My first memory of my husband is from 8th grade. Or 7th. I can’t remember. It was junior high, in any case, and we had outside lunch and the boys were playing Smear The Queer. Isn’t that lovely and quaint? Anyway, that day Adrian broke his arm and my memory is of him walking toward the doors of the building holding up his forearm, which was at an angle a forearm should never be, i.e. featuring a complex divot in it, with the wrist flopping (as limply as The Queer That Got Smeared, I guess – beautiful symmetry, huh?)
If this were a YA novel, what happened next would be that I stared at him while he held his broken arm and then we locked eyes and I could see from his smoldering gaze that he was a troubled soul in serious need of love only a 14-year-old girl with Jon Bon Jovi hair could provide.
But that didn’t happen because that was reality and reality is super boring. What happened was nothing.
(What, you think I’m some loon who marries their high school sweetheart? Gross.)
I ignored Adrian pleasantly until about my junior year of high school, when we were super huge dorks on Academic Decathlon together (I know, shut up) and I was going out with one of his friends. During that time, I only noticed Adrian as an appendage of my then-boyfriend, who turned out to be a crazy fuckface who broke my heart, or also as the boy I gave a ride home from AD practice every night (yes, we practiced being smart and geeky) because his house was right by the community center where I did aerobics (it was 1990, lay off).
Mostly I never considered Adrian very much and the one time he asked me out (after his fuck-face friend dumped me) I thought he was kidding and was like, “Not in a million years, are you crazy?”
(I was kind of a bitch in high school.)
So then you FF to the end of my college years, because all the intervening years are boring and off-the-plot and we’re together, Adrian and I, by magic and sluttiness and circumstance and whatever. It’s a terrible match on paper, because he had no job and no college and owned a Trans Am (shudder) and lived with his parents and looked way too much like my father. We didn’t even live in the same city.
(Is it a testament to our idiocy that none of that mattered? We were sickeningly off our faces for each other.)
One night I’m lying in bed with him and it was like the room was swelling. My head and face and body were swelling (not literally, gross) with this notion that this was absolutely right, the thing I should do. I had graduated from college with zero clue how to go about my adult life. I had a stupid degree and a couple of poetry publishing credits and an assortment of part-time shitty jobs and all these applications to grad schools I couldn’t finish filling out because I didn’t have a normal English major and what did I know from Henry James? Fuck all, that’s what.
But at that minute, the thing I should do involved the guy lying beside me and the rightness of the whole thing was so obvious to me I worried it might actually be visible. In the air itself, outright, where he could see! I felt embarrassed, like it was emanating from me, like an aromatic vapor.
But it all stacked up. His motorcycle and how he made homemade hot pretzels and liked it when I made him a sandwich and how he could find any place on a map in any city if you dropped him into it from a helicopter and his enthusiasm for everything I said and did, whether I had clothes on or not, and how he explained to me in Menards that he could do wiring and plumbing and I just knew he was the point of it, of everything in my dumb, unsettled, faintly artistic life so far. He was it. The thing I needed so I could do whatever the hell else I needed to do.
When I think of that moment (and where it was and what I said next and what he said next will all have to be off the record because it’s not cinematic or eloquent and beside the point, unless you are he or I), sometimes I think of all I didn’t know about everything in the whole world. About money and family and having babies and stupid roommate issues and self-actualization and mental illness and a million billion other things that you must contend with in marriage. I was such a fetus about everything. I knew nothing. Nothing at all.
But all of that’s a prosaic list of tips for a women’s magazine advice column, right? The reason you put up with that shit is when you have that moment, in the dark, with the feeling swelling in you and at that moment you just know. That’s the only thing you know. The rightness. This person beside me. The point of it. The thing I need so I can live.