Saturday, December 03, 2005

Pumpkin seeds and shit

Saturday, October 29, 2005, 2:00pm

Next to Christmas, Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love the chilly bite in the air, the bowls of bite-size candy that pop up on every dining room table and workplace desk, and the scary/cute decorations on every window and door. I even like the cheesy music they play on the radio. There's no other time, except for Christmas, when you know what holiday is coming just by looking at your neighbors' front lawns.

Why, I even hang a few decorations myself. I was never much for pumpkin carving, though. Which brought up a dilemma...

"Wanna go pumpkin carving tonight?"

"I don't think so."

"Pleeeeeease? My girlfriend and her husband invited us over. They're gonna buy us dinner!"

"But PUMPKIN carving, Tim?"

"It's cool! They have those nice patterns and the little tools to carve with. You'll be awesome at it, I know."

"Oh yeah?"

"Mmm. You have good fingers," she says with a sly smile.

I still haven't figured out how to say no when she smiles like that.


Todd and Sherri's house

"Do you mind if I use some of your spices?" Tim asks.

"We just ate," Sherri says. General Gao's chicken and pork fried rice. Yum! "What are you making?"

"I'm gonna make some pumpkin seeds!"

"Ewww! They're all slimy and stuff! We just throw them away, don't we Todd?"

"You'll like them. Trust me." And with that, Tim goes to work, preheating and measuring and mixing.

"So how long have you guys been going out?" Sherri says, not looking at either one of us. She's 28 or so, and the lines next to her eyes give her face a comfortable look.

"Couple of months," I say.

"I smell marriage," Todd says, smiling up from the pumpkin he's working on. If using the word "marriage" while carving out an image of a graveyard ain't symbolism, I don't know what is.

Todd's finger has swollen around his wedding band, so much so that it actually looks painful. He's probably put on 15 or 20 pounds since he got married. I wonder how it must feel not to be uptight about one's appearance.

"I think that's a dirty diaper you're smelling," I say. They have a three-month old daughter, but she's been sleeping since we got here. We all laugh.

"Just let them spend the holidays together, and we'll see how it goes!" Sherri says to Todd. "No pressure. Right, Steve?"

"Sounds good to me."


Tim pulls a frying pan from under the oven. "A frying pan?" says Sherri.

"I have to caramelize!"

Something smells good. REALLY good. It's a wintry, spicy smell, almost like apple pie.

She transfers the seeds into a bowl and stirs furiously with a wooden spoon. "I gotta get my hands on somma those!" Todd says.

"No! Let them cool first!" Tim scolds.

Todd and I look impatiently at each other as the wall clock ticks.

DING! goes the egg timer.

"Dig in, guys!" Tim says, placing the bowl on the table in front of us.

The initial handful is like tasting candy for the first time as a kid. Delighting in the warm, sweet, spicy flavor on the outside, I bite down, and the hearty pumpkin-seed taste joyously fills my mouth. These things are amazing!

"Where did you get this recipe?" Sherri says.

"I saw it somewhere, but I didn't write it down, so I just kinda winged it."

"Absolutely amazing, Tim! A Tim special!"

"It would be nice to have a wife who cooks like that, wouldn't it?" Todd says, grinning at me.

A loud, shreiking cry pierces the sounds of our crunching and chewing.

Sherri runs to the living room, picking the baby up out of her playpen. "Oh my God, she's a mess. Her diaper leaked. Todd!"

"Be right there," he intones, lumbering out of his seat and into the living room.

Tim takes a seat next to me. "Your pumpkin is awesome!" she says, admiring my wolf-howling-at-the-moon masterpiece.

"Thanks. So are your pumpkin seeds."

We both look away. We're thinking about something else.

"Todd is so crazy."


"Can you picture us married, Steve?" she says, with a little chuckle.

"I'd have to say I love you first."

"Well you better say it first, because I'm not," she smiles.


"A lady never says 'I love you' first!"

I look at her again. I didn't even want to come here tonight; part of me was dreading it. And I've had the most amazing time.

Maybe it's time to say it after all.


October 31, 2005 - Halloween, 8:45pm

"Good turnout today," I say, flipping my porch light off and hitting the STOP button on my Halloween Hits CD (time to moth-ball that one for another 11 months). "We got a couple of Three Musketeers and some Snickers left. Interested?" I hold up the almost-empty silver salad bowl.

"Uh-uh. Can we go for a walk?"

"Sure, Tim."

It's a beautiful night, warm enough to go without a jacket. As we're walking out of my driveway and onto the sidewalk, I feel her left arm slip around my waist, her hand sliding into the back pocket of my jeans.

"I was thinking..."

Uh-0h. Wonder what THIS is about.


"What would you say about getting both our families together for Thanksgiving? At your house? I could make a turkey. I could make TWO turkeys!"

It's a great idea. Of course, I'll have to make amends with Greg about my boning Jenny. Oh, and I'll have to speak to Jenny, too, to make sure we're ok. I'm pretty sure no one in my family would be dumb enough to mention what happened with her in front of Tim, but one never knows.

If all goes well, this could be a great Thanksgiving. But it usually doesn't go well with my family on a holiday. Still, Tim and I have gotten serious, and I like the idea of our families getting to know each other.

We stop by the pond, admiring the reflection of the streetlights on the still water, and the leaves that float slowly by.

"Tim," I say, turning to face her, my heart racing.

"What?" she beams back at me.

"What are you smiling about?" I laugh.

"What were you gonna say!" she giggles.

"Tim, I love you."

Her face goes blank. Is she uncomfortable? Happy enough to cry? Shocked? Constipated?

A tear wells up in each eye, like tiny diamonds. "Ohhh! I love you too, honey!"