Like the Prose: Challenge #5 – Have a friend tell you a true story. Use it to inspire a piece of fiction.
She’s never liked smoking the stuff. The taste, the smell, the way it makes her lungs feel tight and takes away her ability to draw breath – these are the things she associates with smoking pot. But she’s not a prude, and when the couple on the next blanket offers them some… enhanced… brownies she’s happy to take one in exchange for the beer her husband is offering in return.
She doesn’t tell them that she’s worried about her kids, but her husband knows. He’s been assuring her all day that they’re fine at home with her mother, that it’s okay to do something for herself for a change, that date night is important.
And he was so happy when he surprised her this morning with the tickets. His big grin had never been wider or more natural. He’d picked her up and swung her around giggling like a loon and kept spinning her in circles until she was giggling with him.
He was good at that.
At making her laugh so the anxiety stayed away.
That’s why it had to be a surprise.
* * *
“Maybe we should call home,” she says for the fifteenth time on their way to the arena. It’s only a ninety-minute drive, but they just don’t leave the kids that often. Mostly, they don’t have the opportunity. Sure, they can say that it’s because money’s tight – but honestly, when is it not? When is it ever not, for everyone, everywhere?
No, the real reason is that he’s working shifts and she’s working furiously on her novel, and there are four kids and her parents and his parents and church and social obligations, and all of that adds up and means that couple-time is relegated to those precious few moments when all four kids are asleep at the same time, and they’re lying in bed together in the dark.
Or, better, when they’re lying in bed together in the soft light of not-quite-dawn. She thinks of that time as their magic time, because the kids are still in bed, and they’re just them. Her hand drops to her belly, as she thinks of the way they spent that magic time a few mornings ago, and of the fact that in all the stress of having four kids she’s missed a pill here and there, and while she isn’t exactly trying for another kid – Jesus, but four is a lot to cope with – if it happens, it happens. They roll with the punches, she and her husband, her lover, her soulmate. It’s what they do.
* * *
The parking lot feels like it’s in orbit around the moon, for as far as they have to walk to get to the gates, and then they’re told they can’t bring chairs.
For a moment, she’s worried he’ll press the point. “Since when can you not have lawn chairs on the lawn?” he asks the guard.
But she notices the shake of his head and the dimpling of his cheeks that mean a smile is forthcoming. He’s being ironic.
All chivalry, he buys her a bottled water and tells her to wait while he treks back to their van to swap the chairs for a sleeping bag. He’s taller, he reminds her, and can walk faster.
She lets him do it.
The stench of other people’s pot makes the hike up the hillside to the top of the amphitheater feel more like she’s scaling Everest, and when she tells him that he says he’s way handsomer than any Sherpa and she agrees and tells him he has a nicer ass, too.
Laughing, they make it to where they’re supposed to be, glad they remembered to bring the binoculars. There are speakers, so they can hear everything. But without the binocs they might as well be at an ants’ concert.
They spread the sleeping bag on the soft grass, grateful that it’s been a cool, dry spring and there aren’t any mosquitoes. But they’ve forgotten how slick the material can be. They end up having to hunt down rocks to keep everything still.
But it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter at all, because the music starts, and he’s got his arms around her and the stars are coming out overhead.
And when she’s eaten the brownies from the couple next to them, she stops worrying about the kids, at least for a while.
But in between songs, people are moving about, and at one point they get up to dance, and the rocks get kicked away. Clumsy, she falls to the ground, caught by her husband and the sleeping bag, but the impact sets the thing in motion.
They’re sliding, and people around them are glaring, but she’s not worried about what they think, because he’s laughing and she’s laughing with them, and their laughter only gets louder when the song being played reaches its chorus:
And I’m free
Yeah I’m free
She sings along with Tom Petty for a few verses, and she realizes free-falling isn’t so bad when you’re doing it hand-in-hand with the man you love.
A great feeling of immediacy and intimacy.