What if she went to the Mansion instead of grad school? Maybe she wouldn’t be writing report cards today. Maybe she would be living in Brentwood, surrounded by glass walls and maid service.
I would be out of the picture, of course. Then again, that might be a mixed blessing. Surely she would have found a paunchy real estate broker with a receding hairline to keep her in bon-bons and spa treatments. But then she would have to fall in love with him, or convince herself she had. She would have to bank some time in the dog pile on Hef’s circular bed along the way, which is sort of like going into nursing, an honorable profession in any other context. A fat allowance would have been nice. Also, never having to make your bed or clean your bathroom. Or having to wait tables.
Before she was a teacher, Mrs. U was a waitress. Before that she was a college student who picked her husband, from the across the quad, Jane Austen style. “I choose him,” she said, and drew her bow.
Little did she know. Good abs and long hair don’t last forever. Maddeningly, I turned out to be much nicer to her than she anticipated.
five, six, …er, a very brief shacking up period we eloped to Vegas. And then the roof fell in.
Two of the three worst tragedies which can befall a married couple were upon us like God’s judgement. In the deep dark Fog of Unfairness there are no candles, no trail of bread crumbs to follow, only a soldier’s honor to be strong for the other, not to let him wallow, not to leave her behind in a slough of despond. Grief and recrimination is a rabbit hole like no other. I have no explanation for why character comes to formation, as opposed to imploding, but this was where I became the man I am today.
Eventually, the sun was shining on our faces again, as though it always had been there, but we had been circulating around the dark side of the moon. Somehow, we still liked each other. Who knew? It helped we didn’t let go of each other’s hand.
Before she was a college student, Mrs. U had a paper route. She was eleven years old. The first day she had to deliver the Sunday edition, she collapsed in the middle of a cul de sac in Thousand Oaks, a little girl trapped under a mountain of newsprint. Eventually neighbors called her father to collect her. She didn’t ask for help. She sat there, summoning her strength, determined to see it through.
When she swanned out a decade later, the Holly Madison Option was never really something she considered. It wasn’t her nature. Character is fate.