The Tangerine Ball

How could he love this girl?

I had served alongside Ian for a great length of my career. He was as close as a brother. We’d come through some shit together, and no joke. In our day, he was a brilliant rescue diver; brave as David when facing huge obstacles right in front of him. Fearless sod, that’s all I can tell you. Fearless. Worse than these attributes, he was a freaking handsome son of a sailor.

I always had an idea of what his eventual partner would look like, the cliché type, every man’s dream.

“How’s Malta, must beat the living crap out of the North Sea, right?” I hadn’t spoken with him in a year, too busy with loving my family, raising my sons, working at a proper life. Ian had been posted to Malta! Something to do with The HM Coastguard station at Girvan, Ayrshire, Scotland. To help in the prevention of smuggling in conjunction with HM Customs and Excise authority after Malta became a Republic.

“What do you think? The Mediterranean waters are warm, for Christ’s sake, but that’s not why I’m calling. I found her. I have found the love of my life.”

Anyway, cutting all the interim crap out, I was to meet up with him on a sailing holiday with my family. Come the day, there she was; a chubby ginger haired young woman with a huge smile and huge teeth. She was wearing a tangerine monstrosity of a dress. I took a big step backward, threw my hands up, and said, “Wow, Ian, she’s a beauty.” It felt terribly insincere. What else was I to do? My wife had no such reservations, and immediately put her arms around the tangerine ball and held on.

Seriously, she looked like an extra from Steel Magnolias. I wasn’t expecting her dress to be couture, but a simple blush-toned shift dress from Bloomingdale’s would have been a reasonable choice.

Never one for confrontation, but having a lifelong clumsiness, I said: “That’s a fun dress!” Without giving thought to how much this young woman may have put into her choice. Swimming through the fabric, I heard a high-pitched voice that sounded a little like a voice after taking in the air of a helium balloon.

“Do ya like the dress? I spent so much time trying to find the perfect one. Ian is always telling me what a fashionista ya are!!”

Oh hell, she’s an American on helium.

I played along. “Definitely! Thierry Mugler would love this!” My wife knew I was being condescending and gave me a glare.

A lighthearted giggle came out and the tangerine ball confessed, “The only designer clothes I buy are the ones they sell at Wal-Mart.”

The young woman leaned in, stood on her tip toes, and planted a kiss on my cheek. “I know how much Ian admires you, and how you’ve been friends for so long. I’ve waited a long time to see what you look like in living flesh. I thought you’d be taller.”

Jesus. Look, if you want to know how badly her innocent remarks, her modesty, and knowing her place in Ian’s life, made me feel, you will only half get it.

My wife looked at me with a glint in her eyes that told me how much I deserved that remark.

Ian looked so damn proud. It was showing all over his face.

The evening went well, we dined on the boat, listened to music, talked about our many manly adventures while the women talked about where to get the best mani-pedi!

“I can’t remember the last time I had polish on these nails,” my wife said, “just think, by this time tomorrow, my nails will look splendid, darling,” her eyes shining.

I took Ian onto the forward deck, and we hung out against the rail. “Ian, are you sure she’s the one? Do you want to spend your life with her?”

He knew I was implying he could do so much better. But he immediately forgave me.

A year later we attended their wedding, me as his best man.

Most people tend to draw their focus on the bride during the wedding ceremony, but in my opinion, observing the groom’s face as his love approaches him is much more touching. On Ian’s wedding day, I saw a man who was stepping into a life he believed in. He didn’t care that he was a hero to anyone else, he didn’t care that he was a million miles from wealth. He followed his heart and he found peace. I could only respect his way of finding happiness.

Ian and Rachel now own a restaurant in New York. He couldn’t cook his way out of a flour bag most of his life. The tangerine ball is the woman who now has all the affection and love I can offer from my heart. No woman ever took care of me the way she did after the tragedy that sent me to hell.

I dined in that restaurant a month ago. She greeted me with the same smile, big teeth, kissed my cheek, and said: “Hell, you’re still short.”

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I was born in London, adopted, lived my youth on an island off the coast of Scotland. Now living between Colorado, Missouri, California. I write to be loved

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Harry Hogg

Harry Hogg

I was born in London, adopted, lived my youth on an island off the coast of Scotland. Now living between Colorado, Missouri, California. I write to be loved

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