Mike is picking me up from the airport, so I waste no time getting off the plane and out to the front of Reagan International. I’m wearing a black halter and my favorite skirt, one I bought years before from an Indian clothing store, wine-colored with beading in the front, flowing down to drag the dirty curb where cars come to pick up the recently arrived. I carry my small, yellow vinyl carry-on and hope that this man I have only seen once, four weeks earlier, will recognize me in a sea of happy homecomings. As it happens, I’m not even sweating on this hot July day when he swings the passenger door inches from my eager hands.
I climb in and he offers me a bouquet of flowers, freshly picked from the roadside on his way to meet me. Which, if you know anything about picking flowers and hot summer days, you know is a terrible idea. They are all shriveling and bent over, exhausted: an obvious contrast to our swelling excitement. Here we were, finally, close enough to smell one another, able to see the smiles we had so often heard.
Those four intervening weeks had been a blur of ever-extending phone calls. We found ourselves agreeing often, including an agreement that we would never date each other. I always hated dating. By the time I was allowed to start dating, I was ready to be married. Past ready. In fact, I think I was born ready. All through Elementary school, I had a huge crush. During that time, AIDS was discussed on the news and it rocked my world, my little eight-year-old world. That night, I decided that even if the guy I was in love with got AIDS, I would marry him anyway. Commitment was the easy part for me. The hard part was dating.
What I definitely did not want was a boyfriend. I’d had plenty already, which was helpful, I suppose. I knew what I couldn’t take and what I couldn’t live without. I knew my aversions to tall men and atheists as well as my undeniable attraction to creative, arrogant fellows who found life fascinating…especially the Irish ones.
So along comes this pale-faced red-head, a perfect four inches taller than me, traveling around singing the soulful songs he'd written. Interesting. Then I find out we have a lot in common: our backgrounds, our beliefs, our perspectives and life goals. A week later, we’re talking every day, for hours, finding out all the things we have in common. Of course, we both want to find that someone. Who doesn’t want that, really? So we both start thinking that maybe this is it and decided to meet up in DC, where I’m traveling for a video shoot anyway. He grew up just outside DC, so we plan to spend the night at his parent’s house.
There is just enough time for a museum visit before heading to his parents for dinner, lounging in the yard, and a quick tuck-in before bed. It’s the tuck-in that does it for me. Mike is wearing a thin sleeping shirt and I can just make out a beautiful tattoo on his left bicep. Having a special weakness for nice arms and beautiful tattoos, I ask to get a better look and he explains when and why he got it. Then the clincher- he describes the tattoo he really wants.
At the top of his back there is another tattoo, of an abstracted sun. Below this, as if basking in its light, he pictures a scientific-style drawing of a rose bush, with the largest two roses labeled as his wife and himself, and the smaller ones labeled as his children. SOLD! It is clear to me that whatever we may have thought we were doing, we have actually spent a month putting one another on trial, allowing ourselves to be questioned as thoroughly as possible in an attempt to discover if we could love one another. We have been witness and judge, we have examined and cross –examined. All that is left for me is to know that my love will not be given in vain, to know that I am with someone whose commitment is as sure as mine. A gigantic tattoo seems like an excellent indication of that. How much did he already love his family to come up with such a beautiful way of expressing that love for them? How could I not want with all my heart to be the one named as his wife? To be the one who gets to make those little rosebuds with him?I am his for the having and the holding.