“I like the mustard skirt better. It hangs better on your hips. How about with the brown knit top?”
Tacoma smiled. “I can’t believe I have a boyfriend who actually expresses opinions about clothes.”
“You ask, you get.”
“Are you sure you’re not gay? Don’t answer. I’ll be right back.”
Tacoma headed back to the dressing room. Shawn noticed a rack of tunics, half-price.
“With the rain, I’m not getting much work. And I need to get some new drums for the recording. It’s not a good time for me to be doing costly things.”
Tacoma ran down a list of arguments, “I’m dying to ski. The snow is great right now. But if I go without you, I’ll be totally bummed.” She paused. “What if I pay?”
“Yeah! It’ll be fun. And I’ve got money, darn it – I should enjoy it.”
“But my ass! You’re coming, slave boy. We’ll need my car for the skis, but could you drive? I’m no good at mountains.”
“Let’s try Matador. Here, sweetie. Give this a sniff.”
Tacoma’s bachelor reform program continued. To Shawn it smelled of branding one’s cattle, marking one’s territory. But he also understood Tacoma’s special talent. She could smell a sprig of lavender at a thousand paces. She liked to sniff him all over and tell him what he’d been doing that day: hiking at the waterfront, hanging out at the Kickstand, rehearsing with the band. If they ever married, he would have to resign himself to never getting away with anything.
“Ooh! Cavalier. That’s you all over, Chucho. Nah, too sweet. How about that, with the blue cap?”
The sales ladies of Pierce County were being worked hard. This was their fourth department store. Tacoma sprayed a whiskey-colored liquid on her wrist. “Ooh! Huh-nee. Try this.”
He leaned over and took in a scent with equal measures musk and eucalyptus. It was called Livan. From then on, this was what he would wear.
“That snow! So icy. It was like a hundred mosquitoes biting my face!”
They went straight for the Mt. Bachelor quad chair, not realizing they were headed straight for the top. They found themselves above the treeline, where the wind was blasting the snow into broad patches of ice. But just as you got your edges into one, you would strike a drift of powder and flop over like one of those inflatable punching clowns. It took them two hours to get back down, and by then the falling snow had turned into sleet.
“This chili is paradise! Do you think we’ll get back out there?”
“I think I’ve had enough,” said Shawn.
Tacoma approached an older gentleman at the next table.
“Excuse me. Could you take a picture of us?”
“Certainly,” said the man, with a vaguely British accent. “Is this one of those one-button jobs? Ah.”
Tacoma plopped down in Shawn’s lap and turned to the camera. Shawn flung out his hand in surprise and broke out laughing. The camera flashed. The man smiled. It was their favorite shot.
“Could I see that one?”
A gold heart with a king’s crown, held between two hands.
“What do you call this?”
“A claddagh,” said the salesman, with a vaguely Irish accent. “It originates from a town of the same name near Galway. You’ll find its meaning on that little tag.”
Shawn turned over the price tag. Let love and friendship reign.
“Good for a girlfriend?” he asked.
“Only one you like.”
“I’ll take it.”
It was only December 3, but Shawn knew a Christmas present when he saw one.
“Honey, could you spot me enough for these cigars? It would help keep me alert.”
They left the mountain store and drove a mile before hitting the backup. The snowplows were still working the pass. Shawn took a drag, watching the smoke roil against the windshield.
“You sure you don’t mind?”
“It makes you look manly,” she said. “Like Ernest Hemingway.”
He took another drag and pushed Mazzy Star into the tape deck. Lulled by a slow country blues, Tacoma drifted off to sleep. Watching her, curled against the back of the seat, he felt the ache of a moment that refused to stand still, could not quite believe how much he loved her.
Photo by MJV