This is my last article for Odyssey. And this is because I have a confession to make. It was a rainy April morning when I met him. Maybe that's why I'm finally sharing this tale now, because this month reminds me of him.
His name was April, too. When he was in his mother's womb, his parents didn't want to know his gender because they were certain he was a girl. So they became fixated on the name April, to honor his late grandmother April. By some miracle, he came an entire month early from his projected birth date in May. His birthday is today: April 1.
Partly because of his name and partly because of his upbringing, April was the strangest person I had ever met. He loved baking creme brulee and only creme brulee (when I suggested we bake a cookie cake instead, he vehemently refused and didn't talk to me for a week following the incident), and taught himself Tokelauan (it's a Polynesian language only spoken by about 1,700 people worldwide) when he was six. He was wholly quirky, a true iconoclast, and I think that's what led him to join the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.
The day I met April, 9-year-old me was knitting at a Girl Scouts meeting. It was pouring outside so our activities had been canceled. April walked in with his mother and, without hesitation, picked up a ball of yarn and began to select his needles.
Everyone stared. If he had dropped his knitting needle, the sound would have echoed all around the room.
After a brief discussion with his mother, Ms. Daisy, our troop leader, ushered him towards us and introduced him as a new Girl Scout. His piercing eyes were the color of diarrhea after eating green curry, and when they settled on me, I didn't shrink back or look away. I stared right back.
"So why didn't you join the Boy Scouts instead of the Girl Scouts?" my voice rang out confidently.
He shrugged, his floppy piss-colored hair shifting every so slightly, "I don't want to learn to hunt. I want to learn how to drink tea properly, and this is the right forum for doing so."
Forum. Forum. Forum, forum, forum. I loved that word. I wanted to hear him whisper it in my ear again and again, as one does when she is 9-years-old. He was so mature. In that instant, I knew. I knew he was the one for me. Anyone who used the word forum so aptly deserved my heart, soul and everything else.
At the next meeting, he held my hand. He told me that I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. I think his exact words were, "I guess you're OK-looking."
April and I kept meeting and as we held hands and knitted together more and more, I began to discover the hidden quirks of his personality. His favorite book was "War and Peace," and he had kidnapped a bunny when he was eight. It was so gosh darn attractive. The first time we baked creme brulee together, and he showed me his secret recipe was the most momentous moment of my life. I was in love.
A year of this covert meeting once a week at the Girl Scout meeting, and we were through with it. We were both outcasts in the Girl Scout troop, him because of his gender and me because of my not-Caucasian race. We both wanted more, to be able to bake creme brulee every day, hand in hand. April told me stories of the house we would have together, deep in the heart of Georgia Aquarium, among our true friends, the mako sharks. So I made my decision.
I had gotten a large drawing paper pad for my tenth birthday, and I ran to my room on a sunny day and dragged it out. After my love April arrived, we drew out our plan. We would leave the day after April turned 11, April 2, and we would take the schoolbus route to the hidden lake in A-Hole Mikey's (a boy from our grade) backyard. We would camp out there and assess our rations. Then we would make our way to North Carolina, where we would both find jobs until we could find a home to live in.
I waited with bated breath till our last Girl Scout meeting. It was a Sunday, and while the other girls practiced lifting their pinky when drinking tea, I took one last survey at the life I would never return to. Remembering how April had always wanted to learn to drink tea like that, I glanced at him, my dark eyes drinking his skinny figure in. His eyebrows were furrowed in concentration, probably planning our marriage. Heaving a sigh, I took my eyes off of my old life. I could do this.
We excused ourselves to look at some flowers outside, but in reality we took our backpacks filled with provisions and left. We followed our set route and went to Mikey's lake. I had saved all of my allowance money (my parents were very well-off), and it totaled to $7,049.26. April saved all of his allowance money, which totaled to $13.59. Only later would I find out that he had actually saved the other $3,000 to buy Haribo Gold Bears and Sour Patch Kids.
Through a series of sketchy bus rides and hitchhiking adventures (yes, I know it's illegal), we somehow made it to North Carolina. We landed in Carrie with $6, 954.36 left; I was extremely good at cheating people out of money.
April said he'd be right back and, taking $30, he set off for the nearest bar. When he came back shouldering along a staggering white man in a toucan-printed (Are those even found in Hawaii?) Hawaiian shirt, I knew we'd be all right.
"This is Sushi. He's not Hawaiian, but he loves the culture, so he named himself a traditional Japanese name and learned Tokelauan. That's how I got him to be the priest-guy of our wedding ceremony," April announced to me, flashing me a knee-weakening grin.
My face contorted into a mask of confusion.
"Wedding? So soon, my mako?"
Glaring at me, he pushed the clearly-drunk Sushi forward, "Don't you want to spend your life with me, Divya?"
I let my gaze drop to the dewy grass adorning the ground where I supposed my fate was to be written, "OK."
April had even thought of rings and a dress. He pulled out a white trash bag that we had reserved for our dirty laundry and dumped the contents out. "Bite this," he commanded Sushi, and our drunk wedding officiant tore holes for my head and arms in the crumpled plastic bag with his teeth. I pulled it on over my head, relishing in the feeling of wearing a wedding dress, and my fiancé-soon-to-be-husband pulled out the bendy green things that you close vegetable bags with in grocery stores.
The man of my dreams motioned for Sushi to start orating the ceremony.
"By the power vested in me by the great country of Huhvuh-ee-ee, I pronounce you..." Sushi suddenly fell to the ground and began to snore. April scoffed and kicked the man's hand with his chunky UGG boots before screaming, "husband and wife!" for the world to hear. My ears rang. He slid the grocery-store-ring onto my finger, kissed my cheek and it was official.
We were married.
I stole Sushi's phone and, smirking when I found out that the idiot didn't even have a password, googled, "What to do when you get married to April," pausing once to steal a glance at my dearly beloved. He was watching me too, a silly little grin pushing up the corners of his cracked lips. To-do list point number one, I thought to myself, smiling, get some Chapstick.
Google told me we should get a house, job and do taxes. I also saw the word "canoodle" somewhere there, but I didn't know what it meant, so I just ignored it. We bribed a Kumon employee with $4,118 to let us work for pay as student assistants with no questions. After working there for two months with a high salary (I blackmailed the Kumon owner by threatening to report him for child labor), we could finally afford a sketchy apartment in downtown Carrie. We didn't do our taxes. It was too complicated and ABCmouse didn't help us learn how to do them.
One day, my ring fell off while grading Kumon quizzes. I stomped over to April, who was restocking the prizes in the Kumon prize room.
"Aprillllllll... I lost my ring!"
He shrugged nonchalantly, "So? We're still married, you big dum-dum."
I gasped, affronted to the core. How dare he call me a dum-dum? I realized that he didn't take our marriage as seriously as I did.
We fought for the first time that day, right in the Kumon prize room where our screeching, pubescent voices could be heard throughout the building. I blackmailed the Kumon guy into not firing us. April apologized insincerely and handed me a Ring Pop from the prize room to replace my lost vegetable-bag ring.
It's been years since then.
Not once did we return to the Girl Scout meetings. We even got a house with an oven. A year ago, I thought he might be cheating on me. The thought of him baking creme brulee with anyone else was almost too much to bear. We had been going through a dry spell of drinking tea with our pinkies up.
I knew there was no going back after what we had done. I hadn't even thought of how my loving family must have felt after I up and left them. The image of my mother, crying on the floor of my bedroom and wondering what had happened to her firstborn, flashed through my eyes. I squeezed my eyes shut, not daring to let a single tear escape. I had made this decision, and I had to stick with it.
Be strong, I told myself as my will to stay with April slipped slowly away, like a shadow slowly disappearing as more light floods in. I realized my own light was finally flooding in. I was waking up. Our relationship was unrealistic, and I had to fix the situation before it was too late.
I went to the nearest ice cream shop. Looking up, however, I realized it was the one we always went to together, to buy their county-class creme brulee ice cream. Frankly, the flavor was a bit revolting. but it reminded me of where my home now lay. Not with the Girl Scout Daisy Troop of Greater Atlanta. With April.
I rushed back to our house (we were still working at Kumon and earning a high enough salary to purchase a house) and gathered my supplies.
When April came home from his Kumon shift, it was to the smell of caramelizing sugar.
I flung myself into his arms.
"April, I know that we'll never get to visit Ms. Daisy again! I know that we'll never get to make creme brulee every single day like we used to since we're grown-ups now! I know we'll never get to do our taxes! And yes, I know that we'll never get to live in Georgia Aquarium with the mako sharks! But I don't have to have that! All I need is you to be happy! And creme brulee!" I yodeled, my post-pubescent voice cracking slightly.
He just hugged me, his eyes melting like the snowy sugar crystals (not literally), and then got to work on the rapidly crystallizing caramel.
I know now that life doesn't always turn out the way you expect it to.
I got hitched when I was supposed to be in sixth grade and my life has never been the same. I'll probably (still holding out hope) never live in an aquarium, and I'll never know how to do my taxes because my mother isn't here to teach me. But what I got out of this experience outweighed any costs. I got a true love purer than any other and some amazing baking skills. I found the real treasure, all because I followed my heart. I had found the creme de la creme.
But one thing's for sure: I left part of my heart in that Girl Scout meeting the day I left the old me behind and shed the Girl Scout sash for a wedding ring. One day, I want to go back to see how I used to be. I'm planning to visit my parents some day soon. I've learned so much, and it's all because I eloped with a fellow Girl Scout at age 11. I think more people would learn valuable life lessons if they did it too.
After April finished making a new caramel, he began to pipe words in buttercream icing onto our creme brulees. He still hasn't baked anything besides that one dish.
I wrinkled my nose. Buttercream icing on creme brulee? Kind of disgusting.
A, he began piping out.
Narrowing my eyes and tilting my head, I studied his writing.
"April? But why is he piping out his own name? Maybe he's making monogram brulees?" I wondered aloud, my head spinning.