they made beautiful dresses. And my mom was the model for one of the teams. She was a very good model.

Then Cynthia read us a children’s story on who to choose for marriage. It was cute, and all the advice applied to how I chose Reilly.

This is a very scattered post. And I have used a ton of passive voice. College has destroyed my thinking and writing ability.

Am I really getting married in 35 days?

Weird Final Final Exam

We took a quiz.

Then we started the final.

I drank some water, ate some grape Hi-Chews.

Then groups started leaving, taking turns for their oral presentations.

My partner and I gave our presentation after I worked on the final for an hour and forty-five minutes.

Go, de Gaulle! Go, Sartre! Go Picasso and your pointy desmoiselles!

We spent about six minutes on the presentation. Go, Modernisme!

Then I spent about 30 more minutes on the final. Double checking answers and writing the last essay question.

Then I put it on the narrow wheelie table at the front of the class.

Then I left the room.

And I realized I wouldn’t have to take another French final for the rest of my life.

Or at least take a quiz, a final, and give a presentation in the same period of time.

Or go back to BYU.

Probably.

It’s the craziest feeling.

Tomorrow is commencement.

And Friday is the convocation.

My mom is here.

She’s proud of me.

I guess I am, too.

Christmas Day, 2011, at Jacksonville Beach

I check my pockets.

I check them again.

I check the curb.

We had finished brushing the sand off our feet and rolling down our pants legs. The sun was setting, and the air was cooling considerably in the past hour. We are in Florida, and it is December. Christmas, in fact.

Familiar white noise of my childhood somehow keeps me calm. The shore froths and foams at low tide. The beach stretches for miles, and the horizon produces muted purples and blues with a backglow of pink. Flat clouds gather and blend into the greying blue above us. Seagulls congregate along the softened zig-zag margin where the rolling waves stop on the sand. We know those birds are wondering why we are there. They probably already know.

After we put our shoes back on, I tell Reilly that we have to walk on the beach again, because I don’t have the keys.

He checks his pockets, too. We spin in place and look at the asphalt and adjoining sidewalk; the keys could appear as quickly they disappeared.

We had walked a least a mile on the beach. The sand, the sea, the pelicans could have swallowed the keys. We need to retrace our steps.

We start on the land bridge connecting the asphalt and the great expanse of sand. I look up the coast to the pier where we started walking.  We begin our search together then decide it might be better to divide and conquer.

Just minutes ago we watched a parascender float through the air while a speedboat pulled him, and now our eyes focus on the sand, and I try to recall our exact path. I realize that I didn’t really pay attention to our steps, because we were lost in conversation, in each other. My heart pounding in my ears matches the volume of the ocean waves playing Yahtzee on the shore. White and static bounced and tumbled in different combinations. Did it ever roll all sixes? On a day like today, I would say yes.

On our walk down, we occasionally noticed the sun’s descent, the temperature’s decrease, and kids running around or writing in the sand. We had walked mostly on the packed sand, and the balls of my feet had nearly rubbed raw until we walked up toward the dunes where the sand was softer.

On the walk back, Reilly is 50 yards ahead. While we scan the sand, I sometimes look up the miles of coast. I notice certain landmarks that we passed the first time: sandcastles, holes and little plastic shovels, piles of seaweed, where people had written in the sand, a jellyfish.

The worst-case scenario crosses my mind. I am not worried that we wouldn’t get back to my parents’ house.  I don’t have anyone’s number memorized. If we could get into the car, then maybe I could get my cell phone and get a ride back to the Westside.  That would be easy enough.

But that is not the worst-case scenario.

The lost keys aren’t mine. They don’t belong to my family. I have them because I agreed to housesit and dogsit for my friend Jenny while she went on a Christmas trip with family. And she let us use her car. So I imagine having to explain how I lost the keys and why the dog is dead. I imagine poor little Henry the wiener dog lying stiff and unconscious by the front window of Jenny’s home waiting for Jenny’s car to pull up. But it wouldn’t be me in the car, because Jenny would have killed me for losing her keys. I would be dead. My ragdoll body would wash onto the shore days later while kids played catch with the keys we were looking for. And Reilly would have to explain awkwardly to my mom what happened.

This situation would be a much smaller deal if the keys were mine.

I have a feeling we wouldn’t find them on the beach, but at the same time, I want to get to the first part of our walk, where we rolled up our pants and let the water wash over our feet. I know that if the keys happened to drop into the water, there would be no chance of retrieving them. Not exactly a reassuring thought, but it is what I want to do.

We see a man scanning the beach with his metal detector. I ask him if he came across a set of keys. He says that he hasn’t. He asks if we lost them along the beach. I say that we did. He suggests we retrace our steps, to follow our path exactly the way we walked. That’s something we had never considered.  We know he is trying to be helpful, but we are just frustrated, and Henry is waiting for us. My brother is waiting for us. When he finishes talking, we thank him for his advice and part ways. The coast looks as long as ever.

We finally come to the spot by the pier where we stood in the ocean. Of course we don’t see any keys, and I hope that a seagull would drop them into my hands. The seagulls mock us instead. They would never lose their friends’ keys.

Then we start up toward the parking lot. We check by the sidewalk where we originally took off our shoes.  We reach the car and check the keyholes of the doors after we tried opening the doors.  We talk about making another sweep of the beach, and I sigh at the cooling breeze and darkening sky.

Reilly walks up to the pier’s entrance, to a small parks and rec office where people can buy fishing permits and supplies. I check the sand again where we first took off our shoes.  I keep wondering about Henry and having new keys made for the car and Jenny’s house and I kept telling myself how irresponsible I am and that I should have secured the keys instead of putting them in my back pocket.

Reilly comes down from the pier. I look at him, and he smiles and holds up a set of keys that I immediately recognize by the leather Harding University keychain. He says that someone found them and turned them in. We walk quickly to the car, and it feels so good to be able to unlock the door, text my brother to tell him we are on our way to dinner, and look forward to Henry’s tail wagging when we returned to Jenny’s house. It feels good to live.

Just before we put back on our shoes and started our search, we stood on the sand and watched the ocean. Our conversation had gotten quiet and after a few moments, Reilly said he had never been happier in his life and I began crying and he said that he really enjoyed spending the past few months with me and he wanted to spend his life with me, and he asked me for the chance to make me as happy as I’ve made him. He said, “I would love for you to have this” as he pulled out of his pocket a little black velvet box. I said that I would love to give him that chance, and I kept crying as he took the ring from the box and put it on my finger. I wiped the tears from my eyes.  We hugged tight and gently kissed. With his arm around me, we continued to stare at the ocean.

We put on our seat belts. I turn the key in the ignition. I check the side and rear view mirrors. I check the time, the headlights against the dusk. I check my phone after sending a mass text to all my friends. I check myself in the eyes of the man sitting next to me.

As we pull out of the parking lot, I check my hand.

I am engaged.

This Week

The trees still look lacy in their early bloom. The mountains still loom, as they always have, and they still do not scare me. They have protected me and given me a reason to wake up every morning.

In January 2010, I rebegan. Confident and cynical, I wanted to finish as quickly as I could. I had been in school long enough. I had been out of school long enough.

That first apartment, my bedroom window All that time looking at the mountains.

Classes have been wonderful. I’m grateful to have learned so much, but I wonder if I have turned into more of a cynic. BYU is a unique environment; I’ve come across a special kind of bigot here. Supposed soldiers of righteousness in an armor of hyp0crisy. At least it’s knee-length, I guess.

Those who aren’t idiots, the ones who have blessed me with their friendship, we can talk about the others. We wonder why marriage is infused into every church discussion; why certain professors say misogynist things or teach non-doctrine. Why these professors seem to be a part of an old-boys club who aren’t really professors.

Okay, so there’s that story of a teacher at a private, religious school who got fired for getting pregnant out of wedlock, and all I kept thinking about was Brandon Davies.

And negative feedback about the Muslim art exhibit at the Museum of Art.

The conversations take on a different tone, and I’m grateful for the contrasts in perspective.

BYU is a good school. I’ve appreciated my experience here, partly because of the classes, but mostly because of the friends. It’s hard to believe sometimes that I’m cool enough to be around all those young people. And I know that I talk as if I’m a few generations removed, but most of the time, it feels like there’s no age difference at all. Times like this, with graduation only six days away, does my life come into a different perspective.

Maybe I would have turned into one of those bitter people who aren’t really cynical but mostly sad and angry. If I didn’t have people to call and hang out with and go to concerts with and watch movies with and play games with, my experience here would have really sucked.

Maybe if professors hadn’t encouraged me to do things beyond the requirements for class or my major, my life wouldn’t be nearly as rich. Maybe if I decided not to risk my GPA by not going to Africa or minoring in French I would have deprived myself of some incredible memories and even better friends.

Friends! What if I hadn’t decided to move in August 2011? What if the circumstances weren’t perfect for me meeting this Reilly guy? Would I still have met him? I probably would have managed not knowing what I was missing, but it’s so hard to imagine my life taking another direction.

I close my eyes, and I’m in the Marriott Center. I’m in my blue cap and gown. I look for my mom and her husband in the crowd of friends and families, and I wave to them again. Reilly’s there, too. Maybe others. Hopefully others. I look around at my classmates, and I see quite a few faces that I recognize, and I’m glad to be graduating with them. I look toward the professors, and I remember everyone who has cheered for me during this time in my life, and think I couldn’t have been luckier, more fortunate, more blessed.

The arena is the mountain range. I am in the valley. The faces I see are facades of ridges and crevices and looming cliffs and majestic peaks; familiar terrain, steady, solid. The reason I will keep waking up.

It is time to begin again.