For Better, For Worse
I. Something Old
My parents’ wedding photo – 1975.
My mother: Green-eyed and angelic in bell-sleeved ivory.
My father: Face arranged into a strained approximation of a smile.
They stand side-by-side, inches of negative space between them – nothing like the way B. and I would stand.
When I look at this photo, I feel psychic; I know the subjects’ destiny. I wish I could step into it and tell the radiant young woman fated to be my mother to run with everything she’s got:
The man you’re about to marry is attracted to men, and hates himself for it. You’ll have his children, but sleep next to him 90% sexlessly for twenty years. You’ll divorce; he’ll spiral irreversibly.
Years of crystal meth smoked on-and-off in secret will turn him decrepit in fast-forward -- addle his brain, corrode his teeth, and induce a series of strokes.
By the time he’s (miraculously) made it to his sixties, he’ll seem like he’s 85-years-old. Shadows will close in around his eyes; his vowels and consonants will bleed together in thick slurs, making his sentences incomprehensible.
You’ll never speak. If future-you were to run into future-him on the street, you’d hardly recognize him.
II. Something New
B. is the first and only man to give me a copy of his house key.
B. kisses me wetly. Generously. Like he never wants me to leave his apartment.
B. and I tell each other every damn shameful thing: how he was Baker Acted at 22 after going on a night-long cocaine bender and then downing a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner as the sun came up; how the porn my father left up on the family PC made my girl-cheeks flush with equal-parts embarrassment and reluctant desire.
I pop the man’s zits, for God’s sake.
We’ve started to try marriage-talk on for size.
Our wedding will be B.’s second. We daydream out loud about a quick ceremony – no white dress, no bridesmaids or groomsmen. Just a justice of the peace, a bouquet of bleeding hearts, and a bonfire alongside the Intracoastal Waterway that snakes up Florida’s southern tip.
Speaking the words, “our” and “wedding” side-by-side is new to me.
Believing that maybe I have a shot at something normal is new to me.
III. Something Borrowed
B. has a t-shirt that features the Kool-Aid logo: happy-faced pitcher + the words, OH, YEAHHH! One night, I ask him if I could wear it to bed.
The shirt is a men’s XL. It fits me like a short dress, hem falling just below the twin moons of my ass cheeks.
B. gives me a once-over –
“OH, YEAHHH!” he says in his best guttural Kool-Aid Man voice.
“Keep it, J.; it’s yours.”
B. says, “I love you” at least four times a day.
B. keeps his kitchen cabinets stocked with my favorite candy.
B. gives, and gives, and gives.
But I can’t shake the idea that B. is another woman’s ex-husband –
The same man who’s tried to kill himself three times in his life.
The same man whose wife came home one night to find him almost fatally overdosed on pain medication, their two 4-year-old daughters asleep in the next room.
The truth: I’m terrified that our time is borrowed – that one day, despite all the therapy and self-help he’s sought, the man I love will become something I wish I could’ve warned myself against.
IV. Something Blue
My stash of Xanax. Little robin’s eggs that sit in the medicine cabinet in case of emergency:
Nights when dreams of my father’s face turning rabid jerk me awake.
Nights when I can’t silence the thought that there might be a dark stranger lurking within the body sleeping next to mine – the body whose freckles and scars I know as well as my own.
Nights when I’m convinced it’s insane for any two people on Earth to get married.
But then, there’s this:
The blue jay that sometimes breakfasts at the feeder in B.’s garden just as we’re waking up.
We can’t see the jay from behind B.’s closed blinds, but my man is Wisconsin-bred, an Eagle Scout – knows how to distinguish a blue jay’s birdsong from a cardinal’s, a green parrot’s, a woodpecker’s, a mourning dove’s.
I let myself nestle against him. His skin smells like Irish Spring mingled with something ripe and bare: plainly, distinctly, and uncontrollably B.
“Listen,” he says, his breath warm on my neck.
“The jay is back. Do you hear it?”
About the Author: Jeanette Geraci holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University. Her work has appeared in 3Elements Literary Review, Lunch Ticket Literary Magazine, Anomaly (FKA: Drunken Boat), Blue Fifth Review, Compose Journal, Room Magazine, and numerous other publications. Jeanette received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2016. She currently lives and teaches in South Florida.