I guess his smile was the first thing I noticed about him. It’s what everyone notices about him, probably. That, or the hair (he’s a redhead). I know I sound jaded now, there’s no way not to, everything coming after the fact getting reframed into the pre-existing narrative of Woman, Spurned, but. It doesn’t feel like that, didn’t feel like that at the time. I just saw this guy and I liked the look of him. I liked being near him. But the closer I tried to get, the more impossible it seemed to ever really know Ronny.
We never formally “met”. Is that sick? He’s always been there, a part of my life as far back as I can think. I can’t recall a time in my life when I *wasn’t* aware of Ronny and his significance to children. He was just everywhere; talking to me on the television or singing to me on the radio, even if I wasn’t expressly going to visit one of his houses. And oh god, his houses. Filled with delicious smells and flavors, lots of people, toys I could carry out with me and play with back in my bedroom. Nothing breakable in Ronny’s houses, no sharp corners to trip or bump into, sometimes not even movable chairs to stumble over. Some of his houses even had areas explicitly for children to play in…I was rarely allowed to go in, but it was nice that he had them at all. And everywhere, from posters and stand-ees and window clings, Ronny smiling warmly at me. Ronny surrounding me and making sure I was safe. Ronny watching as I ate my meal, happy.
I began to realize there could be more to our relationship the first time I met one of Ronny’s bodies. We ran into each other at the State Fair; he was there to promote his charitable foundation, and I was there to eat as many elephant ears as my mother would buy for me. We didn’t interact much more than we ever had — eye contact, smiles — but being able to feel him there in the room with me, to watch him from such close range…it added a layer of intimacy to things that all his shiny pictures lacked.
I didn’t think much of certain aspects of the bodies, the more I saw of them. They lacked consistency, for one thing; some taller, some shorter, some streaking the pancake makeup a bit at the temples with sweat. And never really prepared to spend the kind of time I knew, knew, Ronny wanted to give me. Either I was being rushed away from him or he from me, off a stage, out a door, into a car. Pressing my fingers to the glass of the television no longer brought the comfort it once did. He was so far away when he was wanting me near him, and never quite ready for me when he was close. But I knew he loved me; why would a man act like that toward a little girl if not for love? Why else was I spending all that time at his houses? What other explanation is there?
I realized my error one day at one of his houses in the middle of a compulsory “family road trip”, stopped somewhere off I-70. There on a bench outside his house, was my Ronny. He had one knee slung over the other, one arm stretched along the back of the seat. All of his body language said, “I’m open, I’m interested, I’m listening.” It was finally happening, for real. And it was certainly better than the other bodies; he was the height he was supposed to be, and I could get as close to him as I wanted. I could finally touch him. He would smile at me and be there for me and hold me. But when I went to sit on his lap, my hand smeared across some semi-dried bird poop and a used packet of dipping sauce someone had discarded. I slipped and hit my face on his solid chest. I looked up and noticed that the paint and part of Ronny’s nose had chipped away on the other side of his face. This wasn’t right. It was painful and messy and embarrassing; he somehow still wasn’t ready for this.
I started looking for more of the statues, and I found them. I could find Ronny anywhere, but damaged, scarred, hurtful. He was always right where I knew he’d be, sometimes in relatively decent shape, but mostly not, beaten on by life and doing nothing to stop the damage. He was never the man I had always been expecting, who I had been taught to expect, who I had hoped for. He was never what I thought of when I thought what a “clown” should be. I would waffle between being ashamed of him for failing that ideal and being ashamed of myself for expecting him to meet it after going so long without my needs being met. But somehow, I’ve never been able to stop with Ronny.
When I heard the announcement about the first round of private commercial development on the lunar colony, I took it for the obvious sign it was. With the low population and zero incidence of vandalism, I have heard that the colony is extremely clean and orderly. “Kind of like a theme park…a bit creepy” is what one of my friends told me. The application process involves an intense background check to verify only the most dedicated and low-risk will be added to the community.
I know what this means. That’s where he is. That’s where we can finally be together. He’ll be waiting for me, and he’ll call me by my name, the right name, because he’s always known it. He’ll have all my favorite meal from his menu ready. Maybe he’ll even have saved the prize for me. And I’ll sit with him, and we’ll look in each other’s eyes and smile and touch, and it will be perfect. It won’t feel gross at all. I can’t wait to fly to the moon.