Contractions: A Life
Shouldn’t drop out of college after junior year, but lack of money and desire require it. Won’t go back for nine years. Shouldn’t get married at twenty-two, either, but do that too. Can’t muster up the wherewithal to say no, even though love is not part of the equation, only security and aimlessness. Can’t get a decent job, so work at a deli, a department store, a dog bakery [baking gourmet dog biscuits, not dogs], a veterinary hospital, while he sells cell phones in a strip mall. Don’t love this man: he is overweight, bland, soft as white bread, tepid as tap water. Can’t do anything but live as roommates. Haven’t been able to find a way to love him, so punish him instead. Don’t be nice: make helpful suggestions about his weight, how to lose it, how to eat healthy. Don’t ever smile, just scoff when he eats Burger King and platters of hot wings with oversized Cokes. Shouldn’t have children with him, and don’t.
Can’t possibly stay in this marriage, but somehow eleven years pile up. Can’t imagine another ten years, a whole life like this, so on the day the checking account is again overdrawn—this time by $400—from his daily purchases at McDonald’s and Wendy’s, decide this is it. Wasn’t ever the plan to get divorced, but see a lawyer downtown and draw up papers. Wasn’t ever the plan to hurt him, either, but he will never be the one to leave, so there it is.
Can’t believe that youth is gone, that at thirty-three life starts over.
Can’t feel anything but regret for not doing it sooner, for ever having said yes in the first place.
Don’t want to date but a therapist insists. Shouldn’t even be thinking about it this soon, but the third date turns up a gem. Shouldn’t fall in love, but it happens. Don’t deserve this, but not willing to overthink it either. Haven’t been this happy in so so long, maybe ever. Don’t tell anyone when marriage vows are exchanged two years later in Grand Central Terminal—go alone and tell them all after. Don’t tell anyone about the baby yet either, they’ll learn soon enough. Don’t allow anyone to take a mallet to this joy with their judgment. Can’t be anything but dumbstruck by the good fortune of falling in love and having a family. Won’t always be easy or simple—children arrive like darling pink hand grenades inside a marriage—but don’t believe there are no happy endings.
About the author:
Amy Collini's work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Indiana Review, Slice, Baltimore Review, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Isthmus Review, Pithead Chapel and elsewhere. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two young sons and is at work on a novel.