The underwear lay on the bedroom floor where he dropped them. He was going home for Christmas and I was staying behind in snowy St. John’s, in a frigid basement apartment with a bedroom as cold as a meat locker. The bedroom had an antechamber which is where my dresser was along with a single bed fit for a monk. The apartment was advertised as two bedrooms on the strength of this absurd cell. It was fit more for a prisoner in a drunk-tank or maybe solitary confinement. Mostly it served as a place for me to drop clothes and kick off shoes en route to the bedroom after a night dancing, or drinking at my new favourite spot, The Ship, a folkie hangout. It was his favourite place and, since we were in love, I decided I liked it, too.
My platform shoes, sparkly tops and tight pants that showed off my dance moves did not fit in with the folk at “The Ship”. His John Lennon wire-rimmed glasses, baggy pants, and Onitsuka sneakers were more in keeping with the peace, love, and understanding crowd except he wasn’t a radical leftie. He was a card-carrying capital C conservative, before they were progressive. I was a “Stop Kamchatka” protester, a pro-abortion feminist.
We fought. A lot. The frigid bedroom got steamed up and then frosted over on the inside. One morning after a brutal argument I woke up to a heart carved into the ice on the window saying “I love you.” I scraped it off. I held on to anger like a heating pad on a sore back.
Back to the underwear. They were Stanfields, white – well, dingy white because he didn’t separate white laundry from dark and so they were a miserable grey. Lying there on the floor, they became a test of wills. I refused to pick them up and so did he. Only he didn’t know it was a test. As I have discovered these 35 years later, he didn’t even notice them. It’s the same now except I pick them up so you could say he won, except he didn’t. He just doesn’t see stuff like that. They sit on the bathroom counter (I don’t know why and I don’t want to know why), on my jewelry box, on the bathroom floor, on the floor outside the closet door where the laundry hamper is, where every night with a loud and exasperated sigh I pick them up, slide the door open and drop them into the stinky hamper.
He hasn’t changed one bit. I’ve given up trying but not in a bad way. It’s acceptance.
Back in that cold apartment I eventually told my boyfriend I loved him and then I advised him to not let it go to his head. He ignored my advice. When I asked him to marry me I knew what he’d say. He said “Yes, but I want to ask you, too.” So he did, and much to my surprise, I said yes.
Funny how things work out.