A long time ago, in a land far, far away, I was married to a shape-shifter.
It was not magical.
Oh, at first it was feet-sweeping. Fresh out of college, working at a bookstore, getting all that attention from an older guy–a musician! a poet!– who clearly liked me. It was an unprecedented time.
I’d never had a real boyfriend, and this guy followed me around, bouncing up and down. He emailed me haikus. He knew about the Great Vowel Shift. He was so full of life and energy. And he paid attention to me. Me…the one, who at the tender age of 22, was already convinced I’d meet my end as a lonely old spinster eaten by her cats.
Having maxed out my brief crushes on all the eligible men in the store, he was the one I’d centered upon. And he seemed to be honing in on me, too.
He waited in the parking lot outside the bookstore…the roof up on his beater-car, a look of deep concern furrowing his brow. As I approached, he asked me out. On a date. Then his car magically worked again!
This was happening! Really happening!
We went out. A lot. He gave me a nickname, the first of so many. He touched my knee. He took me around to his friends. He had so many books in his attic–they lined the floor from end-to-end. He made me feel special when I remarked upon them. “Nobody else ever noticed.” I had cause to purchase contraceptives.
Within three months, we were talking about living in a house with a tin roof on which the rain pattered and a gravel driveway on which the tires clattered. When he gave me a Claddagh ring on Valentine’s Day, I asked him which finger I should wear it on. The left ring finger.
I met his father.
Within six months, we were living together in a small, black-mold infested apartment. We argued about how to stack the dishes, put a lot of thought into Christmas presents, and barely had sex.
I knew something was wrong, but nobody I commiserated with told me to simply, “Break up with him.” I didn’t know I could. I’d never been in a relationship. Aren’t they supposed to be hard? Aren’t they supposed to be work? Opportunities for growth?
We planned our wedding. He smoked pot with his friends in the woods while I danced with my girlfriends during the reception. I begged him for consummation on our wedding night.
So many nights of crying over the following ten years.
I gave up asking for help. I gave up going to parties alone. I gave up having close friends. I gave up trying to have conversations with this person I’d married, this person who was never there, who drank, who smoked pot, who left early and worked late. This person who responded only in nonsense syllables and loathsome nicknames.
I gardened. I took my dog to the park for an hour every night. I worked hard–very hard–and was passionate about my career.
Miraculously, considering the odds, I became pregnant. It was the happiest time we’d ever had. After the baby came, things worsened, as they sometimes do. He pushed me, once.
He brought home a suicidal, abused student who was in need…poor waif. He did not act like a teacher should. Expressing my concerns, he reassured me, “She’s gay.”
Returning home from a long work trip that next Valentine’s weekend, I discovered a condom wrapper in our child’s room.
I joyfully danced out the exit door.
Submitted to the Yeah Write Weekly Challenge #135 on personal essays and traditional blog anecdotes. Find out more at: