This one came a bit easier than the earlier one but it feels a bit scrunchy, like a wickedly wavy hair scrunchy. Although a hair scrunchy is supposed to be wickedly wavy and this story probably isn’t–not intentionally. 😉
It was the summer of 2007 when I was ten that me and my big sister, Megan, were sitting on the back deck of my grandparents’ vacation home in Southern Shores. The lot backed onto wetlands and woods where the katydids, cicadas, and frogs created a beautiful, although sometimes cacophonic chorus. Megan was brushing a fuchsia color over her toenails when our parents stepped onto the deck with a formally dressed Marine, who’s attire seemed incongruous with our shorts, tank tops and flip-flops.
“Mrs. Landry? I’m sorry—”
And, Megan folded into herself, her sobs erasing the sounds of nature, perhaps even giving them pause. Her husband, Rob, never got to meet Roberta—Robbie–who’s was born six months later.
Fourteen years later, Megan, Robbie, and I sit on the deck of my grandparents’ vacation home and listen to the katydids. It’s the first time that we’ve all gotten together in over a year. The pandemic has left its mark. We nearly lost grandpop who still suffers from the effects of what they call long-term covid. And, I lost my fiancé, not to death but to a woman in his apartment building who he saw far more than me for months on end. Robbie, however, has fallen in love over the internet with a boy in Scotland who sounds like a poet and who promises to visit next year because he’s attending Johns-Hopkins and won’t be far.
“He’s too old for you,” Megan repeats time and again.
“Not in five years,” Robbie answers time and again.
And, Megan remarried. Geoff’s a computer guru, who knows nothing about guns or warfare (except for the virtual kind, where he’s something of a star and has even waged virtual war in Las Vegas and won) and never wants to know.
Megan hands me a sangria and we toast. For a moment, with all of the nature sounds erupting around us, I’m placed back an eternity ago. Megan must feel it too because she glances at me, wipes away a couple of tears, and shakes her head.
“Mom, what’s wrong?” Robbie asks.
“Nothing. I was just in a place from the past and it bit me in the ass.”
Robbie doesn’t question. She was born with innate understanding and empathy. She’s a young old person. She knows that although her mother loves Geoff, that her mother’s soulmate was her father, even further than death do part.
I sip my sangria and feel happy, with family and katydids and the frog chorus. There’s a great peace in not feeling or having expectations other than the very simple kinds.
And then, there he is. Eddie with his stupid guitar and stupid smile on his face crossing the deck alongside Geoff.
“This guy says he knows you all,” Geoff says.
Megan giggles and I hate her for a moment.
“Hey, Eddie, long time,” she says.
Eddie is staring at me and then I’m hating him for a moment too.
“I saw the old VW bus in the drive and hoped—“
“That Zooey might be here?” Megan supplies.
He shrugs. I blush. And there’s a displaced giggle, probably Megan again.
Suddenly, before I can understand how Megan orchestrated it, Eddie and I are alone on the deck amidst the nature chorus. He grins and looks almost bashful.
“I need to make amends. Apologize,” he says.
I raise an eyebrow.
“I didn’t handle it well when I found out you were engaged. I just kind of figured that, well, you and me were something special.”
That was not what I expected him to say. In fact, I’d never suspected he felt that way.
“I loved you from the first time I saw you on the beach—”
“After the jellyfish stung me?”
He grins. “Yeah. I wanted to be your knight in shining armor.”
“You were. You got me back here,” I say, remembering how painful that sting had been and how appreciative I’d been for the surfer boy who’d pretty much carried me to my grandparents’ beach house.
“But love?” I ask.
“There’s never been anyone else for me. Sometimes you just know.”
I close my eyes and shake my head because I’d always thought the same about him until that night when he seemed to be singing to another girl, staring at her as if she’d meant something to him. “But that night when you were singing to Kara.”
“Kara. My best gay friend Kara? And, I was singing ‘I’ll Stand By You?’”
I bury my face in my hands. He pries my fingers away. He’s next to me, close enough for me to smell the scent of the outdoors clinging to him, his cinnamon gum, and to want to taste his lips.
“Like I said, there’s never been anyone else.”
He pulls me close, and I hang on to him. Maybe it’s been the stress of the past couple of years, all of the world’s stupidity that I felt on a cellular level, but holding him, feeling his skin warm against mine feels sacred.
“Do you hear them?” he asks.
“The katydids. There hasn’t been a day since I first laid eyes on you that hearing them hasn’t brought you to mind.”
He kisses me then and I let him, welcome him. And the taste of cinnamon brings me to a place I remember, to a place I didn’t know was home until just now.
So Google told me that katydids are found in all continents except for Antarctica but I didn’t know if they sounded the same everywhere so I thought I’d find a recording of the ones we’re used to hearing on the Atlantic Coast of the US.