The Price of Love and Toilet Paper
The boy knelt before the girl on the bow of the ship, sweating in his tuxedo, the Long Beach cityscape a sparkling backdrop for the momentous occasion of his proposal. “My love,“ he practically whispered, with tears in his eyes as he opened the small black box to reveal a most simple promise of a ring, “Will you marry me?” And there was a jolt and a rumble.
An immediate guess was that the Queen Mary had come to life after a quarter of a century in her berth. Only later was it discovered that an earthquake had occurred along the San Andreas fault at the exact moment of the proposal. Fate? Perhaps.
The girl, a hopeless romantic, was utterly surprised, having known the boy for only six months. She thought she might be in love with him, but she was certainly in love with the moment. Her beach-blonde hair caught the breeze as she said “Yes. Yes!” and they hugged in the moonlight. The party-goers greeted the news with great joy as the band announced the engagement and the celebration continued into the night.
But the next morning, the girl did not call home to tell her parents. At twenty-two, she feared their reaction to her impetuousness. They never supported her reckless move 3000 miles from home into an uncertain future, leaving behind the safety of a management track position in retail sales. And they never really liked the boy, whom they’d met only twice and who dropped out of college a semester shy of his degree to follow her to California and pursue a screenwriting career. She didn’t call her best friends, who were so impressed with her daring at leaving for lands unknown and a life of adventure while several were committing to marriage with High School boyfriends, some already starting families.
She tried to fit her dreams for her future into the span of a little gold band with its tiny “hope diamond.” The boy said that with great hope and hard work, one day he would make the stone grow much larger.
He was a poet.
They joined her friends in San Diego for Thanksgiving dinner. She introduced her fiancé as her boyfriend and hid her left hand under the table during the meal. She had yet to reveal the ring to anyone in three weeks. She believed that if it was a true love, she should be shouting from the rooftops with joy.
After dinner, the couple took a walk around the Naval base. The ring was returned. The couple vowed to stay together and promised to re-visit the marriage idea after they’d spent more time getting to know one another, their passions, their dreams.
They went back east for Christmas and drove back across the country together after the holidays. They split the cost of gas 50/50, though he never let her drive the car. His car. They got a one-room apartment off Franklin near Beachwood Canyon in Hollywood. She walked to her temp job. He drove to his production assistant position at a local sound stage and sometimes offered her a ride if it was convenient and if she paid her share of the gas.
When she went grocery shopping, he would calculate the approximate number of bowls of cereal in a box and then determine exactly how many bowls he expected to eat and pay that portion of the cereal cost. When he only anticipated having three sandwiches, he paid for six slices from the loaf of bread. When their friends threw a potluck party, he brought a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, snuck it in the cooler and pulled out a Heineken. He determined that he used less toilet paper than she did, after all he stood and dripped dry for 76% of his bathroom visits, so he paid for 24% of the toilet paper. Walking home alone with 100% of the groceries for which she’d be paying 63.5%, the calculations began to drive her mad. His not letting her drive his car was also driving her crazy.
They began to fight. A lot. She wondered if his actions were punishment for breaking his heart with the return of the engagement ring. The beautiful poet and writer who made her heart melt through his magical letters during the three months that they were apart before he’d followed her west virtually ceased to exist. He wrote nothing but tallies breaking down the rent and water usage. Her showers were longer and you know what that meant.
Eventually he moved out and she began paying 100% of the rent for the tiny apartment, but she was 110% relieved.
Years went by and she was working at a television station. She’d heard he’d given up on the screenwriting dream and had moved back home.
One day she got a call at her office. Her secretary said it was the boy she’d not heard from in half a dozen years. He told her that he was working as a personal trainer now. He’d recently shot a fitness video and heard she worked with a famous national talk show. He wondered if the hosts might consider having him on to promote his latest project. She was a bit surprised by the call, but was cordial and told him she could make no promises. However, if he sent her the video, she’d try to get it in the hands of one of the producers.
Several weeks went by and the opportunity to see the boy from her past who once had sweat on his brow on the bow of the Queen Mary now sweating on an exercise video never happened. Then she got another call. He told her that he’d given out all of the complimentary copies of his workout tape, but if she still wanted one, she could send him a check for $9.99 plus shipping and handling. No calculations were needed to determine that she’d made a wise emotional and financial decision when she returned the hope diamond for the hope of someday finding a better fit or a less costly connection.
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