Weather records for Austin, Texas on Feb 11, 2011 show there wasn't any precipitation, but I distinctly remember the oil paint reflections of traffic lights on pavement as I weaseled my little black PT cruiser into a parking spot outside Book People, Austin's most beloved independent book store.
I also remember wearing these shoes. Yes it's an old iPhone selfie. No, I'm not proud.
Actually, I remember the whole all-black outfit: footless tights, short ponte di roma dress, silk Josie Natori obi belt and some sort of long sleeve jersey thing that draped asymmetrically high across the neck and over the opposite shoulder and had to be safety pinned to my bra strap with pins I'd Sharpie'd black.
It was more New Wave Belgian Dominatrix than my usual fare, but I was trying to branch out and the rest of my wardrobe did not allow for much in the way of poisonous Balmain stilettos.
I'd gone to Book People to buy a side-by-side translation of Pablo Neruda's Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.
I kept coming across what seemed like a wonky translation of his erotic Sonnet XII. There's a bit in there about "bruscas tempestades de harina" that I didn't (and still kind of don't) get.
What's supposedly so sexy about sudden squalls of flour?
I've had plenty of pantsless adventures in my day, some of which even included other people, but not once have I ever thought "you know what would make this already steamy mattress mambo even hotter? Gluten."*
|Beautiful. And Hot.|
As it happened, I approached it with the same fear and loathing I do of any place so self-congratulatory in its coolness. Head up but blinders on. I'd checked their online database, I knew the book was in stock. With luck I would be in and out before someone put a drum circle flyer on my windshield. The last time I had anything to do with a drum circle a white guy with ear hair and a dashiki spilled peach smoothie on my favorite Hermes. That'll put a girl off percussion for life.
I turned the corner to where the meticulously disaffected grad student told me I'd find my quarry
...and then I stopped breathing.
I'd like to say I didn't actually stop breathing, that at age 31 I was entirely too cool and self-possessed to be sent into respiratory failure by a pretty face. History, however, has not shown this to be the case. As I stood in front of the short but exceptionally well-formed young man standing between me and my Neruda, all I could focus on was not falling over.
He looked up.
Again, in the movie version, he would've quoted a line from Neruda. He was holding a book of his poems, though it wasn't the one I was after (that'd have to change, too). I don't remember what he said since every ounce of my admittedly limited willpower was dedicated to:
a) not falling over
b) not peeing
c) not saying something stupid
d) doing any combination of the above, which would be exponentially more embarrassing than any one individually.
I stood there in silence glowing like a traffic light and cursing my weird, inapproachable New Wave Belgian Dominatrix outfit.
I was also positive I was growing taller.
My height has never bothered me, even when I break 6'3" like I did in those Balmains, but as I looked at the diminutive dreamboat I had flashbacks of those documentaries about giant pandas where the narrator said bamboo could grow up to three feet a day. My mother was born in Hong Kong. Was it possible that I was half bamboo? Like how Harry Potter discovered he was a wizard at 11(I think. Potterites, forgive me if I'm wrong) I was going to discover I was a large Chinese grass at 31?
(portrait of the artist as a young plant)
I think you're getting the picture of my mental state.
Words did come out, Lord knows what they were, but I kept both my bamboo narrative and my bodily fluids internalized so I considered that a win.
By the time the panicked squirrel that is my brain returned from whatever astral plane it had decided to visit, we (Hot Latin Boy, not my mind-squirrel) were merrily chatting about proper football. I found out he played but was also an environmental engineer and budding artist in town for a street art festival. He was half Guatemalan and grew up in a small town outside Tijuana. He was also just as terrified of me.
The rest fell into place pretty nicely.
We got to know each other --though not in the biblical sense-- while he was in town and did the long distance thing for a few months. The Death of Print Media released me with a tidy severance package that allowed me to spend the summer in a cliffside villa on the Pacific, about an hour and a half away from his village. I'd been toying with the idea of moving to Mexico to teach English and live on the cheap anyway, so it was a test run of both the country and the companion.
It's a testament --to what I don't know, but to something-- that our meeting was the only moment of truly high drama in what has turned out to be a delightfully peaceable relationship.
I remember telling him, after the initial shock wore off, that it was as if my soul said "Oh, there you are, I thought you'd be taller. Let's get on with it."
He thought I'd be shorter.
We've been getting on with it for two years and a day. I'm still not shorter and he's still not taller, and neither of us particularly cares. I never got that Neruda translation, but moving to Mexico has made my DIY versions easier. Now I'll never have to go to Book People again and brave those smug hipsters again. And THAT's what true love is really about.
*Note: I sort of get it now. If we take the word harina to mean corn-based masa harina instead of harina de trigo (wheat flour), it makes a little more sense. Freshly milled masa has a warm, earthy, slightly sweet musky fragrance that in the perfume world would be described as a skin scent, and although I don't quiver with erotic desire each time I make tortillas, I can make that mental leap a bit easier than I could with plain old all-purpose wheat flour.