I love my job. When I’m in the suit, leading llama cheers and shooting hot dogs into the stands, that’s me at my my best. The dancing, the jokes, the slapstick – I love very second of it. I make them laugh til they cry, and I do it without ever saying a word. They watch me, goofing around inside the suit, but they don’t see me, not really. And that’s just the way I like it.
The first time I saw Tabitha I thought my heart would explode. She was so beautiful, and she made me so nervous. Most people make me nervous, actually. But Tabitha? Well – Tabitha was something else.
I stared at her, blinking, trying to think of something to say. She looked back at me with those big blue eyes, and as I searched desperately for the right words, I wished – not for the first time in my life – that I could wear my llama suit every day, everywhere I went. Tabitha would love Llama-Suit Tom! Llama-suit Tom would make her laugh. Llama-suit Tom is irresistible.
Regular Tom? Not so much. Mercifully, she spoke first. The words flowed from her lips so easily, so effortlessly that I couldn’t help but feel jealous. I mean – she just opens her mouth and words come out! To me, this particular trait is very impressive. I’ve never been good with words. I jumble them, mumble them, say the wrong thing. It’s not easy sticking my size 10 foot into my mouth, so most of the time I just keep quiet.
Unfortunately, Tabitha asked me a question. Which, naturally, required an answer.
What do you do for a living? she’d asked. A simple question, really, with a simple answer.
Unless you’re me.
A little of this, a little of that.
That’s what i said to to the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I cringed. A little of this, a little of that?! That wasn’t even true! I had a job – ONE job – to BE A LLAMA! A little of this, a little of that. Not. Even. Close. I tried desperately to find something to say, some way to keep the conversation going, but words – as usual – escaped me.
So, Tom….tell me about yourself, she said.
I panicked – she was moving onto open-ended questions now! So you know what I said to her? I like French fries. French fries! For real, Tom? French fries!? I could have told her that I love to cook. That my favorite Saturday night begins and ends with Simflix and a gourmet meal of my own making. I could have said that I like chess, and that even though I’m quiet, I actually have a wicked sense of humor. But no. I tell her I like French fries.
She got up to go then – some nonsense about her hair – and I can’t say that I blamed her.
But panic struck as she walked away. What if I never saw her again? It took every ounce of courage I had to chase her down and spit out the one sentence that would set the rest of my life into motion.
Can I call you? The question spilled out before I had time to think, time to back down. And for the first time in recent memory, I didn’t regret my words.
You realize that would actually require you to talk to me right?
I said nothing, stupidly, but by some small miracle, she took my phone and punched in her number anyway. Not that I’d be calling, technically. If you haven’t guessed, texting is much more my speed.
It turns out that I can hide behind texting the same way I can hide behind the llama suit. Through text, I can be charismatic, funny, and on a good day, maybe even a little flirty. And over the next few days, I’d never been more thankful for modern technology. Once I gathered the courage to send off that first text, it wasn’t long before I scored a date with Tabitha. How I did it, I’ll never know.
Of course, a real live date presented a new set of challenges, and since I’m told llama suits are inappropriate date attire (thanks, Brennan!), I knew I would have to go as Regular Tom. Regular Awkward Tom.
You know how they say that if you have stage fright, you should imagine the audience in their underwear? I didn’t do that, but I did imagine MYSELF in the llama suit.
Whatever I did, I must have done something right, because today was my lucky day.
Maybe Tabitha just really needed a date for her aunt’s upcoming wedding.
Or…… maybe I really didn’t need the llama suit to be charming or funny. Or maybe, somehow, Tabitha saw past my awkwardness. Maybe she saw me, the real me, even outside of the llama suit.
I didn’t know, and quite honestly, I didn’t care. All I knew was that she was hugging me, and I sure wasn’t going to go sticking my foot in my mouth now.
When Aurora’s wedding rolled around a few weeks later, I put on my new suit and checked myself in the mirror. No broccoli in the teeth, no noticeable nose hairs. I sprayed on some cologne and drove to meet Tabitha. Tabitha, my date. My date, Tabitha. Because I was dating Tabitha.
When I saw her, my jaw hit the floor. She was stunning in that little black dress, and I smoothed my shirt, suddenly self-conscious.
The truth is I barely remember the wedding. A whole bunch of people I didn’t know, pretty flowers, blushing bride, blah blah blah. A couple of shots to soothe my nerves. I’m sure I had a great time. But the whole thing pales in comparison to what happened after the wedding.
The cool thing about woohoo is that nobody expects you to talk.
The cool thing about woohoo with Tabitha is that… well, it’s woohoo. WITH TABITHA.
Unfortunatley, I didn’t hear from Tabitha for awhile. Days passed, and my texts (even the charming, funny ones!) went un-returned. I agonized over what I did wrong – I must’ve SAID something after one too many shots, or maybe I was a let-down in the woohoo department? When you’re quiet like I am, you don’t get much practice in that respect. Maybe she just didn’t feel the fireworks like I did.
I was mortified, but more importantly, I missed her. I missed her smile, her no nonsense attitude, and the way she laughed at even my lamest jokes. Tabitha was outspoken – she says what she means and she means what she says. And that’s why her silence was so troublesome.
So when Tabitha showed up on my doorstep with a beach ball under her shirt… well, you can only imagine my surprise.
It’s yours, she whispered. I’ve been afraid to tell you.
I heard baby head smells good.
Here we go again, Tom. Where is that llama suit when you need it, anyway? Baby head smells good? Seriously? How creepy can I be? What I wanted to do was cheer, to yell, to do my favorite llama chant! To take her into my arms, to kiss her, to tell her what a wonderful family we would be. To drop to a knee and propose on the spot. But no, I’m over here talking about baby heads. Right.
I cringed, and looked away, trying to force the words from my lips. Why can’t I ever just say what I mean? Why can’t the words just come out the way I think them? Why can’t I tell her how I feel?
But when I looked back at Tabitha, what I saw was the one thing I never expected.
Don’t ask me why I’m doing this, she said.
She shook her head irritably, as if she didn’t quite understand it herself.
We barely know each other and of course there’s that whole not talking thing, which I swear is super annoying, Tom. It’s not like I can’t do this baby thing on my own! I’m a Hasslich woman, plummit, it’s in my blood! But there’s something about you. You’re weird, don’t get me wrong. And you’re sure not an open book. But I have a funny feeling you’re one worth reading. So how about it, Tom? How about the three of us make a go of this as a family?
Of course, I said yes. Well, I didn’t actually say yes. I nodded. True to form.
So here I am now.
Nontraditional wedding attire, that much is for sure. But it’s the only way. If there was ever a time to tell her how much I love her, it’s now. It’s today, on our wedding day. And as I walk down to meet her, standing there beautiful as ever, I can feel the power of the suit.
What on earth are you wearing? she says, but she’s laughing. She looks gorgeous, as always.
You know it’s hard for me to express myself. But when I’m in the suit, it’s so much easier. And you deserve to hear it, Tabitha, today of all days. I’ve loved you since the first day I met you, and I love you more every day. I love that you accept me, for who I am, and that you allow me to be myself. I love your sense of humor, and the way you’re always direct in the things you say. I admire you for that, and I promise to try to tell you more often, that you’re amazing and beautiful and that you mean the world to me. You’re my everything. There is no one I’d rather spend the rest of my life with, and I’m honored to call you my wife. My very own Mrs. Llama Suit!
Now go take off that llama suit, Mr. Llama Suit, she said. You won’t need to talk where we’re going!
I beamed at her, my beautiful wife. I grabbed her hand, and headed towards our new home. Toward our bedroom.
And I never said a word.