I knew a writer I met online who was struggling to learn how to write a novel. He was a big fan of George RR Martin and trying to write in that style but did not know how well he was doing as he had no one he trusted to give him a fair review. He sent me chapters and I ripped them apart. This led to his remark, “I know I said I could handle criticism but…”
He went on to explain that he realized now that he clearly could not write and was ready to give up. In an attempt to prevent him from committing literary suicide, I pointed out a number of good things about his writing and tried to explain the principle that just because one person dislikes something another might not and that it is up to the writer to determine who to listen to. It was then I suggested he have his wife read and review his stuff, as wives can usually be counted on to be honest about their husbands limitations when perhaps no one else is.
He replied, “Who, that harpy from the third plane of Hell?”
This was when I realized I was even more fortunate than I thought. I recently gave an interview to Melissa over at My World Through Books and Pages and one of her questions was, “I've heard your wonderful wife has assisted you in this adventurous journey in a great way. How has this worked out for you, married and living together and working together? Sounds like it could be hard at times”
Having been asked this, I realized it was about time I wrote about Robin, the architect of my success. I'm going to start at the beginning, so bear with me.
For those of you who don’t know, Robin is my wife. We met in the late seventies when she was a waitress in a local Big Boy
where I would go for a late night snack with friends after I got off work. We were both in the same high school, but she was a year younger and ran in different circles than I. I did cartoons for the school newspaper and she was valedictorian of her class. I saw her off and on through mutual friends but never really took notice of her until, while in an argument about how pathetic I was, the girl I was dating, Wendy, made the foolish mistake of pointing out that her friend, Robin, was also interested in me.
As mentioned Robin was something of a brainac and not inclined to the sort of fashions that turned teenage boy’s heads. She did however run with a pack of girls that did, and it was not unusual for those dating her girl-friends to stop by Robin’s house to inquire about how well a date went. Often Robin also liked the boys who came by, but all they wanted to talk about was one of her friends and never noticed her.
So she knew exactly why it was I stopped by her house after midnight on a Friday, and seeing the door open and Robin doing her homework at the dining table, I knocked. She greeted me as she had so many others who were dating her friends, with a wonderful smile of surprise tinged with a hint of sadness that sighed a mute, “if only.”
The real reason I stopped in was that we had all been out the day before and Robin had lost her glasses. I found them in my car after my latest date with Wendy. Despite the hour, I felt glasses were things people would rather not be without. She was so inviting however, that I lingered and talked with her.
The perfect hostess, Robin offered me a foil wrapped Ding Dong and a glass of milk and we talked about this new author called Stephen King who she had been reading and how his latest book, The Dead Zone, was very thought provoking. We chatted for hours about books, religion, and philosophy, and I was stunned by her intelligence--at that time I was not yet aware of her valedictorian achievement, because it hadn't happened yet. Then I left. The one thing I hadn’t chose to talk about--the one thing that left her bewildered as I drove away--was that I never once brought up Wendy.
I stopped seeing Wendy and made a habit of visiting Robin. Soon we spent every night together at 24 hour restaurants like Denny’s just talking. Everyone we knew believed we were sleeping together. The reality was that we hadn’t even held hands. We were just great friends. This went on for many months until one day, a year after I had graduated from high school and Robin was about to, I was at work and the radio played She’s Out of My Life. This got me thinking what my days would be like when some guy finally did swoop in and whisk her off. The thought felt like someone hit me in the stomach with a baseball bat. And as I stood there I realized with a curious surprise that I was in love with her.
I walked out of work early that day because I was certain some other bastard was on his way that very minute to steal what I desperately realized I wanted to be mine. Despite everything I could not get her alone and what I had to say was not the kind of thing you wanted to do in a room full of friends and strangers. Still I couldn’t wait and I ended up writing “I love you,” on a torn piece of Denny’s place mat and slipping it to her as we said goodnight.
That’s how it started. That’s how I ended up asking a woman to marry me before I ever kissed her, before I ever dated her--in all honesty we never really dated. That was back in 1980,and from that day forward everything got a little better.
Consider this part one of the docu-drama, romance, flash installment, non-fiction account of the tale of Robin and Michael. If I can figure a way to get a vampire in it, this could be big.