I fell in love that fall. E. was someone I’d met the spring of our freshman year, and it had been his voice that had started it. My back had been turned during an audition in a cramped classroom, florescent lights glared down on the scripts we were studying, and I’d felt a jolt of attraction when I wasn’t even looking. There was a part in a play I really wanted, but when I heard his voice, I wanted him too. We both got roles and did the play together. I set the attraction aside because I told myself that I was still promised to the father of my baby. “He’s not available anyway,” a friend told me and explained that E. had plans to join the monastery after graduation.
But a few weeks into my junior year, E. and I ran into one another at an anti-war demonstration. Riot police were chasing down students at the courthouse in St. Cloud, and I hung back, shaking. It would be hard to run away in my body cast, and instead of heading for where the action was, E. stayed near me. What was it with this guy, I wondered, as I recalled he’d also offered to donate a pint of blood to defray some of the expenses of the six-pint transfusion I’d received during my surgery. He didn’t seem to want anything from me, and whenever our paths crossed, I found myself thinking about him for days afterwards.
Now, a year and a half since I’d met him at the audition, the soft-rough combo of his flannel shirts and the denim of his jeans were irresistible. He smelled like everything good in Minnesota that fall—leaves, crystal air with the promise of snow, black earth, and apples. I was still in my body cast and couldn’t drive. I needed someone with a car to help me gather set pieces for a production of The Matchmaker. We were looking for a turn of the century barber chair, an ornate hall tree, tables and bentwood chairs.
We spent afternoons burnished by pumpkin-colored sunsets driving through the flat Minnesota countryside to antique stores. Birch trees flashed by; white-hot warning signals telling us that love was coming while I tried to keep my mind on furniture. His Dodge was old and smelled like all cars that have been through a decade of winters—the rubbery stink of slushy boots, the burn of the heater coated with the dust of summer dying to the odorless scent of a hard freeze. The air was brisk and dry. You could give yourself an electric shock touching the metal door handle. But that was nothing compared to the current of desire. I imagined sparks—hot orange, red and yellow pulled from the palate of trees lining the road. My idea of setting things right by marrying the father of my baby was getting harder to hold on to. Setting things right would have to happen some other way.
photo credit: Brainerd.com