lighting myself on fire
He begged me to marry him.
There were reasons to keep saying no: we hadn’t been together very long, he smoked too much pot, he was younger than me… As seen from the eyes of my mostly good-girl life, his had been much, much wilder than mine. He had been drinking and partying, running the streets and unsupervised, since he was a kid. For all that, or perhaps because of it, he could be tremendously insecure. We once had a four hour, middle-of-the-night argument about whether or not I would leave him for Keanu Reeves. He was adamantly, frustratingly convinced that I would, and called me a liar when I said I wouldn’t. It was a fight as breathtakingly desperate as it was ridiculous. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so completely exhausting, and if he hadn’t been so thoroughly angry about it. He knew how to throw a verbal punch, too, having learned how to fight dirty from his family. He was the first person who ever stung me with a curse in anger.
Of course, I had my issues, too. I just didn’t realize it yet.
I had left him once already, but there were complicated emotional reasons that drew me back. To begin with, I loved him. Why do we – how do we – fall in love with someone so unlike ourselves? So unlike what we think we want in a partner? So seemingly wrong for us? We did have fun together, and much of our relationship was good. In so many ways, we were a team – we had humor in common, we enjoyed the same activities, liked the same movies. We made memories. And so, despite all those things that I didn’t like about him, I still loved him. The truth is, I was lonely without him. I was alone without him.
Maybe those “complicated reasons” weren’t so complicated after all.
A week after I broke up with him, I went back. Three months later we were getting married. No one supported us. Of course that hurt, but you can’t expect people who love you to stand back and watch, smiling and applauding as you light yourself on fire.
And I still had my own trepidations, all those issues I was aware of. But I did not want to truly examine them. He made promises that I chose to believe, even as my instincts told me not to. He wanted marriage. He wanted to “settle down”. He had partied all he could bear, and he wanted the wife and the home and all that we thought marriage entailed. You know: pink houses and picket fences and all that. He wanted to marry me; it was the most, the only thing worth having in his life.
A strong argument.
Basically, I said yes and then became determined to go through with it. As much as I knew there were landmines enclosed within that picket fence, I would not turn back. The craziest thing (or most natural?) is that I thought it would work. I never thought I would get divorced. I could tread softly. I could dig those landmines up if ever I needed to. I could do this. And whatever conviction I lacked, he had more than enough for both of us.
So, we went alone. We got married at a little church called Chapel by the Sea. It was sweet. And for a few hours, at least, it stayed that way.
Next time: What’s in a name?