Pauline’s husband died on the eve of their 50th wedding anniversary. A heart attack. It was no surprise as he had been one of a dying breed. A smoker who over the years had to trade the convenience of smoking anywhere he chose for surreptitious drags in the shadows wedged between the looming office tower where he worked and the adjacent apartment block where he kept four walls for late nights at the office, doubling as a faux bachelor pad for the high class hookers he was dependent on. He’d work late into the night, billing clients for time that would never be his again. Pauline had been busy with arrangements for their anniversary party that coming weekend. It was just another of a long list of projects that kept her occupied through the course of their marriage. Their secret for longevity, they’d only half joke to anyone who cared to ask, was that they were both too busy to have any marital discord. This was of course not entirely true. There was discord, but it was spoken of in the hushed tones of their body language, separate beds, and dreams on divergent paths. Continue reading →
It seemed the most fun in the fairground was in the small kitchen where Aaron and I worked over the summer; preparing batter and churning out waffle after waffle, talking about our dreams, confiding our fears and laughing the laugh of two people on the same wavelength, a side glance enough to set off a shared, unspoken joke and a fit of giggles. When it quietened down, he’d create masterpieces – a kitten with waffle whiskers, a hot air balloon, and bravely, a telephone- I’d noticed the nerves when he asked for my number as I bit its curly waffle cord, the memory a welcome distraction, my mind wandering, pondering how dull that telephone would look if he were to make it now- imagining straight crisp edges, chocolate sauce dabbed in dimples for battery life, and maple syrup drips of reception silenced my inner critic’s commentary on broadened hips, silver streaks, and traces of life’s lines on my face as I approached the man sitting across the room. Continue reading →
Today is our wedding anniversary- Mr & Mrs Billingup; a date I’ll never forget, curved round my ring finger with his initials, the permanence of ink marking the impulse of a fleeting moment. Looking at it now, I can laugh at that tired old joke my girlfriends used to make, the BB of Bryan’s initials implying a best before date. Holding the last of the photographs, I wished away all traces of that day as I threw it on the fire and watched the edges curl to weightless ashes.
Dr. Katherin E Garland (writer/ academic / blogger / my friend) has just published The Unhappy Wife, a book of short stories based on the real lives of 12 women in marital discontent.
The closest I’ve come to marriage is having a partner who is a wedding photographer. With or without the ring, however, relationships have their ups and downs: sometimes they work; sometimes we invest in the work to make them work; sometimes we walk away; and sometimes, we remain – unhappily.
Over the weekend, Kathy and I chatted about her book, the writing process, and insights on love and relationships.
The brevity of my services to the household was sealed during the formalities of introductions, the quickening of my heartbeat directing dancing waves of warm light from every extremity to my core, leaving me tingling and within a week, receptive to his touch, warm hands on my cheeks, fingers stroking my earlobes, his breath sweeping hair from the nape of my neck before tracing hieroglyphics of unspoken promises with his tongue. He kept me suspended with his will and my acquiescence, one arm around my shoulder, tilting me back, and the other circling my waist, hand resting on the small of my back to ward off gravity as he breathed life into implausible dreams with a kiss. Clandestine kisses charged two-fold, for the slightest movement could sending me crashing down, and an untimely intrusion held the threat of broad crimson brush strokes, tainting me the scarlet woman, the other woman, the unemployed woman. My memory has imbued our last kiss by the window in the cool and calculating shades of blue of bruises I sustained with the backward fall, as the lady of the house opened and shut the door quickly, throwing the delicate balance of his hold on me.
And so I have done it again, ignoring the glaring neon warning as he ferried me across decades to the losses that anchor me to vacant spaces; the chain pulling taut with less and less give as flotsam and jetsam gather and entangle in its rusty links.
On shore, telegraph poles line up like dominos before the fall, the dialogue between my ghosts echoing down the wire; different faces, same conversation.
I bid farewell to thee and seek refuge on my island, for I am the lighthouse keeper.
Proposal, ring, dress, venue, invitations, flowers, hair and makeup, photographer, seating arrangements, navigating family politics- a never-ending to-do list along the well-trodden path espoused by wedding planners, magazines, her girlfriends who’d gone before her, and of course, her mother.
Looking through the tiered treats at the smiling faces, giddy from champagne and sugar, she wondered whether this milestone, her bridal shower, was going to be the one, the last hurdle before she has the guts to call the whole thing off and throw herself off the trajectory she’d been riding on autopilot.
The call was getting harder with growing expectations and mounting debt; sighing, she took another cupcake, after all, there was another fitting to accommodate fluctuations between now and then.
Written in response to Sonya’s Three Line Tales, Week 20. It’s a fun challenge- Sonya has a knack for selecting beautiful photos that inspire so many different stories. Half the fun is reading what others come up with – join in if you have time!