Fools Rush In
– Nonfiction by Julie Paul –
This is how you get yourself into a love song.
Want love, the long-term kind.
Want it bad. For real. For keeps.
Grow impatient. You’ve been in long relationships, had one night stands, and pretended the guy who slept in a treehouse and the guy who stole his ex-girlfriend’s lingerie were good for you. Although you are not a methodical person, and hail from a family that didn’t roll out a carpet of expectations or hopscotch pattern to follow from birth to retirement, wonder if that isn’t the better way.
Begin to fixate on one question: what is the best method of attracting a mate?
Try to do what the books say: love yourself. Exude satisfaction. Do not at any time put forth an energy of need.
When that fails, pull out the cosmic manoeuvres. Make a list of the qualities you desire in a mate; give the universe an end-date, after which you will leave Victoria, a city of beautiful women and a paucity of men, for Vancouver, where surely there will be someone for you to love.
The summer before the end-date, take a ferry to Salt Spring Island with your mother and sister. There, an angel reader named Susanne will lay it all out for you, courtesy of the benevolent beings she senses around her—beings that belong, somehow, to you.
You will be happy, she says. And meet someone soon, while travelling. There will be love. Then listen as she gets coy and says something about people not always raising the children that they created, that things are no longer traditional in families anymore—and, often, that’s for the best. She soon moves on to other topics—good health, writing, etcetera, and you return to the city of women, and to the boisterous Shepherd-wolf-collie cross puppy your father gave you for Christmas. You know this dog loves you madly, even if she jumps the fence weekly just to be able to run.
Travel. Take a craniosacral course in Whistler, BC. Normally you wouldn’t call it travelling, since it’s just across the Salish Sea and north a bit, but the angels might have a generous idea of travel.
They do. The man they’ve seen is here. He’s older than your parents (albeit they were still teenagers when you were born), smells of amber, has dark skin, and is dressed in rough, thick cotton garments and a beanie. He’s standing there, in leather-soled boots, looking at you—seeing you—like you’ve never been seen before.
Smile at this intense man; partner up for the exercises; learn to palpate the movement of air within a balloon with extra-light touch and extra-attentive intention. Go for dinner and glow at each other across the table.
Forget most of the course material, but end up in his motel room on the last evening and wait while he drives to the gas station for condoms. While he’s away, check in with yourself. You’re feeling very strange, like you’re under some sort of spell, receiving a visitation. Not like Mary and the angel; more like a visitor from another place altogether, an entity from a planet you’ve never known of but are suddenly enthralled with. You’re under an enchantment, unable to—and unwilling to—get out from under it.
After the course is over, catch a lift with this man back from Whistler to Vancouver. Celebrate Thanksgiving with your best friend, who seems as charmed by him as you are. This has to be the man the angels mentioned. You’ve travelled; met; your friend approves: it must be love. Spend the night in your friend’s tiny West End apartment trying to sleep despite the forceful snoring beside you, then continue back to Vancouver Island the next morning, because, as fate would have it, he lives, not only in your very city, but in a suite in a house you’d once lived in, just a year before.
Call it perfect. Call it magic.
Try not to call it magic. It’s no fairy-tale: he has four children with his estranged wife, and a couple more from an earlier marriage; his youngest son is a toddler with physical disabilities from a birth trauma; he’s a Bermudian citizen and can’t work in Canada in his field—life insurance—although he’s studying Chinese medicine. Then, remember the angels, how they said things wouldn’t be traditional. Put it down to that and carry on.
Eat out nearly every night, miss him terribly when he flies east to see his children, book a weekend trip to Tofino, watch the wild waves and cozy up in a B & B with a sauna attached. Let him give you an acupressure treatment, and when he presses on points that really hurt, ask him to stop.
When he doesn’t, and tells you it’s part of the process, to let go of your pain so you can heal, begin to cry. You are a massage therapist: you know when to back off.
After he finally stops, put all that behind you by taking a really hot sauna, then drive back home listening to old blues and jazz—songs he once played as a radio DJ, back in the late Sixties. Before you were born.
Attempt to maintain the enchantment, and fail. Set a pile of his clean clothes on his carpeted floor and watch his anger flare. Find a postcard of a nearly-naked woman on his shelf and listen to his story of how a friend sent it to illustrate the objectification of women. While drinking tea together, listen as someone knocks on his door, then listen as he tells you to ignore it. Just stay quiet, he says. But then the knock comes again. Ask him why he doesn’t just answer it. I’m here with you, he says. It’s not important. Watch a letter come sliding under the door, and after he whisks it away, succumb to his advances.
The angels saw this man. Susanne’s angels. Your angels.
Do not bother using protection, because your period is nearly over and you’re fairly certain that the timing will be fine.
Begin to crave chicken even before you calculate the dates. You haven’t eaten chicken in fourteen years. Test and see the very faintest of yes lines, a line that could just be your eyes tricking you. Show your sister, who sees it too. You can’t show your man, because he’s just flown back east once more to see his young daughters and his toddler son who needs a lot of medical intervention and can’t—and might never—toddle.
Call him, to tell him the news. After a long static-filled silence, he says he’s worth more dead than alive, and that he’d told you he didn’t shoot blanks. Ignore the alarm bells going off inside and focus on the fact that your body is growing a baby, a baby you unexpectedly want more than anything, despite not having planned it, nor having any sort of plan at all. Other than love, of course. Wasn’t love always the plan?
Go to his apartment when he’s back from his family Christmas. Bring him a beautiful green sweater. Open his gift to you: corner store candles and a stale Panettone. Go home and try to imagine this new life, twenty-nine and pregnant with a fifty-year-old’s baby, a man in no state to raise your child the way you suddenly know you want: with stability and a little more normalcy than he can offer.
Feel the clarity that comes when pregnant. Know that you cannot make this work, that even if you weren’t expecting a baby, you’d have broken things off with him. Come on. An old loaf of Italian bread for a Christmas gift?
Break up with him on New Year’s Eve. When he cries a little, try to cry, too, and fail. You are surer of this decision than anything since meeting him. Put that down to being under a spell, now broken.
In two weeks he’ll be gone from town entirely, never to live in Canada again.
Moor yourself to the couch, overcome by nausea and exhaustion, happily growing your baby into being. Find a wonderful team of midwives, and attend the appointments alone. At three months, visit the Single Parent Resource Centre, just to scope things out for the imminent future. Sign up for prenatal classes, with your sister as coach. After much deliberation, but relying on that pregnant clarity, find a better home for your exuberant dog, who really needs to live in the country to thrive. Give her to a family that owns their own island. Cry as you see her leaving, your hand over your swelling tummy, hopeful your father won’t mind a grandchild instead of a grandpup. Return to the couch and sleep for twelve hours straight.
In mid-March, listen as a friend relays some news. She’s told her downstairs neighbour—a very cute young single Dad you’ve met before—about your situation. Laugh when she says he perked up and got a little gleam in his eye when he heard. Send him homemade lasagna one night, via your friend. A few days later, bump into him in the cereal aisle, your cart full of wheat puffs, tomato soup and lemonade, all the foods your unborn baby loves most.
Feel it begin: the fluttering in your abdomen, like tiny jumping beans. Put it down to fetal movements at first, but you feel it through your whole body, as if those beans hold a charge, a low electric buzz. It isn’t just the baby. See the gleam in his eye, still there, not caring that you’re hidden beneath a bulky sweater and vest, nor worried about what grows beneath the layers.
Begin to concoct reasons to connect with this man. Along with bass, his main instrument (just like your father), he plays guitar. Imagine that, you’ve always wanted to learn! Would he consider lessons? He would!
Start with Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” in subconscious tribute to the biracial baby who tosses and turns behind the back of the guitar. Move on to babysitting your two-year-old niece, to which he brings his three-year-old son. Watch as he plays with these two little kids so joyfully, with glee, abandon and care; feel the electric hum continue. Wonder at how a playful, goofy man pulling coins and candies from behind ears could be such a turn-on. Marvel at the contrast between this guy and the last.
Doubt yourself and your motives. Surely this is all just for fun, in friendship, a common situation. You’re single parents. You’ll continue to hang out, get closer, have play dates, become good friends. After all, who’d consider actually dating a woman expecting another man’s child? Who might think of you as desirable, with your growing belly, never mind what future it will bring?
On April Fool’s Day, answer the door to find this sweet man, bearing gifts. His son is with his mother and he’s got no gig or practice. Discover what happens when a handsome man brings creamy, fruity, chocolate-filled pastries to a woman in her glowy middle trimester. Good things. Good, good things.
Appreciate the lack of worry over getting pregnant. Everything is alive and kicking, not just the baby. Don’t focus on that, but notice that he doesn’t mind the evidence at all.
Meet again, another night; meet again and again. From April to July, crash-course on each other, swim naked in lakes, eat ice cream daily, soak your feet in the blow-up pool you buy to give birth in. Learn enough to reach a point where a decision needs to be made: Will he move in before the baby comes, or after?
Invite a man you’ve been dating for less than four months to come live with you—with his son, too, half the time—just before giving birth. Question your sanity. Then remember the Salt Spring reading, the non-traditional ways the angels suggested. Hear Elvis in your head, singing Fools Rush In, Where Angels Fear to Tread. Help him move out of his dingy basement apartment that smells like fish sticks and a toddler’s bad aim, and into your garden suite.
Blow out your thirtieth birthday candles with him holding the cake he’s made. Two weeks later—just two weeks!—demand his strong hands on your hips during every contraction, hold his steady gaze as he tells you it’s all going to be okay. Cry with him in joy as your daughter is born on the living room floor.
Carry on. Rely on his experience with infants, appreciate his patience with your swinging moods, your exhaustion. Feel your new family knitting itself together, a tight pattern of loving. Spend months watching Little Bear and Kipper and Franklin videos with your sudden stepson, baby nursing around the clock.
Go to a friend’s wedding in Vancouver, three-month old baby in tow. See tears in your beloved’s green eyes at the ceremony, feel your heart grow a size. Discuss, for the first time, how marriage might be something that lies ahead.
Carry on, back on the island, with real life, tantrums, teething and sleep in two-hour portions, love growing alongside the under-eye circles and the handprints on every window.
When your daughter is nineteen months old, marry him. She’s all fancy, in a lacy dress to match your niece, the flower girl. Cry when he and his bandmates perform at the reception, a song he’s written just for you.
The lyrics, in part:
I saw you in the grocery store.
We’d only met a couple times before.
I thought you were cute;
I think you thought that I was hot, too.
Standing there in the cereal aisle,
you felt sick but you still smiled.
You took my heart and checked it out
through the express lane of love.
You had a belly, I had a son—a recipe for fun
Chorus: We’re in love, let’s get married,
make an instant family.
Words cannot express our happiness…
It wasn’t long before I was hooked;
I fell in love with your books.
We spent the night on the couch
as you verbed a noun…
Let him cut you out of your wedding dress in the honeymoon suite, undoing your mother’s quick handiwork with a needle and thread that’s standing in for a missing clip.
Keep answering questions of where the baby got her curly hair by simply saying her Bio Dad, and leave it at that. Laugh and nod when someone tells your husband that your daughter has his nose.
Keep answering the questions. Keep living. Write him a poem every year on your wedding anniversary, but celebrate April Fool’s Day as your real anniversary.
Seventeen years later, let your daughter drive you to Salt Spring Island with her new licence. You look at local services listings, under psychic, angel, intuitive readings, but no one named Susanne turns up.
You won’t want a reading, anyway. You just want to say thanks. Instead, drive to the biggest lake and float in it, the three of you, a family of grateful faces turned toward the sky.
About the Author – Julie Paul
Julie Paul is the author of three short fiction collections, The Jealousy Bone (Emdash, 2008), The Pull of the Moon (Brindle & Glass, 2014), and Meteorites (B & G / Touchwood 2019), as well as the poetry collection The Rules of the Kingdom (MQUP, 2017). She lives in Victoria BC, where she’s working on a collection of personal essays.
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