VANILLA, STARRING HEARTTHROB BRENT SMITH & (NOT) AMERICA'S SWEETHEART BILLIE PROFFITT
Two years ago I was on a soul-searching, summer solo road trip through Middle America… I was looking for the happy version of myself, which I had evidence enough to believe existed, even if it had become a bit of a tall-tale by that point, when he asked me to dance on the edge of the floor at Legend’s Corner in Nashville. We watched the next 3 sunrises together.
“So you guys had a morning walk to Target too,” I said to a man & his dog sitting on a bench outside as we passed them. Mornings I wake up at his house in the suburbs of Minneapolis include this walk to mega Target in our sweats (what would be pajamas if we slept in them) because the closest Starbucks is located inside it... Yes, we are the only people we’ve ever seen who didn’t drive into the parking lot of this store before entering the automatic doors, & no he does not partake in this ritual when I’m not there.
“Vanilla” I call it – Minnesota is vanilla... It tends to be mostly Caucasian, clean, filled with new cars, perfectly paved streets & freeways, lovely smells, blue skies, some of the greenest grass I have ever seen, beautiful couples with plenty of offspring married since their early 20’s... And it makes my skin crawl. This is the land of happy people & I was taught in Meisner to be wildly aware of entering the “Land of Happy People” & to fear it... Because it isn’t real – it’s a desperate attempt to hide the truth. So is that what Minnesota is?
One of Brent’s nicknames came out of this – he is such a beautiful human in so many facets, one being his open minded kindness, which loves to mess with people’s preconceived notions, (ahem, read prejudices) in this case by keeping a “Starbucks alias” – Reggie. This American Crew specimen of a man continually straight-faced gives (& happily spells out for the cashier) this predominantly African-American name to be called out along with his Venti Veranda with Room For a Handful of Ice. But he couldn’t fool the girls of outer Minneapolis – “Rich” they put on his cup morning after morning, a far more believable name for his appearance; they call him over & over again as he stands oblivious. I can't help but laugh while he tickles me trying to force the admission of my giggles... And I love it.
The first time someone asked not if, but “how long we’ve been married” wasn’t even 20 minutes after we met. “The Brent & Billie Show” we call it – everywhere we go people ask us questions, want to play with us, invite us to join their party, or sometimes just stare at us. We both love fun so much & neither desire the legacy of children, so our selfish activities lend to much laughter, excitement, dancing & silliness, not to mention that Brent is an ex-basket baller, so his blue-eyed stature coupled with my green-eyed style doesn’t leave us hurting for attention when we’re in orbit of each other.
“Our relationship is like a rom-com,” I told him one sunny, midday Monday as I laid stretched out across his chest (already having made sure we were within lip-reaching distance before getting comfortable) on his sofa while we sipped from our trendy Starbucks cups & discussed where we wanted to eat. Do we still want breakfast, or lunch now? Somewhere we have to shower for, or just wear this? Do we take his bike, or the comfort of the car? These had been interrupted around the house with what can I bring you’s, sweet kisses, out of nowhere eye locks, moments when I catch him videotaping my ass, I love you’s, quick work answers on phone calls or tick-tick-tick emails, & just plain, Baby? - Yeah, Babe?’s.
“What does that mean?” he inquired with the same wrinkled brow he uses for many moments in our long-winded, on-again-off-again relationship (& by relationship I do not mean boyfriend-girlfriend in this story).
“Look around... It’s lunchtime on a work day; our only conflicts since waking up together in bed are which kind of music to have on, the handful of responses to work we love, how to schedule our quality time around golf tournaments, concert tickets & travel, which car our various sport equipment fits in... What am I missing? These are all options between clouds & cream cheeses. Our only rock & hard place is how to be together since neither will relinquish our home turf – & don’t get me wrong, that’s a big one, but honestly, the only time we aren’t a living a real life romantic-comedy is when we switch to living a real life porno half a dozen times a day across the house... If we get married we’re screwed.”
He laughed at my synopsis before leaning in for a good, long, wet kiss, “I wan’na hear more about the porno part...” And then he pulled away providing the same wrinkled face. “Wait, why screwed?”
Those who know us best know why we’re not together... And yet don’t know why we’re not together. Hell, we know why we’re not together... And yet don’t know why we’re not together.
In reference to our situation, his mother once stated (or was it asked?), “Well, she has to settle down sometime, doesn’t she.” When my mother’s opinion is requested she just looks at my father. My father usually says, “Persistence?” with his eyebrows raising high above the rim of his glasses. And his father says “he wouldn't blame him...” Whatever that means I haven’t really figured out yet.
Brent takes girls on dates, & I go on dates with other guys... But nothing sticks.
“How did your Dad get your Mom to marry him?” he asked me.
“She refused for years – until she got pregnant with me. Then she continued to refuse... Until she was really showing & then she finally agreed.”
“Why did I even ask,” he paused before giving me direct eye contact & his index finger pointed at me. “That was not a question.”
He says he’s happy with his life, that it’s absolutely enough as is & doesn’t know what else he wants other than to share it with me... I say I’m happy with my life, but it is by no means enough for me, because I can list 327 things I want beyond it (in the next 5 years) & will only relinquish to share it with someone who keeps me on the straight & narrow toward reaching those goals – & then helps me comprise the new list.
My question remains though: if what he already has truly is enough for him, then why is he still chasing me?