fiction

The List. {fiction}

 

One Friday night in the spring of 1999, my girlfriend and I went to ladies’ night at the local bar to see an all-male dance troupe.

The building was a converted barn, with wide hand-hewn beams and rough siding. The main stage was at one end of the cavernous room, while in the loft a balcony with a wide wooden railing circled the outside walls. A large dusty disco ball hung in the center of the ceiling. Several older pool tables were tucked in the back upstairs, and each floor had a long bar up against the side wall.

The servers wove through the crowds of women like salmon swimming upstream.

It had been a few months since we had been out together, so we were soon deep in conversation. When the entertainers came on stage dressed like the Village People, the packed audience whistled and catcalled loudly. A cowboy, a cop, an Indian, a soldier, a biker and a handyman; they wore little to nothing by the time the first song ended.

Beer goes right through me, so I joined the long line at the washroom. Standing next to me was Sadie, a tall blonde with tight jeans and a jacket with fringes that matched her boots. We struck up a conversation about guys, joking about how the dancers didn’t represent the men we usually met.

She showed me her ring, a gold band with two pear-cut diamonds set on either side of a heart-shaped one in the middle. Shouting so that she could be heard, she confided that she had met her dream guy and was recently married. I bemoaned the fact that there weren’t any nice, unattached guys in our small town. The ones out there had been thrown back, like fish that were too small or out of season.

“Write a list,” Sadie said. “My girlfriend told me about it. I thought she was kidding, but she convinced me to try it.”

One night she sat in her kitchen and wrote a list of everything she wanted in a partner. Rugged good looks, a friendly personality, a wonderful sense of humor, kindness, generosity and a loving nature. She described how he would treat her and care for her; she literally asked for a shining knight on a white horse. Summoning up his image, she sent the wish out into the Universe. Unbelievably, it worked.

She had created such a firm vision that when she first saw him, she was sure they had met before. They fell in love. The day he proposed, he came to her on a white horse.

“Sure,” I thought. “I just met you, and we’ve been drinking. Nice if it worked, but…”

All week long the idea niggled at my brain. Listing exactly what I wanted felt like a strange thing to do, but I figured I had nothing to lose.

That Friday night, after giving my two small wiggly boys their bath, after tucking them in and reading Goodnight Moon twice, I went downstairs into the quiet kitchen. I sat at the head of the table and looked around me at the command central of our lives. The crayon drawings on the fridge and the snapshots of family and friends reminded me how hard it had been to get us to this place of safety and freedom.

Then I thought about the days when I longed to have someone to share with, to talk and laugh about the day.

I lit a white candle and poured a glass of wine. Opening my favorite journal, I carefully thought about the men I’d dated: the losers, the tough guys, the sweet talkers, the crazies, the handsome narcissists, and I realized that I’d been admiring the wrong guys, the inappropriate ones, the flashy ones.  Somehow I thought they would be good life mates and good fathers.

“No wonder,” I thought. “I’ve been paying attention to the wrong things.”

I wrote my list:

A wide and ready smile, a great sense of humor and a lot of patience, a loving father, a kind person, a generous lover, a hardworking man with a steady income, not too flashy but handsome, good with pets, not obsessed with sports, warm hands, likes dancing and camping, laughs often and can laugh at himself. I focused on the person I described and held the image in my heart.

Then I covered it with white light and sent it out into the Universe.

In early September, I took my youngest son to kindergarten for his first day. John was quivering with excitement, and when I kissed him goodbye, he ran over to the Lego table, his favorite.

Blinking with unexpected tears, I met the teacher, a smiling woman with dark hair and wire-framed glasses. As I left, I noticed a man in a gray uniform and work boots talking to his son. He was crouched down low, so they were face to face and he spoke carefully and intently. The little blonde boy with blue eyes watched his father closely. They gave each other a giant bear hug before parting.

“Damn,” I thought to myself, “Would you look at that? Another good one, taken. He even brings the little guy to school. What a great Dad he must be.”

In October, there was a field trip to the local pumpkin patch and we met. He was a widower; his wife had died that spring, leaving him with two small children, a son and a daughter. We had a lot in common; he understood exactly what it was like to be a single parent.

The next year on Mother’s Day, while we celebrated with our four children and my mother, he got down on one knee and proposed. And he is everything I had written, right down to the small details. He has the warmest hands.

***

Tree Langdon is a Vancouver-based writer and artist. Her short stories, poetry and sketches are inspired by her life experiences and by the beauty of the West Coast. She studied creative writing in college, and has recently ‘Written herself Alive’ with Rebelle Society. When she’s not writing, she’s most likely playing her ukulele. She currently lives with her husband and a herd of roaming deer on Vancouver Island. Find her on Facebook or at her website.

***

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