Saturday, October 11, 2008

Notes on Getting Married

In the spring of my thirtieth year the weather was wet and cold. The cloud cover came and went; it snowed more often than it should have.

I moved through a brief relationship that had all the brilliance and the brevity of a fire cracker. Then I moved from the city to a dusty outpost, where the streets are strangely named, the houses old and worn, the pavement cracked and the electric wires sag. The dogs roam their yards, irate and vocal and the wind is as hot as the blast from a blow dryer.

I moved down because Sergeant Indiana came back from combat training one evening in May and I drove down to meet him. He came out of the house, silhouetted against the bright light pouring from his open door, a large man with a plastic cup in one hand and a cap on his head.

"Jenny, honey, you made it," he said and I was enveloped, I felt the arm with the drink slide around my waist, his cool, smooth cheek against mine for a moment as he stooped down. I could smell the woodsy notes of his aftershave, the sweetness of whiskey and diet Pepsi. It was a heady mixture in the dark, in the embrace of a large and lumbering stranger; I stood very still.

I met him at my apartment the day he came up to move my stuff into his house, now ours. I turned into the drive and there was his great, hulking truck, black and chrome, lifted high off the axles and purring away with the smooth, deep growl of a diesel engine.

"That is my boyfriend's truck," I said to myself in amazement.

He stood in the sun, in the door way of my soon to be discarded apartment. His friend murmured something, while they rested; the piece of stubborn furniture still wedged half in and half out. I watched Keith throw his head back and laugh, his teeth white and strong, the doorway framing his heavy shoulders.

I felt a shiver of premonition; I felt a sudden connection to my own parents, not as I knew them, but as they were before I was born. Dad, with his mustache and Mom with her carefully curled hair, in the seventies, with their rayon shirts and little car, just starting out. The feeling was caught up with the fresh, hot spring air, the dust motes glittering like fine confetti, the rustling of the leaves outside the open patio door.

Over the space of one summer we met and married; that is a simple way to sum it up.

"I went on line and then poof-Jenny," explained Keith, to his uncle and aunt in Indiana. His gesture of spread hands, his expression-slightly bewildered and struggling to hide the joy, a masculine expression, somehow indicative of his occupation; the burly tank commander who went looking for something with nothing but doubts and found, almost immediately, everything.

He wore a woven, button down shirt, jeans and boots to be married in, his head was bare; he looked like a country boy come to town for church supper. He limped across the grass, saturated with sun; I limped in my heels, trying to support him and keep my balance as well.

"This is my wife, Jenny," Keith said in passing, later that afternoon, to his friend and fellow sergeant, who had come over to go riding. Though Keith did not look at me as he said this, in his voice was a fierce pride, as though he were daring the whole world to question him.

I knew what I am to him; his private consolation, his public pride, his bright and burning passion into which he had thrown every last thing he had to give. And I found, for the first time, a man grounded enough to encompass my intensity, as though, ragged and spent, I was gathered up at the last, safe inside.

I went to work that afternoon, still undergoing the slow and steady transformation within. It as quiet work, a private reorganization of being. "My husband..." I heard a young woman say, as I went past her.

"I have a husband," I thought to myself in wonder. I felt the unaccustomed weight of marriage, like balancing books on one's head, it automatically made for better posture.

I think of the men I almost married but didn't. Harry, who wore silky ties to work and crisp, cotton shirts from Eddie Bower, who smelled of Calvin Klein's Eternity. The long expanse of wall to wall carpet in the house that was our home, the swell of green park outside the window, the little tree shaking out its leaves in the breeze. Takahisa, with his delicate fingers, who came home smelling of wind, his limpid dark eyes, his exact and almost feminine sense of style. And Noi, who drove a beautifully clean and quiet Honda Accord; who would cook delicious Thai food and loved Celine Dion.

The second night I drove down to the Outpost, I found Keith in the garage. "Honey!" he called, full of the joy of seeing me, spreading his arms wide. "Woman! Come see this!" He showed me his authentic eight track player that has pride of place in his garage; he put in a tape of Loretta Lynn and gently swayed with me in his arms. "Hon," he drawled softly, bending his head to my ear, "twenty years from now we'll be dancing to this same music, next to that same Chevy truck."


jlc said...

So true. Once you get married and make the first introduction "this is my husband" - you feel that weight. It's crazy. As if no one else is deeper connected to you in this world than your other half. As if as soon as you made the vows, you became each other's blood.

Post Tenebras Lux said...

Remember Browning? "Grow old along with me: the best is yet to be."