We are sitting on a bus. No, let me back up.
It is my senior year of high school, at the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and that other thing. I have elected myself captain of the solar car team by virtue of being the only one who wants the title, at least who spoke up fast enough that nobody else said a word. We are trying to build a solar car on a budget of about $100, plus batteries. Mr. F, who is funding said solar car because we can't make enough money on fundraisers to fund a tricycle, let alone a solar car, has found us a garage to build our solar car in. It looks like a giant metal frame, on wheels, and it sags in the middle. None of us know enough physics to build a car, and furthermore we are using hole-punched angle iron to build our frame with, which has holes punched every inche (I refer to this also in the grommet story), which means that every single part of our car must have a side length that is an even integer, and we are building it with triangles. There is a list in the garage of acceptable side lengths for such triangles.
We need nuts and bolts. It is after 6 PM and we are in a garage and we need nuts and bolts and at the Indiana Academy for Science Mathematics and that other thing one must never be seen in public alone after 6 PM, one must always have a partner. And the only way to get more nuts and bolts is to go take the MITS bus up to Lowe's and Walmart and buy them. I am the captain of the solar car team. I volunteer to go, mostly because the last thing I want to do is try to calculate one more bleeding integer-sided triangle and then shave off the corners to make the angles fit. I need a partner.
In the garage with me are the following: The boy I was emphatically not-dating-at-the-time but with whom nonetheless I spent a great deal of time off in dark corners getting my hormonal needs satisfied (Just mine. Not his, mind) and who was prone to jealous fits and generally starting to wear on my nerves. My roommate, who had a bad habit of accusing me of making eyes at her boyfriend, whether or not I had actually conversed with said boyfriend during the day; this interrogation was worse whenever I spent any actual time speaking with said boyfriend. Her boyfriend, who is now a very dear friend of mine. platypuslord, who was arguably the person best-suited to actually making a functioning solar car in the room. A boy who had the physical energy to continually saw angled steel into particularly-sized pieces using a hand hacksaw. And one other boy, who had a place in the solar car team that was completely non-rigidly defined.
I took the extra boy with me. It was a ploy calculated to irritate the boy I was not dating but keep my roommate silent while allowing the team to continue working.
We walked to the MITS bus stop, and arrived about forty-five seconds too late. We waited fifteen minutes and rode ten. We made that sort of politely awkward conversation that takes place between two high-school kids who know each other fairly well but have no real social connection. We got off at Walmart, walked to Lowe's, got the nuts and bolts, walked back to Walmart and missed the MITS bus by about forty-five seconds. We went inside Walmart to wait where it was not cold, missed another MITS bus for watching children play on the mechanical ponies, achieved the third MITS bus and settled down to ride.
You must understand, O Best Beloved, that by this time we had progressed from stilted conversation to wildly erratic chatter of the type most of my peer group enjoyed. We had, at some point, brought up the fact that this boy was actually an alien, fostered on Earth. Everyone knew about the boy I wasn't dating; most people thought we were a couple. The solar car team knew better, and also knew what the end result of me going off with another boy and taking almost two hours on a thirty-minute trip was going to be. And I said "We'd better come up with a reason it took us so long. Nobody's going to believe we missed the bus three times." And he pondered. And he said: "We could always tell them that my parents came and abducted us to their ship, and they performed many experiments on us." I liked this idea. We liked the idea. We expounded on it for a while, growing more and more elaborate, concocting a story. And at one point someone said "And then they forced us to have--" and the other one interjected "--soup! Chicken noodle soup!" And we liked that even more.
We got back to the garage, still giggling, not at all contrite for this unprecedented delay in the return of nuts and bolts. And we walked into the garage, and the boy I was not dating looked over at me and complained: "Where have you been for two hours?" And I held up the bag of nuts and bolts, and I glanced over at the boy who had come with me on that fateful trip, and we chorused "Soup!" And collapsed in laughter.
I never told the boy I was not dating what it meant, and I think he hated me for that, a little.
And a musical happened ("Fiddler on the Roof") somewhere in there, and I was in the pit orchestra and the boy who went to the store with me was Nochim the beggar and the boy I was not dating was in the tech crew but the tech crew doesn't spend as much time with the actors and the pit orchestra as the actors and the pit orchestra do with each other, and it was so much fun to watch him fume and spit, like a drenched cat held by the tail, and know that I had him in my thrall and I was still getting anything I wanted from him. I was not a nice girl.
But it was not so long after that that he hissed and spit so much I began to feel stifled, and I broke up with him and told him I would not go to prom with him, in a melodramatic and appropriately public Scene. And it was not so long after that (actually, it was the same day) that the boy who had come with me asked me to go to prom with him (just as friends!), in a charming little interlude in the computer lab. And it was not so long after that - actually, it was on the seventh of April, 1997 - that we were walking back from the solar car garage, and it was a clear and moonlit night, and I do not remember why I stopped in the parking lot but it might have been to look at the moon, but I turned and he didn't and to this day neither he nor I can say who kissed whom.
But I saw stars, and did not know what they meant. He asked me out that night. I told him that that would be just fine, as long as he accepted one condition: the relationship ended either (1) when I got tired of him or (2) at the end of the school year, whichever came first. It was the best prom ever. And I didn't get tired of him. And when he asked me on graduation night whether I still planned on breaking up, I caved in and told him no, I didn't want to.
Come April 7th, it will have been eight years, and I'm still not tired of my Angel. And I love him more than I had ever thought I could love anyone.
And that, O Best Beloved, is how it started: with soup.