ick and Mary had made lots of plans. Some were as simple as blueberry pancakes on Saturday morning. He preferred chocolate chip but she was in a yogurt phase and trying to lose seven pounds before Easter, which they’d planned to spend with his mother. She couldn’t resist St. Louis gooey butter cake — and had no intention of trying. So they compromised on blueberry.
She’d never been one to compromise about anything. As a child, she wore whatever she wanted. She Kool-Aid dip-dyed her hair and kicked a soccer ball around the cul-de-sac until sunset, even if it meant missing dinner and sneaking bananas to bed.
With him, compromising never felt like giving up. It felt like a little battle she was happy to lose if it brought them closer together. Maybe caring a little bit less about her own wellbeing carved out more space to care for him, and that was wonderful.
They had planned a road trip to all 50 states, or more accurately, the states neither of them had ever visited. They wanted one day to say with absolute confidence that they had indeed seen America. They drove across southern Illinois into Missouri and traced the Mississippi as far as they could over a three-day weekend. They marveled at the way the Ozarks rose out of the flattest plains behind them, even though they looked more like big hills than mountains. It’s funny, she thought — and maybe said aloud — how we make mountains out of hills.
They stopped by the road for barbecue and then kept on going, tipsy on Bud Light and love.
She got the idea for a play-list midway though New Mexico. For every state they’d choose a key word and find songs that contained it. Michigan was “hand” because that’s how Michiganders always indicated where they came from. With an awkward down-turned palm, they’d point to Ann Arbor or Lansing. Kentucky was “lucky” and Tennessee was “touch.” Arkansas was “leaving” and North Carolina was “baby.”
Neither of them thought it could happen. Not that weekend, and definitely not in a Courtyard Marriott. Although it seemed insane to talk about it so soon, they had planned to one day conceive a child in another country. Maybe India or Egypt. The location was still up in the air, but they wanted the first cells of their offspring to multiply in a place filled with foreign words and smells and huge colored carpets.
It was shocking too because Mary had always been good at math, but apparently not as good at counting.
When they first found out, they planned to get married in Las Vegas. It was a perfect excuse for another road trip. On the way, they could listen to songs like “Marry the Night” and “Chapel of Love.” It felt like the most natural thing to do and neither of them could wait to dress up the baby in striped pajamas and love it like crazy.
Compromising on names was no problem because of middle names. He’d wanted to add Roman numerals at the end, but she drew the line because twins ran in both their families and they were almost guaranteed to have a superiority and inferiority complex, which the second and the third would only exacerbate.
They were on the phone discussing her wedding dress and whether you could even have too many sequins in Vegas, when he went silent.
He said he’d given it a lot of thought and that maybe he wasn’t ready after all. Could they take care of it and maybe try again in a year or so? After they’d seen all 50 states?
They agreed to think about it and hung up.
Mary curled her knees to her chest and thought about it — or didn’t think about it much at all — until sunrise.
She knew what she wanted and it was more than blueberry pancakes and a map covered in 50 little X’s. She called him back by dawn’s early light and told him she wasn’t compromising. Not this time.