Monday, February 20, 2012

I Forgot My Wallet, or, Why Freud Was Right.

She stood behind the cash register scanning a seemingly endless sea of dried noodles, dried meats, and dried fruit as they slowly made their way down the long black conveyor belt.  The mindless monotony at her job as a cashier made her feel numb.

Beep... Beep... Beep...

"I forgot my wallet!"  The man in the Tam o' Shanter frantically patted his chest, searching the fourteen million pockets in his camouflage vest attempting to locate his missing wallet.

I forgot my wallet.  That simple phrase tickled a memory deep in the recesses of her brain.  What was it?  She stood with a packet of noodles in her hand placed halfway into a plastic bag and cocked her head to the right in an attempt to pull the dusty memory forward into her consciousness.  She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and found her mind leaving the glaring, florescent-lit mini-mart to travel back in time.

There he was again, the freckled boy she remembered so fondly. They had spent nearly every day of their childhood together, rolling down hills, searching for frogs in the creek, or sometimes just relaxing, the summer sun on their face and cool green grass on their backs.  Their parents were long-time friends; their father's worked in the same department and their mom's were on the same bowling league.

They were raised practically as siblings along with their combined seven additional sisters.  The families loved to pull out the embarrassing old Polaroids of the pair taking naps together or, when they were barely our of toddlerhood, sharing a sudsy bath after a particularly muddy day of play.  The two were best of friends, buddies till the end, and, after an epic battle with a brier bush that left them both cut to pieces they become blood brothers... "and sister!" she would always add. 

Despite their deep affection, they lost touch with each other.  His family moved to another town after grammar school.  The busy schedules of two large families shuttling kids to basketball practice, cheerleading practice, band rehearsal, play rehearsal, school banquets and trophy ceremonies left little time for the group to come together for many years.

One summer day while on break from college she was sunning on the beach.  A dark shadow fell across her face and there he was, the tan-faced boy from her youth who had grown into a handsome broad shouldered man, smiling at her.  She jumped to her feet and wrapped her arms around his neck as he spun her around.  They spent the rest of the day together catching up, laughing and getting reacquainted.  The brotherly/sisterly love they felt as children was somehow different now.  Intensified.  He asked her to a movie that night and their love began to blossom.

"I forgot my wallet," he said one night on the way to dinner.  Never have four innocent words started a series of events that would utterly destroy a budding relationship.  "No big deal, I'll just run home and get it real quick."  He turned the car around in the old high school parking lot and headed back to his parent's house.  If only they were further away from the house or maybe even in the restaurant when he realized the missing item, she would just offer to pay.  Perhaps if they didn't go back to the house the pair would be happily married raising a tiny army of tan-skinned, curly haired, blond boys.  But he did remember and turned back home.

She stood in the front hallway at the bottom of the stairs while he went into the living room to find where he had put his wallet.  His father saw her standing by the door and tossed his paper aside to give her one of his famous bear hugs.  "How have you been, Sweetheart?"  His hug felt like an old familiar friend.

The three of them chatted and did some catching up for a few minutes.  Just then, his mother scurried down the stairs and sat on the bottom step in her long flannel night gown, face in her hands, grinning from ear to ear, yet saying nothing.  When you looked in her eyes you could see she was planning out their entire future.  The mother was totally thrilled to see the two together.  This was unnerving for both.

They said goodbye to the parents and got into the car.  Although they usually found conversation easily, silence overwhelmed them all through dinner.  They were both acutely aware that a mother's smile had somehow cast a spell of eerie stillness between them.

"Sooo..." she said, "your mom."

"Yeah.  She was pretty..."

"Excited?" she suggested.

"Yeah.  Ummm... our families are pretty close." He spoke nervously. "I wouldn't want to ruin that."

"Yeah."  They felt the overly-enthusiastic mother's approval creeped them both out.

Sigmund Freud had a theory that children who were raised together would never be able to develop a romantic relationship.  As it turns out, Freud was right.

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