Dents as mementos


Judging from rock'n'roll lyrics, falling in love is the greatest thing ever in the history of the universe. And falling in love with Stephanie was marvelous, unlike anything I'd ever experienced. All the clichés were there, in overdoses — I couldn't get her out of my mind and didn't want to; I couldn't stop thinking about the last time I saw her, except when I was thinking about the next time I'd see her; I wanted to know her better, and then when I got to know her better I wanted to know her better still. It was head-over-heels, as they say.
Our "falling in love" phase never much faded; even after years and years together, we still and always looked forward to seeing each other, my heart still fluttered when we kissed, and always I wanted to do anything that might make her smile. In the dead of winter, there was sunshine in my soul. There was a reason to keep going every day, and always there was optimism no matter what went wrong, even in the midst of catastrophe.
Even after the catastrophe of her death, she's still the spark of warmth that keeps my heart beating. I'm still in love with her, of course. Always will be. She's still the reason to keep going, still the source of any optimism that exists inside me.
I miss the twinkle in her eyes, especially when she was looking my direction. I miss her. I miss us. The only thing better than falling in love with Stephanie, was being in love with her.
More than food and air and coffee, being on Stephanie's team was what powered me through every day. Being there for her, knowing she was always there for me, was the bedrock on which everything else was built. In just about every quantifiable human trait, she was a better person than me, but I was on her team and she was on mine. She was my team. When I needed a hug or a listen or a better idea, she had whatever I needed, and I know she'd say the same about me. I'll always be on Team Stephanie.
* * * * * * * * * *
Every ding and dent and scratch on our car is a memory of Stephanie, sort of. There are plenty of dings and dents, and she's not responsible for any of those damages; they all happened when I was behind the wheel. But she was with me for each little fender-bender, so every time I see the dented rear door, or the mirror held on by duct tape, or the scratch at the rear quarter-panel, or the crumpled corner of the hood, it reminds me of where we were when it happened, and the sweet things she said to soothe my rattled nerves afterwards.
She mentioned a few times that some of the bigger dents were ugly and ought to be repaired, but the money was always needed for other things. Now that she's gone, I'm a little bit glad to still have the dents as mementos.
* * * * * * * * * *
For a few days after her death, not a minute went by without memories of Stephanie.
For months now, it's been at most a few minutes before something Steph-related comes to mind.
Someday, I imagine, it might be an hour.
Maybe in some distant future I could watch a movie without a single thought of her, until it's over and I'd be wondering what she would've thought about it.
The notion that I might ever go a whole day without thinking of her, well, that just makes me sad. Why would I want to go a day without thinking of her?
The day I don't think about Stephanie Webb, well, that'll be the day after I die.

A cheeseburger without cheese


Steph was a borderline cheese connoisseur and a former employee of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, and she knew her dairy products like Scotty knows engineering on the Enterprise. And she enjoyed a hot, juicy hamburger on many, many occasions. So she loved cheese, and she liked hamburgers, but for Steph, cheese and a hamburger didn't go well together. She never ate cheeseburgers. The only times I ever saw her bite into a cheeseburger was when we were doing fast-food and they'd screwed up the order, given her a cheeseburger when she'd ordered a hamburger.
She liked Wendy's, but ordering there was especially complimicated; Steph's favorite was a Junior Bacon Hamburger, which isn't on the menu — it's only on the menu as a cheeseburger. If you order a Junior Bacon Hamburger, you'll get a confused look, and you'll probably be given a cheeseburger. From experience we learned that to have a Junior Bacon Hamburger at Wendy's, you need to order a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, and then add, "without cheese."
At Burger King, she'd order a Junior Whopper, with no onions, no tomato. If we were doing fast-food at Culver's, she might have a Butter Burger, and she'd always order a mango smoothie. At Dickie's, it's a pulled pork sandwich, with creamed spinach on the side. We rarely went to McDonald's, but if they were advertising a reduced price she might order a Filet-O-Fish or a Junior Mac.
And I know what she'd order at the bagel place – an Asaggio or sesame bagel, untoasted please, with garden veggie spread or onions and chives. At the corner coffee and tea shop, she'd have a Taiwan red tea. At Taco Bell, a soft taco and nacho fries. At Café Bel Italia, she'd have eggplant parmesan. At the Thai place (at any Thai place), it was always pad thai, but only after scrutinizing the menu for five or ten minutes, pretending to herself that she might order something different. At the Hong Kong Cafe, she'd order moo shoo pork, perhaps with a side order of shrimp toast or crab rangoon. At Ogden's Diner, it was usually blueberry pancakes, but she was also open to the daily specials.
I don't have any idea what to do with the above information. It jumps to the front of my brain at the oddest times, and any time I drive past a Wendy's or Burger King, or anyplace we ever ate. So I've typed it here, wishing I was buying her dinner but instead I'm eating alone, every meal.