April Fools to Fools
April Fools we were. Wasn’t it only yesterday that we ran away on the first of April 1968? We drove nearly through the night. I can’t believe we hit that snow pole and didn’t flip the veedub. Out of gas, we slept by the pump of a closed gas station, snow on the ground, wrapped in each other’s arms. Why didn’t we come prepared with at least a blanket? We were too young; we didn’t think so. After gas, it was on to Twin Falls. Where did we change before going to the courthouse to get our marriage license? I remember your white dress, with the flowers along the bottom hem and across the front from shoulder to shoulder. You looked so much like a young Cher. Your hair, long and straight and brown, with bangs almost covering your eyes. No make up at all; you didn’t need it. What did I wear? I know I had on my calf-height leather moccasins and Levi 501s. What shirt did I wear? Two April fool hippies. We each had leather cords around our necks, too. I’d started wearing one soon after high school, when I’d hang out in Manhattan Beach. I made one for you. It was the closest thing we had to engagement rings. We were quite the pair, standing on the courthouse steps.
The Chef’s wife’s–what was her name?–family met us there and gave us the bad news. We couldn’t get married in Idaho; the age had been changed to 21. We didn’t know we probably could have gone down to Nevada. We left, dejected, heading back to California. You cried. You said you didn’t want to go home. You said you wanted to be with me. If only I’d known what was ahead. There were no red flags waving about to warn of the sudden and irreversible transformation ahead. I could have taken you home to your parents. If only I’d known.
We ambled back toward California. Remember Highway 395 and all those small desert towns in Nevada. Didn’t we play a few nickel slots with refunded deposit money from all those soda bottles we collected along the way? Did we win anything? I suppose not. I don’t remember how long it took to return, but I remember calling my parents. It was a cruel joke to play, leaving note on April Fools Day to say we were running off to get married. Turns out we didn’t, and the joke was on us. My mom said to come home. Why listen to her then, as I’d not listened before. So I didn’t.
That one-room apartment on Euclid Avenue cost $50 a month with utilities included. We returned to college classes, continued our weekend work at Chef in the Forest restaurant in Idyllwild, in the mountains. Carefree. No worries. No debts. Friends with which we hung out. Remember that Mothers’ Day and waking to a foot of unexpected snow. I really enjoyed closing at Chef’s on Sundays. We watched Blue Hawaii when Chef rented out the theatre for us all in the afternoons.
Those were the days. We collected and stored more soda bottles, walking all over to find them. When we had enough cash, we splurged on dope. I pounded out the big dent in the front of the veedub. But it never looked quite the same. Remember I’d done to body completely without the original chrome strips and the bumpers, welding all the holes, painted it Aztec Gold? I loved those diamond tuck seats that I’d had done in Mexico the year before.
Why did we decide to quit Chef’s anyway? Those weekends working in the mountains were nice. We had a good summer though, didn’t we. We messed around at the beach most of the summer. Remember that orange grove? We stopped to pick a few oranges. Who was with us then? I don’t recall. We got out and went into the orchard. We probably only picked a dozen when we heard that rattler’s warning. You ran like a rabbit to the veedub, with the rest of us in tow.
When the money got low I thought we’d both get work. I found a job hauling onions for P&P farms. One of your old high school friends got me the job. He moved in with us, too. I don’t even know why. Do you? Three of us in a one-room apartment. Then that one-bedroom upstairs opened up, so we all moved in there. After onion season I found a job at a lumber yard. You stayed home. So did your friend. Eventually he moved out. We moved too. Here and there. Out of state and back again. But things were different. You made your own friends and I worked and worked. But it was never really enough, was it? You had your secret daytime friends.
Looking back, I see that you weren’t happy. I tried my best. I tried to be the person you wanted in your life. I didn’t know that was impossible. I didn’t know I’d never be able to be that person. The struggles became intense. The years and our youth fell away. Finally you figured out how you could have both cake and ice cream and eat it too. I was recruited for a new job, in another city. You wanted me to take it. When I did, you stayed where you were. But you didn’t want to work then either. So I being ever the fool sent you three quarters of my pay. You stayed in that old Victorian house we’d shared. I lived in an empty lot in a travel trailer. No electricity. No heat. No money. No worries. I enjoyed my self, though penniless. Made friends. Eventually I left there, too. And the checks stopped coming. So you got a job. And I traveled around, working here and there like a gypsy. You hated me for that.
We put it all behind us. At least we must have, for we visited a few times over the years since our transformation from April Fools to just old fools. And we get along well enough, though we’ve both moved on.
Fool I was.