'I make things happen'

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:05 26/11/2013

A long time ago, I was, apparently, responsible for two people eloping. 

And I say apparently with bunny-eared quotation marks because I know as much as anyone, how tricky memory can be.

Truth is a slippery thing when we create the story of our lives, especially love stories.

We all need a few heroes and villains; gatekeepers and underdogs, angels in disguise and wise crones and so forth to keep us company during all the confusion.

Maybe we put our lives in gripping story form because it gives all the crazy chaos, all the senselessness, just a little bit of structure. Life is messy and erratic.

But turn it into a script, and man, what a fun ride falling in love was, right?

The thing is, I just plain don't remember saying or doing anything that would have caused these two crazy kids to show up at a judge's house in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in the middle of the night and ask to be married on a roadie back to California.

But the way this particular script plays out, I did.  

I was the character to tell Angie and her fiancée, Nick, that eloping was a fantastic idea. ''Do it,'' I told them (apparently).

I argue that this never happened.  I say its fiction.

They both say it did (Did it? I said, quizzically, last week, while playing board games with their two sons while passing around a bag of chips.

Really?

Was I like, in a bathrobe, sleep-deprived, peering into a cupboard to find filters for the coffeemaker, just agreeing to anything to make someone stop talking?)

But I only protest a little bit, because I'm secretly kind of chuffed about the role I play in the lives of these two.  

When they introduce me to their friends, I am not a disoriented person in a crisis, travelling around the US on train for 15 days, searching for the next place to live.

When they introduce me I am an instigator. I am a spark plug. I stir. I make things happen.  

I am a folk hero who rides into their town (in this instance, Bellingham, Washington) on the Coast Starlight train from California to snap my fingers and create havoc (which mystifies me. I only think of myself as a dishevelled houseguest who arrives and eats cereal at the dining room table, leaves coffee cups in the shower, and sleeps in late).

But in their words I step off the train platform to become this magical disrupter of routine.

I forgot the elopement argument - one that happens every few years - until I was walking with Angie through the Saturday morning farmers' market last week and came across two girls with retro typewriters at a stand marked with a blue sign that read ''Poem Store''.

I put four dollars in a jar and asked for a poem about our friendship, which meant that we had to then tell them about how we met.

Angie had just picked me up from the train station.

We hadn't seen each other since a girls' bike trip around Prince Edward Island three years before.

Angie launched into a long, long tale that was at once familiar and surprising.

There were details I would have said myself: Angie and I met in Europe after leaving our hometowns after high school, a year later she moved out to California to be my roommate when I started university. But then, in a twist, she had met this guy, named Nick, before she came west, so he ended up coming to California six months later as well.

The two poets squint and nod, trying to follow the story of Angie and Gwyneth.

Then there was the elopement, Angie says, a hand out in my direction, indicating my starring role in that decision. (What? I protest, but my horror is fake. I remember this argument now, and I fall into my role once again).

So, in character, I jump in.

Then there was a visit to New Zealand to hang out with me in the south (in between adventures around Stewart Island and Fiordland) I tell the poets.

They were in their first year of marriage, just wandering around mountains in the South Island, I say, like a narrator.

Angie nods.

And we weren't going to have children then, she interjects.

I nod enthusiastically as well (poets: still nodding with us). But you DID, after I came and visited you in Duluth, Minnesota, I inform our audience.

We both nod. The poets nod. It's beyond argument now - we have all reached the same conclusion: I cause people to elope, wander around mountains and make babies.

That night, ''Us Beyond Mountains: for Angie and Gwyneth and Friendship'' was hung up on their fridge with a dinosaur magnet above chore lists for the boys.

That morning I had cried when the poet read it out.

I put my arm around Angie as she took the poem and thanked them for their work.

But Angie was less moved, she admitted, later in the car. She had a few problems with a line that referred to long, soul-baring phone calls that bound our friendship through the years. Both of us hate phones.

''Apparently'' I have never called her long distance, but I argue this as fiction. I can remember calling. Pretty sure. Everybody knows all friends in epic films spend hours on the phone together.

Anyway, in another 10 years I'm sure we'll have invented a memory to back this up.

Also, by the way: who are you, lovesick heroine, to argue with me, the magical disrupter of routine?

Just stick to script, okay? It's right on the fridge.

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