To understand why I feel touched by yesterday’s events at Gilroy, other than as a concerned and outraged citizen, as we all should, I have to take you back to a young, stars-in-their-eyes couple, before Collin, back when Bryon and I were dating.


Bryon and I had our first date right before I left Edwards, where we were stationed at together, to go home for Christmas for the first time, since I’d left home to join the Air Force. I had been excited about going home and seeing my family, as it’d been a tough first year away. I’d been through Officer’s Training School, the worlds’ weirdest first marriage (a story for another time), and adjusting to being both single, and far from home, for the first time. I’d still not come to terms with my abuse, and I was still a little tethered to my home, not really ready to be away, feeling like that was my safe spot. It wasn’t.


Anyway, Bryon and I went on our first date, which was sufficiently awkward and beautiful to know that it’s the date you tell your children about as this was how you knew your father was “the one.” He took me to Round Table Pizza, because that’s where his family always went for Christmas Eve, and since it was getting close to the Christmas Eve, he thought he’d share a bit of his traditional self with me. Awwww.


Then, because the date was going so well, he took me back to his apartment, which was right around the block.


Get your mind out of the gutter, people.


I got to experience the special smell that was Bryon’s single-man life. I only went back to that apartment ONE more time. That’s how special the smell was. He claims it was because of his neighbors. I am not so sure about that one. We can agree to disagree. I’ve smelled wafts of it in our shared lives together since, in days when he’s done too much yardwork; or when he doesn’t put enough foot powder in his shoes; or when he’s had too much to wine the day before, and we should put an out of order sign on the bathroom door. Men need women. That’s all I will say. Sure, there was a curry undertone, but the special smell that was unique to Bryon’s place. That’s all him.


Anyway, in those few treasured hours together, I saw (and broke) the balsa wood bridge he made for a science fair (he thought it could support my weight - It did not). He showed me the photo scrapbook (not album) he made of his eighth grade (I think??) trip to England with his mother. In other words, he put on all his best moves, and I was in it for the long haul.


What can I say, I’m easily caught by geeky guys with no moves?


By the time he walked me to my car, I was smitten. His rushed and nervous kiss over my car door was all I needed to fall in love with him. We spent the entire holiday break either on the phone (yes youngsters, us oldsters still talked on the phone), or texting. I’d been casually dating another man at the time, one who sent me poetic texts over break like, “Let the moon light your dreams tonight, and the stars be your guides.” I still think I went with the right choice though.


He agreed to pick me up at the airport, when I arrived back from Michigan. It was no easy feat, as I had a dog with me. A dog! Who picks up a girl from the airport, with a dog, a large dog at that, that he’s only had one date with? The man of your dreams, that’s who.


Still, while we were standing at the baggage carousel, waiting for both my bags, and the “large cargo” that was my dog, I was overcome by a smell. It wasn’t just a mild smell, it was a horrible, try to avoid it smell. It was the kind of smell that you think, “Is that me? God, I hope that isn’t me!” You move around, hoping it’s the person next to you, so you can get away from it. It’s not, so you move some more. It’s following you. You can’t get away from it.


A horrible thought occurred to me: what if it’s Bryon? What if this man of my dreams, that I’ve fallen head-over-heels for, is the source of this horrendous smell, a smell that is permeating the air of the whole baggage carousel area? Can I go on?


I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed someone with terrible, and I mean terrible B.O. must’ve wafted through before us, and left it behind. If anyone old enough has ever seen the episode of Seinfeld where the valet with bad B.O. ruins his car, you’ll know what I mean. However, when we got in his truck to drive home, I was distressed to find that the smell followed us.


It was him.


I had a terrible choice. Recognize that this man that I’d been dreaming of for the last ten days smelled like death today, and live with it; or, find a way out. I lived with it. For months, I decided it was just a one-off and until we got to know one another better, I didn’t mention it, until….


He had garlic fries at a game. And, I mean GARLIC fries.


It wasn’t the breath, which, don’t get me wrong, was reason enough to be an issue. It was what happened to garlic in his body. Garlic is fabulous, wonderful and amazing. In reasonable, even profound quantities, it is fine in almost everyone. It’s even fine in Bryon. But, when he goes overboard, he smells like rotting corpse. The smell leeches from his pores for days, and not just a little bit, as if a green could of death is following him with green skulls and cross-bones following him.


This leads me to Gilroy and the garlic festival.


Bryon is from Central California, and for a time, both of his parents lived in Northern California, so we’d pass Gilroy every time we went to visit them. The first time we passed Gilroy, we had a long, hilarious talk about going to Gilroy’s Garlic festival, and how we would have to ration his tasty treats, or I’d have to leave him there to sleep it off, alone.


It was a long drive from Edwards, and then, as we grew, got married, and had Collin, from Los Angeles, to Central/Northern California. So, Gilroy was always a conversation point along the way. We always talked about Gilroy’s garlic. We’d point it out to Collin. We’d laugh about Daddy’s smell. We’d always talk about timing a visit with the festival, but never managed it.


We never stopped in Gilroy, not even to pee. We never went to the festival, but the town and the festival were as much a part of our family trips as the trip itself, sort of like passing the giant windmill in Solvang (where we have been). I’m heartbroken that anyone would desecrate a day of family fun in a place like Gilroy.


That’s not to say I am not heartbroken when anyone desecrates anyplace with gun violence. I am done with gun violence in America. Done. There is no place for this any longer. Yesterday, a six-year-old boy went to a festival with his parents, probably with some pocket-money to buy a souvenir, probably excited to get a treat like popcorn; instead, he was killed.


This is not what we should be about when we talk about protecting our rights. A child’s right to safety, a family’s right to safety, should be important, too. And, don’t tell me open carry is the answer. Violence begets violence. It’s time for a real change.


I may be naïve, and certainly if I say no more guns, someone will fire back at me and say, “criminals will still have them, so I want mine.” Eh. It ends slowly. But, it ends. It has to end. This cannot go on. We are a world leader, but it’s sad to be the world leader in this. This is shameful and devastating.