As Jared drove his unassuming truck through the streets of Los Angeles, he ran lines with himself.
“I’m not going to sing the song until you answer me.” he said with Johnny Cash’s affect “Marry me June Carter.”
Jared adjusted the mirror, slicked back his hair and tasted Johnny’s words on his tongue again. “Marry me June.” he said as he squeezed the ring box on his lap with his left hand. “Marry me Bridget.” he whispered in his own voice.
Jared slapped on his blinker as the words evaporated in the air. He just missed his turn off and needed to make an illegal Uturn to get back on track. He peeked over his shoulder, waited for an icy Lamborghini to pass and said softly “Will you …marry me?” The truck screeched in protest as he turned sharply. Jared’s mind was still elsewhere as he looked for that flower shop he stumbled in to a few weeks ago in the never ending row of shops on Ventura.
He wanted to patronize this particular shop today because of the juju or superstition or just because he didn’t feel like a fool the last time he wandered in there a few weeks back. A particular shop that was bursting at the seams when he wandered in, with Calla Lilies no church would receive. No hall would welcome. A canceled wedding the day before on everyone’s lips. Big timers big day gone bust. They practically begged Jared to take the whole lot of them.
He had hemmed and he had hawed before finally sending three arrangements out: his mother, his Emma and his Chloe the beneficiaries of someone else’s misfortune; purchasing a dozen long-stemmed pink Peonies for Bridget, and walking out of there feeling like a really good dude. A nice guy. Someone who sends flowers unexpectedly to the girls in his life.
That place, the one he couldn’t find at the moment, made Jared feel calm.
He had hand delivered Bridget’s white paper wrapped pink Peonies to her at her door step that night. Like a good old fashioned boy. Made love to her before she put them in water and they made it to the bedroom like a rabbit in heat.
He needed that juju again. And advice. From the little woman behind the counter, the one he discovered while filing out the cards for the girls, had been married 47 years before ‘her Ivan’ passed away. He need the tender faced florist to tell Jared how to start the journey to become Bridget’s Ivan. To school him, mentor him, give him a clue. He didn’t have many – no, actually he didn’t have any – successful marriages to look upon. The little old lady with the calloused fingers (too many pricks from long-stem roses) knew something about love. Something about what it took to be Ivan.
Studio City Blooms? Where the fuck is Studio City Blooms? Between Lankershim and what…fuck!
He tried to calm himself with lines again “You have bewitched me, body and soul Elizabeth, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.” Jared spoke eloquently as he read the neon signs.
Then he grumbled as Rocky “I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind marrying me very much.”
He hopped around the cab as Elaine “Alright Jerome, I’m in. Maybe we should get married. Maybe everything we need is right here in front of us. Let’s do it.”
“Will YOU marry ME?”
“Wanna get hitched?”
“How ’bout I make an honest woman outta ya?”
Every line that tumbled from his lips as he sat in traffic on the Blvd sounded awful, even when delivered with a Southern accent. A Scottish accent. Like a New Yorker. Bostonian. None of these words, other people’s words, were poetic enough. They were just words. Words that would change everything. That made their love something bigger than them both.
If he were to ask her, today, tomorrow, someday, this thing, this love of theirs, would become a tradition. A right of passage. An expectation. The next step. The final step. Marriage. It would gnaw at what they have like a bacteria. Consume it. Regurgitate it. Make it weak.
Jared hit the breaks at the last possible second, narrowly missing a fender bender with his beat-up faded-black pickup and a pristine persimmon Range Rover. Sweat was prickling up along the collar of his shirt. He stripped away the button up. Tossed it on the seat behind him and ran his fingers through his hair. The ring box fell to the floor. He stretched to retrieve it. One eye on the road, the other at his feet. He couldn’t get it … it slipped further from his grasp to a inch from the brake pedal.
Jared couldn’t catch his breath. He was getting hotter – overheating. He rolled down the window and stuck his head out like a pup. He swerved to avoid a Honda that materialized out of thin air and launched his truck up the curb. Where it came to rest on top of a mailpost in front of a little Mexican cafe.
“Fuck me!” he shouted as he slammed the steering wheel with his hands. He retrieved the ring box from the floor. Brushed off the road dust and tucked it in to the glovebox.
He sat back as chaos swirled around the front end of his truck. Witnesses. Storytellers. Eventually a cop. Jared pulled his iphone out of his pocket, fumbled to unlock it, slid past Bridget’s name in his contact list and instead dialed Chloe direct “I can’t do it!” he screamed before she had even finished her hello.
“Can’t do wha – oh Jared.” she said. Sympathetic and completely understanding. An old friend. One who has been there for all of the other times he just couldn’t do it. “Calm down. Are you home? Want tea?”
“I want…” his voice cracked “To marry Bridget.”
“Ok, so…then marry her.”
“You can. And you will. You love her. And she loves you.” Chloe sighed and blew out the soy candle by her tub. She was getting ready to take an indulgent mid-afternoon bath but that would have to wait. As Jared explained his fears, his reservations and eventually the fact that he was perched on a mailpost in front of Guapo Nacho, Chloe got dressed, set her house alarm, hopped in her car and headed his way.
“You love her Jared. More than anyone I’ve ever seen you love.” she sighed again. Not entirely sure that was true but certain it was what he needed to hear. Bridget is good enough for him – and it took no time at all for Chloe to remind him that no one he has ever brought in to their circle before fit that same bill. Bridget would always be good enough.
“I know. I know. I know.” he swore
“Just do it Jared. Don’t complicate it. Just do it.”
“As if it were that easy….”
“It is. You have the ring. Take a knee and give it to her.”
“It can’t be that simple.”
“It is and it always will be with Bridget. Remember that. Keep it simple stupid.”
“Ok. Keep it simple.”