Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Monkey Woman & the Alligator Man

We're all a little weird.  And life is a little weird. 
And when we find someone whose weirdness 
is compatible with ours,
we join up with them and fall 
into mutually satisfying weirdness-
and call it love-true love. 
~Robert Fulghum, True Love
I was visiting my friend Jenna that year. A brown-haired, brown-eyed beauty from Tennessee, Jenna had this thick, long mane of hair that followed the curve of her back, swaying behind her as she walked, and a long, slow southern-drawl as thick and sweet as molasses.  We had met in law school some years prior, and though the passing of time had forced us to trade our school books for an endless parade of clients, contracts and billable hours, our friendship had thrived.

She was a kindred spirit.  Smart and funny and interested in life, Jenna was the kind of friend you could trust and tell your secrets to; the kind of friend who would cheer you on in moments of triumph, and listen patiently as you cried your eyes out over some disappointment, always responding with compassion and candor.

And, oh, the things she’d say.  After a day in the sun, with a twinkle in her eye, she would tease, “Why, Melissa; you’re as brown as gingerbread; you better watch out or someone’s gonna’ eat you up!”  Always laughing and patting your arm or leg for emphasis.  She made me feel good about me.  So naturally that September, when I found myself in a funk, overworked, stressed out and recovering from a recent break-up, visiting Jenna was just what the doctor ordered.

We spent the afternoon hanging out by the pool, trading war stories from the trenches of our legal practice; she, speaking with warm affection of her husband, and I lamenting on my pathetic-all-but-non-existent-love-life.  We analyzed every word spoken, every tear shed and gut-wrenching moment of the break-up; caught and entangled in an exhausting game called "Let's Second Guess My Decision!" Should I have settled?  Would there be someone else better suited for me?  What if there wasn’t anyone else?  We carried on this way for hours until the sun set and we headed inside to take showers. 

“Come on, Melissa, it’s about to start!”  She called, grabbing two Cokes and a bag of microwave popcorn from the kitchen.  “This is the movie I was tellin’ you about."  I joined her on the sofa.

For the next hour, we watched in absolute amazement a film called “Freak Show,” a documentary about so called “circus sideshow freaks.” There was the human torso – the man born without legs who walked on his hands; the Siamese twins joined at the chest who married sisters, all sharing the same bed; a cute little man that called himself “The Pillow Man” because his neck was about 3 feet long, with no arms or a body – he was the size of a bed pillow. 

Then we were introduced to Priscilla, the Monkey Girl.  Born with hair all over her face and body, she had been dropped off at the circus one day by her father because he couldn’t handle the public’s reaction to her condition.  She was taken in and raised by the other circus people, making a good living for herself by performing and displaying her oddities.  My heart broke for the Monkey Girl. 

Then one day, the Alligator Man joined the circus, getting his name from the texture and appearance of his skin.  As fate would have it, he fell in love with the Monkey Girl, and she with him.  They were soon married, appearing everywhere in public and showcasing their wedding photos.  They seemed so happy together.

As the credits rolled, we sat in silence contemplating the insanity of it all; marveling at the ability of these people to be happy in spite of their circumstances.  Then Jenna turned, gently placing her hand on my arm, and in the most soothing voice I’d ever heard, said, “You see, Melissa, even the Monkey Woman found the Alligator Man . . . I just know there’s somebody out there for you.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I laughed; and we laughed and laughed.  I left Jenna’s house the next day full of gratitude for my own life and excitement for the discoveries yet to come.  

That was almost 15 years ago.  Now he’s here! My very own Alligator Man who loves and genuinely appreciates my crazy monkey business.  It feels like magic!  Yet, as I move from one phase of life to another, I see so clearly that these experiences, disappointments and difficult decisions led me to this exact place and time; to this wonderful connection; to this beautiful life we’re building together.  

We’ve only just begun to discover what we’re made of together, but I’m so glad he joined my crazy little circus!

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