I could tell you I loved him, but that would be a lie.
I could tell you my parents asked me not to marry so young, that they wanted me to get an education and travel and know myself first. but that would be another lie.
We were in my childhood kitchen that always smelled like meatloaf and mashed potatoes, and I announced I wanted to cancel the wedding. My father crossed the room to get the wedding binder then dropped it on the brown formica table and said, “you’re getting married.”
My future began slipping away. My dreams of South America and Mexico and Canada and Italy. Of stuffing everything I owned in a suitcase and saying yes to anything but marriage.
I could tell you my parents were a great love story, but that day my mother lit a cigarette with another cigarette already in her mouth, and said, “everyone feels that way before they marry.”
She avoided looking at my father.
If I lived in Mozambique you might believe I was engaged at seventeen and it was celebrated. If I was being traded for a mule that was essential to the economic well being of my family anywhere in the world, or for sixteen chickens that could feed my husband’s siblings, then there would be no wedding binder with receipts for photographers and videographers to capture the moment.
The priest who married me had a wart on the tip of his tongue that slithered through the crack in his two front teeth. He said everyone he married ended up in divorce, so I decided he was perfect for us, though he was less sure.
In the confession booth the week before the wedding he asked me if I had ever slept with a woman, and I could hear his hand rapidly moving across fabric of his robe.
That day, the priest’s breath smelled of scotch and coca cola and onions. He lost his place three times in the ceremony. His German Shepherd and Siamese cat would be running in between my bridesmaids ankles.
When the priest tried to stuff a small round wafer into my Maid of Honor’s mouth representing the body of Jesus Christ, it caught in the netting attached to her pillbox hat, and she had to spit it out. I began laughing quietly, so suppressed was the laughter the urine trickled down my sheer white pantyhose and formed a puddle under my lace gown.
My bridesmaids began laughing, too – we were all teeth and belly and teenage.
If I told you that’s the moment I ran out of that church and down the street until a stranger in a red Ford Bronco pulled over and said climb in, I would be lying.
I wasn’t that brave. I looked into the kind brown eyes of the man who loved me and I said I do.
I do take this man, tears of laughter streaming down my face.
All the women in my family who married men they didn’t love were tucked into the train of my wedding dress that day, and were dragged to the altar with me in a generational solidarity.
Thanks to them, I would be the one to break away.
After the wedding, I decorated our townhome in taupe and orange. I put out matching turquoise plates and mugs for dinner each night on our kitchen table, with the cat in the window and the man I tried to love waiting for me to love him back.
I waited for my life to begin as I stared out my kitchen window at the wheat blowing in the wind in a field that seemed to stretch past the horizon line.
Eventually, I left that man for the love of another man, but even that is a lie. The truth is I left him for myself.
I was thinking this morning how there aren’t any wrong choices, just those who lead you to the next place or person or friend or realization.
There’s a whole world just beyond the wheat field, the ocean or the horse pasture. Sometimes you just have to say “I do” for the rest of your life to begin.