Cinnamon has no clue. About my intent to wed her, that is. I'm not painting with a broad brush here. She's a very-capable modern woman with life goals and a Volkswagen Jetta. What I mean is that she's currently in her bedroom, attending a pricey online university founded by the former CEO of Service Merchandise, whereas I'm in the van der Laans' finished basement playing foosball with her brother, Andy. She has no idea that while I'm pulling and twisting the wooden rods to manipulate the red team, I'm charting the course for our incredible marriage, a union with highs so high they make us woozy and lows that can be easily repaired over the course of a handful of counseling sessions with a well-credentialed local therapist.
Andy has a pretty good idea something's amiss, however, considering I keep fucking up and he's winning four-nil.
Our courtship will be unconventional, that's for certain. Cinnamon's had Lockport Township High School in her rearview for two years already, has gained invaluable real world experience as a server at Buffalo Wild Wings, so she's unlikely to be impressed by my numerous AP courses and robust ACT score. It won't be as simple as a Homecoming invite, a sweaty grope in the back of Marcus Theaters during an inconsequential movement in Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. Nope, this one's going to take finesse.
I'm thinking our romance will mirror the growth of a long-term mutual fund. I'll make an initial, relatively-minor investment in our future later this afternoon, when Cinnamon comes down here to retrieve her work polo from the dryer. It'll take the form of a quip, something real Algonquin Roundtable-ish concerning the down economy's failure to make a dent in the number of dipshits interested in stuffing themselves full of blue cheese and NASCAR beer. (I hereby reserve the right to improve upon the quality of my witticism, as I do have a few hours to do just that.) That way, I'll not only be demonstrating for Cinnamon my capacity for observational humor but my active interest in her current quasi-career as well.
I'll ride out the periods of market volatility, the Jeffs and the Taylors and the DeShawns and all of the other assholes trying to insert themselves into Cinnamon's life at various junctures. I'll observe slow-but-noticeable growth in Us, will be satisfied with modest returns like seeing Cinnamon's side-tit while she suns on her stomach on a folding chair in the van der Laans' backyard. I'll continue to make regular contributions to our inevitable alignment, the compliments and stolen moments steadily accruing and diversifying our portfolio.
When the time for distribution comes, I'll be tender and forward-thinking. We'll be on her duvet and I'll tuck her Clairol Nice'n Easy Dark Auburn hair behind her ear and whisper, I knew it was you. I always knew it was you. I'll of course be exhausted from hours of Lady Chatterley's Lover-style lovemaking but my fatigue won't hinder my ability to lay out, in explicit detail, the Five- to Ten-Year Lifeplan I've prepared in anticipation of our coupling, down to the precise number of English Bulldogs we'll breed as a togetherness-building exercise. (The number is thirteen.) Cinnamon's emotions will, quite naturally, be running very high, on account of all of her wildest dreams coming true and all, so I'll be concise. And, once the time for talking has come and gone, we'll simply lay side-by-side and hope to God Ron and Judy van der Laan don't return home early from that office party.
As for the specifics of the wedding itself, Cinnamon will hire a gay dude to handle all of that. It just seems like the sensible thing to do.
Why Cinnamon? Why indeed.
Some pairings are functions of proximity, convenience. Now, granted, Cinnamon and I share a history, what with her being the hot older sister of my best friend since grammar school and all. I was there for her debilitating bout with pink eye in '06, witnessed the demise of at least three perfectly-good ska bands. I was even present that infamous day at the public pool, when a less-than-thorough bikini line trimming earned the ginger, peaches-and-cream-complexioned Renee van der Laan her current moniker. (Ever the gentleman, I pointed out the growth and offered the use of my Peanuts beach towel as a protective wrap.)
But a fail-safe Cinnamon most certainly is not. No, my desire to take her as my wife has everything to do with promise. It's about being in a kitchen and witnessing a braless woman in polar fleece pajama pants drink 2% straight from the jug and saying, You don't have to live like this! You are an absolute diamond, and not of the blood variety! I will show you a better way! It's about reading someone's constant Status Updates and "Who's Your Totally Rad '80s Boyfriend?" quiz results like they're oracle bones, her potential for ribald cocktail talk crystallizing with each Login. It's about catching the reflection of the Girl Next Door in the window of your Hyundai and seeing a partner, a muse, a friend.
It's also about your future betrothed looking fantastic in a pencil skirt, like Cinnamon did that time she interviewed with Manpower for a temp data entry gig. (It was as though wool's destiny in this world was to wrap itself around her size-two hips, unfurl down her taut thighs to the knee.)
I am but a man, after all.
It won't be easy. Maintaining our model marriage, that is. Despite boasting over nineteen-million residents, Shanghai will still feel small, like we're constantly under glass. Cinnamon's bearing an uncanny likeness to Magnolia-era Julianne Moore and world-class liuqin recitals certainly won't make her inconspicuous. Pair that with my newest high-frequency trading algorithm being the talk of the Lujiazui financial district and, brother, we'll be lucky to have any semblance of a private life.
We'll be sure to calendar plenty of Cinnamon-and-Dave Time, though. We'll enjoy early-Sunday strolls through Zhongshan Gongyuan, our lips meeting in the shadow of the great, looming Chopin monument. We'll take in An Orphan Rescues His Grandfather at our neighborhood art house theater, will be moved by the coquettish Yu Weiru's strength and dignity in the face of family dysfunction. We'll invite the Pengs from Unit 3E over to our loft for ironic Quarter Pounders and syndicated American television, will erupt into delirious, diaphragm-shredding laughter upon hearing Chunhua's Carrie Bradshaw for the first time, her Manolos pricelessly morphing into Minorows.
And, when the time for children arrives, when our summer night is cool and quiet and Cinnamon and I are enjoying the constellation of streetlights and signage that is the Shanghai skyline from the Observation Deck of Oriental Pearl Tower and she suddenly tears up and places her palms flush against my cheeks and says, I have news, I have the most wonderful news, I'll nearly double over with joy, the rush of fatherhood overwhelming my system. I'll spare no expense at The Land of Nod, will comb the internet for the most reputable, pleasantly-rotund nanny in all of Alsace-Lorraine and insist upon her immediate relocation and mastery of both English and Mandarin.
The more I think about it, our marriage will be a lot like Mad About You, that relic of a show my folks are always Netflixing and half-watching while trying out new Ratatouille recipes. Same playful tone, similar bedding. But I'll have way better footwear than Paul Reiser, won't be caught dead traipsing around in some stark-white cross trainers like an underemployed JV basketball coach. You can count on that.
Andy has a number of inquiries. He wants to know whether or not I give a shit, if I'm at all interested in my play. Do I give a flying fuck about foosball, or do I just want to keep asking a bunch of stupid-ass questions about his sister?
Fair questions, all. I don't have a good answer, answer(s). But it's certainly bad form to break down for your best friend of over a decade your best-laid plans for wedding his sister in the midst of athletic competition. No, the honorable thing to do is to wait, to first gain some romantic inertia with Cinnamon before sitting Andy, Ron, and Judy (this is the '10s, after all) down and laying it all out over charcuterie. (Yes, this is exactly how I'll proceed. I will exercise restraint, build character in the process.)
I apologize to Andy, assure him that I'll get my head correct. I politely request that he turn the fuck up the Gucci Mane he's selected as our table-games soundtrack. I drop the ball into the little side slot and I think about Cinnamon creaking down the stairs, stretching and yawning so as to pull her t-shirt up and expose her polished-porcelain tummy. When my striker gains possession, I slam a shot past Andy's defenders with such force that the ball flies out the back of the goal and onto the carpet.
BIO: Thomas Mundt lives in Chicago. His other stories have found homes in places like Annalemma, Wigleaf, Dark Sky Magazine, and Acreage and are not-so-meticulously collected for your convenience at www.dontdissthewizard.blogspot.com. He is currently completing his first short story collection, You Have Until Noon to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe.