UNDERGROUND VOICES: FICTION
ELLEN DENTON

MODERN STORYBOOK MARRIAGE

Marcus thought of his two-year, war-torn, failed marriage with Kaitlin as a book; in fact, he saw their entire relationship in chapters.

Chapter 1: First contact. Chapter 2: Mutuality Chapter 3: The proposal. Chapter 4: The wedding. Chapter 5: Fall from heaven. Chapter 6: Disintegration. Chapter 8: Divorce. Chapter 9 Epilogue.

*

The first time he saw her, she was sitting on a bench opposite from him in the park. He watched her through the corner of his eye. She wasn't what you would call pretty; her nose was too big, her mouth a little too wide, but she had a good natured warmth to her. He could see this in her unrestrained cheerfulness as she fed the pigeons, in the sincere way she smiled at the woman who passed with a baby carriage, and in the open easiness with which she spoke to him when he finally got up the nerve to talk to her. He already knew she was literate and reasonably intelligent, because she had a copy of War and Peace on her lap, with a bookmark stuck more than mid way through it.

She eventually invited him over to her bench to share a cheese danish she'd brought with her. They discussed War and Peace, discovered through another hour and a half of talk that they had at least 20 common interests, and began dating that very night.

In counterpoint to her easy going ways, he was shy, cerebral, and generally uptight. By the time he was 24, he'd only had a few, semi-serious, longer type relationships with women, both ending like a punctured tire. In the first, the girl, almost as intelligent as Marcus, but a bit of a partier, grew tired of Marcus's wet-blanketism. She found someone else. In the second, the girl was a bit of a dull bulb in comparison, but she was sweet, kind, and like the rise of the Titanic in bed. As it turned out, the only thing that was getting a rise in bed was between his own legs, leaving her uncomplainingly, but perennially unsatisfied. She found someone else.

Kaitlin was like a dream come true that he didn't even know he had. They were a match intellectually, sexually, and complemented each others strengths and weaknesses like the white king and Queen on a chessboard, him methodical, taking one careful step at a time in everything he did, her easily and supportively gliding anywhere, within his own kingdom. Six months to the day after their first meeting in the park, he fumbled a jewelry box out of his pants pocket and proposed to her.

Marcus, insular and private by nature, would have preferred to just go to a justice of the peace and tie the proverbial knot without fanfare, but Kaitlin pointed out that it would cause irreparable upset to her family if they didn't have a traditional "fancy" wedding. She reasoned that it was a one time thing, and since her parents would be footing the bill for it, "What the heck?" Marcus finally conceded, and Kaitlin, for the next three months, threw every spare moment into preparations for the affair(for the benefit of her family). She would sit up in bed till all hours studying wedding invitation designs with the fervor once reserved for Tolstoy, or for sex, while Marcus pulled the sheets over his head to cut out the glare from her bedside lamp, or stood in the bathroom alone, dick in hand. She spent what used to be their weekends together in a whirlwind of ice sculpture catalogs, visits to bridal shops, and long, animated discussions with a French caterer. One whole wall in the tiny living room of their apartment was covered in photos and material swatches for bridesmaid's dresses, and their matching hats and shoes. Marcus patiently waited for the whole thing to be over and done with.

The wedding day finally came and went. In attendance from his side of the family were his reed thin, red nosed, alcoholic mother, an aunt, 2 cousins, and several friends from work and college. On her side, a family of fifty-seven showed up. These, combined with a seemingly endless number of friends and acquaintances, made a Conga line of people long enough to rival the bread lines of the Great Depression. Marcus spent most of the day uncomfortable in new shoes, with a smile rigidly glued onto his face for so long that he felt like he had lockjaw. He was still wearing both the shoes and the smile when, toward the end of the day, he went to use the restroom, saw the rictus of grimacing pain on his face in a mirror, and finally let his mouth fall back into a natural position.

*

The first year and a half of the marriage was like a long, slow, fall from heaven, the last 6 months a complete descent into hell.

They had a wonderful, whirlwind, 3 week, in-law financed honeymoon in Europe. It seemed that, with the pressures of the wedding out of the way, things had returned to a comfortable, blissful norm in their relationship.

It was on the last day of the honeymoon, as they sat on the sunny terrace of their hotel room sipping some frothy pink and white alcoholic concoction, that Kaitlin brought up the subject of having children right away, instead of waiting 3 years as they had originally planned. She pointed out what a sweet financial position it would put them in. Kaitlin's older sister had married a man who turned out to be sterile, and her younger brother was killed at the age of 19, when a 40 ton big rig kissed his motorcycle. Her parents would heap upon them house, money, and just about anything else they wanted, if only she would produce for them a grandchild.

Marcus was not yet ready to bring progeny into his neat, finely tuned universe, and was adamant about this. Kaitlin did not want to wait 3 years to have a house, and over the next months, threw herself into persuading him with the force of a tsunami slamming against a wall of rock. When a direct assault of reasoning, arguing, tears, threats and finally screaming was to no avail, she turned to an old, female, go-to tactic: long bouts of brooding, sullen silence. That failing, she moved back in with her parents for a week. She finally waved a white flag, moved back in with Marcus, and the subject was dropped.

As is often the case in many marriages, people sometimes know more about how to mix Mai-Tais for guests at a dinner party, and how to shop wisely for window treatments, than they do about how to mend a shattering rift in a relationship. As often also turns out to be the case, two hearts once beating in rapport come asunder, and spin about like the North and South ends of a pain. The marriage disintegrated, bit by bit at first, like a slow slide down a bumpy, rock strewn hill, until not a kind word between them found utterance, and it was recognized by both that the thing had finally and irretrievably plunged to the bottom of a cliff. Their marriage had shattered into a thousand small pieces of blood sprinkled glass.

The divorce was unevenful, unceremonious, and a strained, unspoken, relief for both of them.

*

Two years later, Kaitlin remarried. She and her husband live in a house in the suburbs with a rec-room, a wine cellar, his and her walk in closets, and a live in nanny.

Marcus never remarried. He still lives in the small apartment he used to share with Kaitlin near the park. Earlier today, he got a letter that the novel he had worked on for the last 3 years, and submitted to several major New York Publishing companies, was accepted by one of the most prestigious. The sheaf of paperwork and contracts that arrived with it promised a hefty advance once the documents were signed and returned. On Monday, Marcus will give a two week notice at the company where he works as a mid-level clerk. Tonight, in celebration, he'll be laying down a thick, juicy T-bone steak for Gloria. Gloria is a German Shepherd.








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