I don’t want to marry, I…..I changed my mind.
My voice was small, a barely there voice – like the time I asked for permission to go on a camping trip and I already knew the answer, small like the tiniest cricket rubbing it’s legs together in the chorus of early evening.
I was with my parents in the kitchen where I grew from a toddler to this seventeen year old, sitting at the brown formica table, the rhododendron in my hair, my mother’s typewriter silent, silent.
My mother lit a Pall Mall and inhaled. Blew smoke up beyond the ceiling, to that place in the universe where love ends and love begins, knowing it’s the same place. Instead of saying this, she said everyone feels this way before they get married.
She avoided looking at my father who had stood up, crossed the room, and came back with the wedding binder, a thick white heavy binder with receipts for the flowers, the priest, the limousine, the dress, the other dresses, the small pillbox hats, the food, the reception hall, the band, the honeymoon, the invitations.
He dropped it in front of me with a thud.
You’re getting married, he said.
So I drove fast, faster than I had ever driven, in the blue comet, that old car with holes in the floorboards and bald tires, the car that didn’t have a radio, through a rain storm, past Nero’s on route 70 where he and I had our first date, past the movie theatre where my whole family had seen George Orwell’s 1984, stunned into silence. Now, here I am, laying in the wet grass, looking up all the whole dark night sky as if it is the monolith.
I had lost control of my life, my sense of self, everything I wanted to be seemed like it was being sucked out of me like a thin tube of paper with sugar inside.
There was a diamond ring I didn’t like but I wore it anyway, there was the awkward proposal that took place in the Moorestown Mall parking lot, there was all the planning. It would be a winter wedding, garish with bridesmaids in evergreen dresses and pillbox hats.
The priest would be drunk during the ceremony. His animals would gallop across the altar, the Siamese cat chasing the German Shepherd. I would laugh so hard in the ceremony, urine would trickle under my wedding dress, soak my white thin pantyhose and pool at my feet.
The priest would have a wart on the tip of his tongue that slithered between the crack between his two front teeth as he lost his place in the ceremony. The priest I had chosen to marry me said – everyone I marry gets divorced.
He was the perfect priest for me.
But now, I’m laying in the grass, not married yet, but engaged, having crashed my blue comet, because fast was what I needed that night and I had hit the wall of water and spun out of control, then the center divider, that concrete wall that divides all of us, bounced off it and jumped the curb, all my tires flying off the car.
The metal curve sign sliced and fell onto my car, and then I hit a utility pole head on.
I don’t know how I came to lay in the grass and not be inside the car.
Someone, something – was it me? Had lifted me up and gently laid me there.
Rain was pouring in my face – glorious, glorious rain. I opened my lips and let the whole summer storm sky into my mouth, I looked at the telephone pole and thought it holds the light, I looked at my car, crushed metal, no tire where the tire had been, where control had been.
And then a man was hovering over me, dripping wet, in a flannel shirt.
Don’t move, he said, I called an ambulance.
I don’t need an ambulance.
He knelt down and looked at me, he smelled of oil and cologne.
Jesus, he said, I heard the crash and circled around. He was scanning my horizontal self, his eyes like an MRI, filled with concern.
I wanted to get up and dance and tell him – I’m alive, alive, more alive than I was fifteen minutes ago when I tried to cancel my wedding.
I wiggled my toes. They moved.
I lifted my hands to my face, and there it was, my long life line, thick and vibrating. I would get up from the storm, from the thunder, from the myriad of choices I felt my parents were making for me.
Eventually I married, I walked down the aisle of the small church in the small town in New Jersey, still a child, and all the women in my family who married men they didn’t love were tucked into the train of my wedding dress being dragged up the aisle with me.
At the altar I I would make vows I could never keep.
He would make vows he could never keep.
But this had to happen, so I could meet the man I did love, the man who opened my heart and my legs and set me on fire, the man who would eventually die, and then like the bright planet he was, come back to share some of the secrets of the universe with me.
I have said many times this truth – often the wrong person leads you to the right person, which also makes them the right person for the moment.
The place where love ends and love begins is often the same place, we just can’t see it at the time.