Thursday, December 04, 2008

What Happens in Vegas . . . Pretty Much Goes in My Blog

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m bad. I haven’t posted. I’ve forsaken my three loyal readers. So to get you up to speed, here is what I’ve done since last we spoke:

• Started the teaching semester (5 classes).
• Submitted five packets of writing to my mentor for the MFA program I’m enrolled in.
• Put on a student reading at work.
• Attended two family funerals.
• Took my mother to Seattle.
• Went to the Washington coast.
• Baked Z a 40th Birthday Cake accidentally shaped like a flying saucer.
• Did countless loads of laundry.
• Loved up Z.
• Went to Seattle for Thanksgiving
• And, oh, yeah, I got engaged. I’m going to be Mrs. Dr. Z.

The week before Thanksgiving, I flew out to Seattle with a suitcase full of winter-wear, and when I got there Z had a package wrapped up in his recycled birthday paper waiting for me on the bed. It looked like maybe it held a sheet of notebook paper and when I asked him what it was, he said, “Maybe nothing.” It wasn’t nothing. It was an itinerary for a surprise trip to Las Vegas that started the next morning at something like 4:00 a.m. For a while we’ve wanted to go there for the fun of it, but after a few minutes of squealing with surprise, I started stressing about what I would wear. I had wool sweaters, fleecy jackets, silk long johns, blue jeans, a few sweatshirts, and, of course, a rain coat. None of it is what I might have packed if I’d known we were going to Las Vegas. My rhinestones, push-up bra, and heels were all back in Indiana. (I don’t actually own any of those three things, by the way.)

It turns out Las Vegas is in a desert. Fortunately, it was balmy during the day and cool at night, so I could justify my Notre Dame sweatshirt, though I’m not certain the Mickey Mouse Crocs were regulation Caesar’s Palace. As it turned out, none of it mattered. About five minutes after we checked into the Luxor, Z could contain himself no longer, got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him. (I said yes, in case you were wondering.) I think I was in shock for a good long while, and even more so when I discovered he had called my mother, his family, and his friends to alert them as to his intentions. I did not burst into sobs or screech, the way the women do on television, but it was perfect and lovely. Z had thought it through carefully and knew I would not want skywriting or even a restaurant proposal because, despite a blog to the contrary, I am a private person.

The man surprised me. People have said, “Oh, but you must have been expecting it. You’ve been together for awhile,” and I kind of want to smack them with my green suede Dansko. No. I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t expecting anything. Nothing about this relationship has been expected, starting with how a person from Indiana and a person from Zimbabwe would ever even meet in the first place, let alone fall in love, and ending with how if I’d paid any attention to that stupid He’s Just Not that into You book (or my shrink or several of my well-meaning friends and family) instead of a feeling in my gut and a vision, this relationship would have had zero chance of happening. So no—there weren’t expectations. Just getting to love him and being loved by him on any given day feels like . . . well, I’ve got no metaphor. It’s so damn good that I hadn’t really been thinking too hard about ways that goodness could be multiplied because that would have just made me greedy.

Of course, I have spoken at times of a point in the future when we might share a living space, and, I confess, because he has been SO adamant about not going up in the Space Needle I had thought once that if ever he DID ask me to marry him, it would probably be there with Mt. Rainier looking on approvingly in the distance, but I was not tapping my foot impatiently. (It turns out that Z just really, REALLY does not want to go to the top of the Space Needle.)

While it was still fresh in my mind, I wanted to make sure I would remember the moment forever, so a few times throughout the weekend, I asked Z to re-enact it for me, there in our Egyptian-style Luxor room with the sarcophagus armoire and flat-screen TV stand. The minute he asked me, it was as if one of those Glenda the Good Witch of the North bubbles surrounded us and we were pretty much completely unaware of everything around us (except for the drunk girl on the Luxor-Mandalay Bay-Excalibur tram who kept telling us how drunk she was and we feared she’d throw up on my Crocs with the holes in them). It was that kind of magical. Even the guys handing out the cards for “live girls now” didn’t bother me because I kept thinking, I’m not threatened by the hot, naked whores with the perfect plastic boobs because Z and I are going to get married. If he wanted, he could have a hot naked whore, but instead, he wants me.

Oh, I could go on and on. I could. But you, like the drunk tram girl, would just want to throw up when faced with our happiness and our canoodling and our need to refer to each other as fiancĂ© whenever possible. We can’t help ourselves. The problem with 40somethings getting engaged is that they don’t realize they’re 40somethings. When I got back home and told my students the news, a few of them got this look on their faces like, Oh, please God, tell me it isn’t true that people that old think they can be in love.

Vegas, unlike Z, I cannot pretend to understand. It shouldn’t exist, but because it does, it calls to us like the sirens at Treasure Island and we must go put quarters in the slots and eat at the buffets and pay a hundred dollars to see Jay Leno or Mama Mia! even though we could see Jay for free every night at home and Mama Mia for $3.99 at Blockbuster, and for some reason, we must buy overpriced merchandise at the m&m store and $16 neon, fruity drinks out of huge bong-like glasses. I found the muchness overwhelming—all the glitter and fakeness and the neon and the brides with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths as they march through the Bellagio casino, grooms tagging behind. It’s seedy and crowded and the best example of American excess. So, I could look at this as perhaps the worst possible place to begin our future as a couple because of the inappropriate spur of the moment marriages in Elvis chapels and the live nude girls and the dashed dreams at the Black Jack table. But instead, I will focus on the optimistic. No matter how unlikely, Las Vegas is a city of hopefulness and the belief in something better: whether it is the big win, the 'til death do us part, or even that the Hoover Dam will keep holding back all that water and making Las Vegas possible.

When we arrived, Z had brought with us all of the change he had collected in the last two years, and this was our gambling fund. We played penny slots for three days on it and when the $95 in change whittled down to nothing, we each chipped some of our own cash in, so when we left the Luxor, we were a total of $130 in the hole. We had fun and this didn’t seem too horrible a loss since it was change from a jar mostly. Then, while we were at the airport waiting to board our flight, Z put his last dollar into a quarter slot machine and won $150, so we left $20 in the black.

I take it as a good omen.