It was September 1987, I was a junior at Carolina, and I was super-psyched because I was attending my first “literary salon” party at Jenny Offill’s house on McDade Street. Jenny was in my creative writing class, as were RJ, Molly, Kristin, Yelvo and a host of other folks who went on to rule their own planets. Jenny had made lemonade, and a bunch of us were sitting in the living room making casual literary conversation, and I have to tell you, I felt like I was finally being invited to the parties I was always supposed to attend.
At these little gatherings, you could say whatever you wanted; you could be as intellectual or erudite or passionate as you wished, and nobody was going to roll their eyes and say “whatever, FAG.” You got to try on personas and trot out theories and discard both when either got tiresome. Having spent most of grade school hiding under my desk, and the better part of high school engaging in emotional sublimation, I lapped this up. I was in heaven.
And as I was sipping lemonade spiked with bourbon, a brassy blonde charged in from outside. Her hair was going seventeen different places at once, she wore an oversized white men’s oxford shirt, and she was already smiling, mid-story. She had just come from Granville Towers, where she’d participated in some massive “Dating Game” send-up in front of the whole dorm. Pretty impressive for a freshman in her third week at Carolina.
One of the Dating Game questions was “Can tell us something peculiar about you?” She’d replied, “I have little brown specks in the middle of my blue eyes.”
I found this interesting. “You do?” I asked. And immediately, this girl leapt across the room, hovered about three inches from my face, pulled down her left eye and said, “Yep, can you see it?” Sure enough, little sunbursts of brown and red in the middle of a massive blue eye. How amazing it would be, to have known right then, that this 18-year-old freshman and I would someday have a little girl of our own, a girl with eyes so blue that I find myself hovering inches from her face just to go swimming in her little skies.
But we had so much time to pass before this chick in the white Oxford and I would see each other in those hues, so many other people to date, to fall for, so many cities to live in, so many jobs to commit ourselves to, so many nights wondering who the other person was, not realizing we’d already met.
Oh, my awesome wife, your birthday is tomorrow, and I just wanted say this: even though we’ve known each other twenty-two years, and by now you should be so familiar, I still feel the same exhilaration, the rush of possibility, every time I get close enough to see the tiny burgundy sunrises in your eyes. Happy birthday, sweetie!