Monday, May 06, 2013
(For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Steph gave me this prompt: A couple has chosen to get married, but they are not marrying for love. I gave kgwaite this prompt: "He was experiencing the resentment of those who discover that, despite their own grave condition, the world goes on about its business, heartless, without even so much as a long face." -Tom Wolfe)
I couldn't find a place to park that wasn't next to a police car, because the only place to park was the lot behind the municipal building where they kept the unused police cars, snow plows, and street sweepers. So I gave up and pulled into a spot next to a menacing looking cruiser, black and white and bulky. I hadn't done anything wrong, but I still felt a frisson of guilt when I looked at it. Sara was quiet beside me, looking between her feet at the floor mat. There was a discarded wrapper from a McDonalds straw on the floor. She seemed to be looking at it, hoping it would tell her something.
"We're here," I said weakly.
"Yes," she said. She kept staring. She had black flats on, her leather covered toes pointed and sharp against the gray carpet. She had a long dress on, which made her uncomfortable. She kept picking at it, adjusting it over her hips and thighs. It fit fine, I thought, but she seemed unhappy with the fabric somehow. She wasn't a dress person by nature, and she was fidgety, like a toddler in church clothes.
"We should go ahead in soon," I said.
"Yes," she said. We had spent days discussing it, tossing the ideas back and forth before we went to our different jobs, rearguing the points on the phone before bed, then starting over again the next morning. The question evolved from can we, to should we, to does she want to, to do I want to. None of the answers were completely clear. We knew what our parents wanted: that much, out of all this, was clear. I had picked her up at home, and we had made the seven minute drive in silence. She had finally consented, her voice faded from all the hours of conversation, late last night, and I spent the morning getting the papers together.
"You know you don't have to do this," I said. "If you don't want to. I've thought about it, and I'm ready. At least as ready as I can possibly be. But I'm not forcing you. If you want to wait, we can wait. If you want, we can cancel the whole thing. If you don't want to, we won't. OK?"
"Yes," she said. It was warm in the sun, but still cool under the enormous oak where we parked. The engine ticked as it cooled. A police car pulled into the drive, driving in front of our car and parking around the other side of the building. There was a female officer driving the car, and she seemed to relax when she saw the tie knotted around my neck. Sara was still looking down, staring at the straw wrapper. She put both hands on her forehead, and then pulled her bangs back away from her face. Her face still seemed puffy from crying. There had been a lot of that. I tried to smile at her.
"Are you ready? We can do this, or we can do this later, or we can never do this. But I'm ready. This is a huge step, and I'm ready to take it with you. I want to take it with you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I think this is the right thing for us, the best thing for us, and for our future. I know that we both regret what happened, but it's too late to worry about that. It's happening. I want to do this. Come inside with me. Please? Will you?"
I felt a twinge of nervousness in my gut. I had said that I loved her, said it over and over until she semi playfully demanded that I stop. "You love being in love," she said to me once outside of a Burger King. "It's fine, and it's sweet, and it's flattering to be on the other end of all this attention. But it's not love. You don't love me. You love the idea of me, and that's not the same thing." But I did, I wanted to be with her forever. She was prickly, and difficult, and odd, and she could be moody and cold to me. But I couldn't fathom the idea of her not being in my life, and I couldn't be happy when she was upset. I was confident that I could win her over. I'm nothing if not persistent.
"Yes," she said. I opened the door gingerly, then closed it. I watched her emerging from the other side. She moved gently, delicately, her face framed in shadow and a lingering curl of blonde from her bangs falling over one eye. She wore her hair short, almost like a boy, which I hated, but I still found her beautiful. She closed her door, and walked to the front of the car. I stood beside her, looking at her face, which is still looking down at the pointy toes of her shoes. I could see a tiny bulge at the waist of her dress, but I couldn't tell if it was there before this happened or if it was new, because she didn't usually wear clothes that hung like this. I didn't care if it was- she was perfect no matter what- but I wondered. I put my hand on her forearm, slipping it down towards her hand. My heart ached with heaviness and regret and a sort of foreboding. I had the paperwork we needed in a manila folder she took from her father's filing cabinet in my other hand. She plucked at the side of the dress, releasing a wrinkle that now lay flat on her hip. I wanted to embrace her, but I was afraid that would set her off again.
"Let's go in," I said. My mouth felt dry. I didn't know what else to say. I was afraid she would cry again, although I wouldn't really blame her if she did. I was afraid she would say no, but I shared that fear with a healthy amount of panic that she wouldn't. It had been a whirlwind of emotions, an exhausting ten days of highs and lows and hugging and crying. I wasn't as ready as I thought, but I was as ready as I was going to be. It was one of those situations where the decision was bad, but all the alternatives were worse. That's a terrible reason to decide anything.
She took my hand.
"Yes," she said.