More than a year after I asked Amanda to marry me, as I sit here on our little green couch in our tiny little apartment, the wedding day fast approaches. The apartment is full of evidence that confirms it: brown boxes; gift bags; favors; chalkboards; plants; crates; and baskets. Letters flood the mailbox with confirmations and regrets. Supplies are called in and shipped from Amazon, FedEx has agreed to assist, and UPS has kindly extended the contracts of their seasonal workers.
Rarer items are sought, haggled, and procured carefully on eBay. Unique, customized pieces are thoughtfully handcrafted on Etsy and delivered with quirky personalized notes. This is happening. It is real.
One afternoon a detailed seating chart constructed of poster board and pink tabs materializes on the dining nook table — it is simply magnificent. At first, it appears to glow, and I wonder what sort of deity could be capable of creating such a fine thing.
It was Amanda of course, and from that day on the seating chart would live with us, amongst our things and on our dining table. Over the days and weeks leading up to the wedding, Amanda will pour over this chart, plotting and tailoring it down to the very last seat, balancing a near perfect assembly of friends and family.
And yes, the wedding approaches.
You see, when you live in a tiny, little apartment, you must choose your storage areas carefully. Every inch, every corner, every spot is precious — allies in your mission to stay sane. I sometimes, more than once, find myself seriously pondering how to reorganize the items that fit under our couch. I even go so far as to rest my chin on my hand, as is the fashion of ponderers since the beginning of time.
Our tiny, little apartment in the city is our home and castle, but it is small. So we must fold over the things in our lives and make them fit, unpacking what we need when we need it from closets, corners, wicker baskets, and window sills.
How are we on wicker baskets?
There’s always room for another wicker basket. Blankets, fans, arts & crafts, sheets, jackets, coolers, jars, cupcake holding devices, beach chairs, vacuums, sporting equipment, clothes, and holiday decorations are tucked away like fussy puzzle pieces, stuffed together into small spaces and closets, all conspiring to slowly squeeze their way back out in secret, when the lights are off.
And so we throw wedding things in the corner of the living room because all of our storage areas are spoken for. The things pile up one box on the next, up and up it goes until we are sure there is simply no room for a Christmas tree this year. The measurements are checked; we just can’t make it work.
Very Serious Adventures in Apple-Picking
Last October, a little more than a year ago, I asked Amanda to marry me. I picked the day, I made a plan — a romantic apple-picking plan, or so I thought. I packed the ring securely in a little plastic baggy one Saturday morning and off we drove to a highly-rated apple orchard.
She had no idea where we were going, only that it would be an adventure. I envisioned a day of sturdy ladders, and laughter, the strong waft of cider donuts to tease our nostrils, frustrating corn mazes to inspect, honey and sweet jams for sale, and of course, apples.
And there was. But there were also screaming children, mad with joy or terror, maybe both, running in complex patterns around trees and through bushes, impressively evading capture and proper supervision. When we arrived, people in bright orange safety vests directed our vehicle into the woods, single file, and onto dirt roads no less. Farther and farther we went into the trees. Is this normal? Is this how you go apple-picking?
Eventually, we arrived somewhere that felt far, far away from the rest of the world — and it did indeed become an adventure. More people in orange vests politely shuffled us into a line where we waited to board a colossal wagon pulled by a colossal tractor. In an effort to assure the passengers that we were indeed on a farm, the wagon seats were simple, and very real, stacks of hay. We were excited.
I picked at my pocket. The ring was still there. Still at the ready. Still secure. But it wouldn’t be until later that day, at a park near our tiny, little apartment, that I would ask her. Turns out, there are thousands of people at a highly-rated apple orchard on a sunny, perfect, New England day. I’m not sure how I forgot to consider something like that.
The orchard was a swarming mob of apple-pickers, spilling over and into the alleyways of apple trees, gobbling us up one-by-one until there was nowhere left to hide, no secret spaces left for whispers and important questions. It was a happy chaos, but not a private one.
Then there was the line. I’ve never seen a line as imposing and frightful as the one that led those brave souls to the apple cider donuts. To my eyes it was a long chain of anxious, sweaty children, their ranks offended by the insufferable restraint they were then experiencing, all equally perplexed and angered by the distance between them and the donuts.
Afterward, at the park by our tiny, little apartment, after a few drinks and a lunch to fill our bellies, recovering into the quiet and restful space we required after a long day of apple-picking, she said yes. And so here we are.
Welcome to the World Wide Web
We work our way through the World Wide Web, in search of places, and people, and of course, the things that will become our wedding day. Fall goes by quickly, as did the summer and spring before it. Winter is coming. Our January wedding date approaches.
The packages arrive and boxes are sliced open — again, and again. We recycle box after box, after box, methodically and without question. We are box recyclers now, nothing else matters. Amazon could send us empty boxes, and I would slice them open and recycle them without question.
I grow my hair and beard out in a wild manner that suggests instability. I appear unkempt. It shoots out in all directions and cannot, will not, be tamed. I shampoo, condition, and moisturize. I groom, a little. I am building a wedding look, it will take weeks. I must focus. I must try to look presentable at work. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.
Hundreds if not thousands of emails are typed out. They wobble across the World Wide Web like little invisible carrier pigeons sending messages and confirmations to vendors and venues.
People remind us that it’s coming soon, the wedding. We nod and agree. Yes, it certainly is. Amanda asks them kindly if they’ve booked their hotel rooms yet. Their bodies tense. She points them to our wedding website where they can find all the information they will ever need regarding the rules, recommendations, and guidelines for attending our wedding.
The Time I Almost Fell in Love with the Color Beige
Sometime in October, at a nearby dealership, a large bear-like man named Dave who carries a walking staff tries to sell me a new, used car. One with fat, walloping tires that will guide me through rough weather while I carelessly sip coffee and forget how much it costs. He tries to get me to buy it my first time in. There he sits, across from me like a jolly bear, grinning, eager to show me his salesmanship and overly eager for me to take home a beige vehicle I test-drove earlier that day.
It’s true, we needed a new car. Our poor old Sentra was rusting away one winter at a time. It made strange noises and had strong personal feelings about driving uphill. It grew preferential to sitting aimlessly alongside the curb and being generously pooped on by the neighborhood birds.
At the dealership, I am, at first, a very easy target. I explain that this is simply a reconnaissance mission. That I do not intend to purchase a new vehicle today. I’m here for information, for experience. Dave explains to me just how much I loved the car, that in fact, l loved everything about it.
I don’t remember that at all.
Could it be true?
Do I love the beige car?
He explains to me that since I love the beige car so much it’s now only a matter of purchasing the beige car. It all makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
So what would it take? Dave asks, stomping his walking staff against the floor with aggressive bear-like thuds. I explain to him that I have no personal feelings one way or another about the color beige, but that I’m not tickled by it. And if I’m going to purchase a new, used car, I would prefer to be tickled, at least, a bit. And so I fled, deep into the night, away from the bear, coddled safely by my puttering Sentra and back to our tiny, little apartment in the city.
What if we need boxes?
We should save the boxes.
We stop recycling. We start storing. Anything that can fit something is now vital to the wedding operation. There will be many, many items to bring and when one has many items to bring one must have many boxes to transport those items. So the empty boxes pile up in the living room on top of the other boxes that have things in them.
A Mouse Noise Suddenly Appears in the Ceiling
Then of course, because why not, one day, almost directly above the boxes, there is a noise. It is in the ceiling. It is the type of noise that only something alive can make. Amanda is … unpleased. I am the man, and the man must take care of unwelcome things, like a noise. Like a mouse. Like a mouse noise! And so I do. I type furiously. An email is sent off to the maintenance department. It looks something like this:
The mouse moves in. All that separates us is a thin drop-ceiling. The mouse makes disturbing noises that sound like scratching. Our life changes immediately.
Days go by, and the issue escalates. The noises become bolder, louder, more frequent. Amanda looks at me and wonders, what will this man do to remove such a noise? Is he even capable?
In our unspoken but clearly defined division of labor, mouse noises do unfortunately fall under my responsibility. The exterminators come. They arrive with bags and ladders and mouse-catching tools. They remove pieces of drop-ceilings and point flashlights in all directions.
No signs here.
No signs? Of a mouse?
The twist plots. The exterminators are NOT on my side. I am devastated. That was my one and only move as a man. They list out the possible reasons for a ceiling noise, none of which point to a mouse. How could this be? I know the mouse is up there. Instead, they explain to me about rat poison and traps and that everything that can be done is being done.
Maybe it’s the construction from the floor above they tell me. This is bad. Does construction sound like a mouse? Does construction sound like a living animal making mouse noises above your head at eight o’clock at night while you watch television? Maybe, they say. We are in trouble, I think.
Eventually, I buy a new, used car with fat, walloping tires from a nice person who isn’t Dave. The nice person and I settle on dark forest pearl, a color fashionable enough not to be black or green, but rather somewhere in between the two. It is large and trustworthy. I don’t get any strange noises from the car; it is wonderful.
I wave a sad goodbye to the Sentra after cleaning it out. Is this it? I will never see you again. Amanda wishes that there was a way we could keep in touch. Perhaps exchange letters and photographs with the new owner. So we know that it’s OK, that it has a new and better owner, that never drives it and lets it rest safely along the curb, where it can enjoy its days as the neighborhood birds lovingly splatter its roof with oddly colored droppings.
Now if I could just figure out how to catch a mouse.
The boxes continue to arrive on schedule. We deliberate and shift and organize and move things around. The holidays come and go and Amanda bakes furiously in the kitchen. Cookies and cakes appear and disappear into bellies, and everything tastes wonderful.
But the mouse is still scampering, and we are concerned. To make matters worse, our neighbor brings newer, more horrible news to the table. It’s true, she says. I saw it, she confirms. You need to know — it is a rat. A big, ugly, rat. She saw it with her own eyes, confirmed its existence.
Amanda explodes into a billion pieces. She is scattered everywhere. Eventually, and with some reluctance, she reassembles, carefully putting every important piece back into place. It is her way.
As the man, as the husband-to-be, I promise her, my future bride, that I will write an email so stern, on such an incredible scale of seriousness, that the apartment company will have no choice but to send legions of exterminators, the best and the brightest, the most expensive and creative exterminator minds of our time.
Exterminators so dedicated they will move in with us until the job is done — until the rat is dead. Like when you have a ghost but nobody believes you but that one weird stranger who knocks on your door and does believe you and stays with you until the end!
And so I type, with fury:
for the love of God
Sincerely and best wishes
I imagine the maintenance department has a large hole out back with a big, flaming fire at the bottom. Emails with requests, demands, and stern opinions are printed out, stapled, organized, and then taken out back to be disposed of immediately and without delay into the hole. Thousands of them, ignored and forgotten.
Buried forever, burned to crisps, and never heard of again. I have a suspicious feeling that I’m not being taken seriously. I hear nothing. No managers call to express their deepest apologies. No offers of relocation to a tropical island while this whole mess gets settled. Radio silence.
But every Wednesday the exterminators come and eventually they, at least, begin to address the issue as if there were a rat involved. Certainly we’ll catch it, they say. It’s a smart one. Knows how to evade the traps. Won’t eat the poison, though.
Weeks go by, they return disinterested and dead-eyed. Up the ladder they go. Flashlights at the ready. My hair and beard are even wilder now. They scoot me up the ladder to see for myself. My head is in the ceiling. What a strange place this is, I think. A bag of pink poison, open, appears at my nose. It spills over and down into the apartment. It is everywhere. I can’t remember if I signed a waiver before I climbed the ladder. I look, and I see traps and bags full of poison.
How is thisrat so smart?
What am I doing up here?
I climb down and assume command. I do not ask. I instruct. I demand rows of traps, one after another along the walls there. I want the good kinds, too, the traps with five stars on Amazon. No more bullshitting or half-assing. A wedding approaches. We have boxes. There is no time for a rat. I will not stand for this. I promise that my emails will approach a level of crazy that they don’t have the staff to deal with.
A Fleet of Baby Spider Plants Invades
We order baby spider plants from a person in Florida on eBay. The plants will be our favors to the wedding guests. We love plants. We give them to people as gifts so that they may carry a piece of our love not only in their hearts but on their windowsills as well.
For years we have been growing our own baby spider plants and spreading them across and into the lives of our friends and family, infecting them with our green thumbs. But there is not enough of our own, and so we order them from Florida and they arrive wrapped safely in damp paper towels, roots at the ready.
We fill up the pots and in they go. The boxes are in the corner, but the spider plants, those are everywhere. Over a hundred strong takeover flat surfaces throughout the tiny, little, apartment. Items that previously resided on flat surfaces are thrown and crammed, stuffed, removed and sent elsewhere.
One day, after the four-hundredth inspection of our ceiling, the exterminators find something. A hole. Maybe it gets through this hole here, they say. The exterminators deliberate. There is caution tape everywhere. A very serious meeting is held, and big decisions are made. Yes. We must plug the hole, they say. I am doubtful. Can it be that easy? Just a hole? I imagined the rat has secret tunnels with password codes and steel doors.
The exterminators make a call. Moments later a man with an enormous, overflowing belly comes with a toolkit and some wooden blocks to fill the hole. He scoots up his ladder and takes a look. He points and nods. He looks again. Yes, he sees it. There’s a hole here, he says.
I did it, I think. No more rat, I hope.
We order more plants from the person in Florida because we still don’t have enough. The apartment is collapsing in on itself. We are running out of space for real now. I’m vacuuming twice a day to compensate for the shavings cast down from opening boxes and the extra soil that spills everywhere.
A Great Fire Occurs At the Motor Lodge
Not at our apartment, thank God. But at the motor lodge of our wedding venue. I am unbelievingly hungover from my bachelor party the night before. Amanda is gone, safely tucked away in a hotel somewhere celebrating her own bachelorette hangover.
Can this truly be? I receive messages and phone calls. I see news stories. It is. I stumble into my living room where my friends are up and already enjoying the day.
We hold a brief meeting. We’re all in agreement. Let’s not tell Amanda, at least not for a little bit. Happy that nobody was hurt in the fire, we walk to brunch to fill our bellies with things we believe might help.
And then, a phone call from an unknown number. I take it. I am to be interviewed on the news. I am to be the local commenter who comments on a news thing for soundbites and b-roll. I must prepare for my 15 minutes of fame, this is it — the crowning achievement, the peak of my existence.
We giggle as only a table of grown thirty-year-old men tend to do when they find out one of their own is to become a local celebrity.
The news person is a woman I recognize. The camera operator takes charge of the room, moving things around and staging the area as the newswoman sits across from me as I sit politely, slightly buzzed, maybe more, on my tiny, green couch. This is real life I must remind myself.
She sizes me up to get the background story. Amanda and I are getting married I tell her, here is the evidence to confirm it. She looks at the pile of boxes, inquires about the baby spider plants, she sees it, she nods, everything is in order here, a wedding approaches. The camera operator slyly places a picture of Amanda and me next to the couch so it will in the shot. We begin.
How will this affect your wedding?
What are these plants for?
How many guests will you have?
It’s strange to play myself in real life. I look ridiculous in a plaid shirt-jacket and gigantic Portland Trailblazers hat. I appear unkempt, unstable. But not too shabby, I hold it together. It is fun.
Where my responses are safe and predictable, my friend Aaron’s are bolder and show true emotion. They move to him hoping to uncover another scoop. He wears a pretty cool Wilson tennis headband and proclaims that he heard the news of the fire after waking up on the living room floor. It is all almost too perfect, too much to believe.
The wedding approaches.
Amanda returns home just after the news crew has left. She knows. All is OK. We’re not too worried. The wedding will go on. We spend the afternoon texting and watching television. We watch clips of me and the fire on the news at 5. It is all ridiculous and silly.
One afternoon my friends at work present me with a cake. It is beautiful and delicious, made of marble and just enough frosting to not be too much. We eat a few pieces, and I mistakenly take it home with me. It is mine now, and it will mostly all end up in my belly.
It turns out the hotel is OK. There are plenty of rooms. No need to worry.
The boxes are piled as high as they can go. The plants are almost done. I eat the cake a little bit each day. Every day I come home it is still there, and so I continue eating, it is my duty. Each time she returns home, Amanda comments that it looks like there’s a little less cake than the last time she saw it. Must be true.
A wedding approaches.
Amanda organizes, prints, and sends out detailed itineraries for the wedding party. She dares our friends, our family to be late to any of the itemized bullet points.
And so the rat is gone. The boxes are piled high. We have a new, used car. The date is set. We are excited. The cake is entirely in my belly. No one was hurt in the fire. There are plenty of rooms. Life goes on. And now, our wedding fast approaches, and we are off to the next adventure.
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