12 Years Ago…

Scene One
“I know too but I’m not telling,” I answered when my mom’s half grin faded.
“Maybe it’s the same person. Come on, tell me and I’ll tell you if you’re right,” she pleads, well aware I’m stubborn as whatever-is-most-mulish.
“No.” I think the conversation is over but now I’m curious. I pause an extra second at the front door, stare at my mother. I’ve seen the trench coat in my dreams, that much coming back to me afternoons when I’d rather be feeling normal. I only know one man who wears a trench and I’m not sure he’s someone I want to marry, but I’m getting to know him out of respect for a year of visions informing me I’m three steps from matrimony. Since I’m happily single, gave up on the possibility of sane dating two years earlier and shy away from any man who suggests I’m attractive, these visions stand alone in a mind otherwise taken up with staying solvent and sober around my relationship with money.
Several words and a minute later I’m back at her kitchen table, folding a little note with Mr. Trench Coat’s name on it, and passing it to my mom as she passes me a small white folded secret she told herself not to tell until after our wedding.
She looks back up at me after reading the name I revealed, wags her head, clicking, “No no… really?”
I sit with her revealed secret, a knot forming in my stomach. The name she wrote, well, he’s a nice guy and really we are getting to be friends. But marriage? I remember the weekend before when he and I spent the day together avoiding the official meeting room at an all day conference. Instead we sat in the halls reading story books in choppy accents to stray children bored with their own classes, visiting with older Baha’i’s who also had trouble sitting through meetings and laughed almost continually. At one point, after returning from the conference book store, I found him in an empty class room looking at a lesson display. “He’d be attractive if he took care of himself,” I thought, looking at his shaggy hair and faded jeans. “Too bad.” At the time it was a fleeting thought followed by nothing. Now, looking at his name, knowing my mom thinks he and I will one day meet to share vows, well, that is too much.
Laughing, I exclaim, “Mom, I will never marry him!”I mean it too. Then I’m down the stairs and in my car, heading for a marriage preparation retreat being offered in a university town about two hours away (I know, Divine humor perfectly timed).
Scene Two
After the marriage preparation retreat’s introduction session, as everyone heads out for dinner at a Chinese Buffet, I start to wonder if that guy from the halls of last weekend’s conference will be attending. His older brother and fiance are the retreat’s hosts, quite fitting as their wedding is next weekend. I don’t know anyone here very well, having only moved downstate a couple months before. Long ago I was childhood friends with the bride to be, but now we’re starting over, getting to know who we’ve each become. I like her fiance. He’s easy to talk to, reminds me of Tigger (that will be his name from now on) and seems to be always smiling. Tigger’s younger brother is The One in my mom’s mind, but to me he’s just a cool person I laughed with easily and I wonder why he isn’t at the retreat yet. He’s the right age, lives in the same town and all his friends are here.
I approach Tigger, “Hey, will your brother (that will now be his name) be joining us?” I think I’m simply inquiring after a new friend. He thinks I’m interested in his cute little brother (years would pass before I knew what Tigger was thinking as he joyfully trotted off to get his young sibling).
Scene Three
I’m surrounded by red, ornate woodwork, painted bowls and sizzling rice soup. I know the people I sit with by name but only faintly as the individuals they are. I’m happy they accept my presence though I’m new to the group and from out of town. Actually, I know them as a single entity, “the group of twenty-somethings from this university town.”
“He doesn’t have a phone or a car.” says one.
“I could go without a car, but I need a phone.” says another.
“Is it socially responsible to be so cut off?” ponders a third.
They’re talking about Brother. “What?!” I think. “Socially responsible? This is a ridiculous conversation.” Aside from those brief thoughts, I am simply there, another face at the round table, spooning egg foo young into my mouth.
A few minutes later, Tigger and Brother walk up.
Brother looks at me (that woman who lives two hours away) and asks, “What are you doing here?”
“Well you’re here because I asked after you!” I think. But since my mouth is full, I raise an eyebrow, swallow, smile and state the obvious, “I’m here for the retreat.”
Scene Four
Brother and I agree to go on a quick errand to buy ketchup for the next group meal. Now that we’re over an irritating re-introduction from the night before and full swing into the study of marriage through The Baha’i Writings, he and I are laughing easily, probably annoying the facilitator. I see he’s trying to be patient with us, but what can one do when the giggles take hold. No doubt he’s relieved the two of us are out for a while.
There we are in the grocery store, ambling through produce, stopping every few feet, laughing too hard to walk straight, doubled over half the time. Finally into the land of boxes and bottles, I look up.
“What are we getting?”
“I thought you remembered?”
“I’ve been following you!”
“I’ve been following you!”
An hour later we walk into Tigger’s house with a large bottle of ketchup.
Scene Five
Another quiet Sunday. No plans. I call a friend. “Want to go for a road trip? I feel like driving on the highway.” Long drives help me think. I take day trips like this to visit out of town friends almost weekly, but today I don’t want to travel alone.
“Let’s go to university town two hours away.”
“Okay, cool.”
I decide visiting Brother sounds fun. I know where he lives since I gave him a ride home the week before at the end of the retreat.
We arrive at 1pm. Brother opens the door, still coming out of a nap we disturbed. Again, he looks at me like I have a third eye for showing up in a place he knows I don’t live and at an unexpected time, only now he’s smiling.
Seconds after he opens the door, I am overcome with a deja dream. I have experienced this moment before, when I was sound asleep: the cream colored carpet, him surrounded by the glow of track lighting, my friend beside me in the doorway. Only in the dream, Brother’s face was blacked out. In the dream I’m aware that I’m visiting the The One I will marry. Now, I’m wide awake. For a brief second, everything goes silvery and my head feels light as a feather. I pull a deep breath into my abdomen, focus my eyes on a far wall and tell my face to act natural and smile.
In Case You Were Wondering
My mom had to wait until March, when we asked for consent, to get in a good, “I told you so!” What she actually said at that sacred moment was, “Well it’s about time!”

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