Leaving Home: A Divorce Story

#15 ... Euclid Street, Santa Monica, California ... We lived in a small cottage in the back

I've been married twice; one that didn't take, and one that did (knock on wood). This is about the one that didn't. A work in progress, It's one of those transition pieces, the story that took me from my parents' apartment on Fourteenth Street in Santa Monica to a sweet little back house one short block away on Euclid, #15 of the On the Street Where I Live stories. I'm of an age where I'm looking back, trying to figure out the route my life has followed. A few of you have shown an interest; thanks for that.

Read it in parts:

Leaving Home: The Beginning
Leaving Home: Part Four

Leaving Home: Part Five

Leaving Home: Yesterday

Or read it all here: Leaving Home

Part One ... How it ended
I looked at the clock glowing on the dashboard; just after eleven. I don't know why I felt uneasy. Phillip couldn't have come with us, he'd officially been promoted to Assistant Store Manager and that meant he had to close. He hadn't said much when I told him I was going to see the fireworks with Russell and his girlfriend, but logically I knew he couldn't mind. I went every year; marriage changed things but I didn't think it meant sitting at home and missing the annual fireworks over the Santa Monica pier just because he was stuck at the drug store until after 10pm on the fourth of July. Anyway, we'd all party together at our place after. 

Still, when we turned onto Euclid I couldn't stop the slightly sick feeling turning over in my stomach. The traffic had been the pits. It felt like we'd literally crawled the thirteen blocks from Ocean Avenue to our place. I could have walked home faster. Maybe I should have done that, walked home faster. But I'd been having such a great time with my brother, and Jennifer, and Larry, who'd come along at the last minute. People who'd known me forever and I could just relax with, people I could breathe with. An old family friend at this point, I knew Larry might still harbor a teensy crush on me, but I'd never been interested, and he'd never, ever acted on it. He was a funny-looking little guy, prematurely old somehow with frizzy, mousey colored hair that sat like an abandoned nest on top of his head. Worse, he was dull. Make that Dull with a capital D. I just wasn't interested, but he was nice and well-intentioned and we'd known each other for so long, we'd settled into comfortable sibling-like companionship.

"Phillip won't mind it's so late, will he Simmy? Is it too late to come in?"
"No. Right? I mean, I hope not. Maybe I should have looked for a phone?" 
I knew that wasn't really an option, finding a payphone and a place to park would have taken even longer. I was just feeling guilty because I'd had so much fun. Snaking our way through the stuffed up streets, with everyone honking, had been like a party. A party Phillip hadn't been invited to.

"He can't have been home that long," Russ said, pulling the car over. "How long does it take to close? At least a half-hour, right?"

I saw him as soon as I got out of the car, storming across the lawn, still wearing his drug store uniform, a powder blue tunic shirt. Shit.

"Do you fucking know what time it is?"
"I'm so sorry honey!" I tried to laugh it off. "The traffic was terrible and-"
"The fireworks ended at 9:30. 9:30! It doesn't take two fucking hours to go thirteen blocks!"  He grabbed my arm, pulling me along the sidewalk.
"HEY!" My brother was standing by the car, one foot in, one foot out, keys in his hand. "Take it easy Phillip. All we did was see some fireworks. Calm down, man."
"You fucking calm down." 
"It's okay, you guys." 

The three of them, my brother, his girlfriend, and Larry were standing by the car like statues, frozen, in disbelief I guess, figuring out whether they should stay or go. I almost couldn't believe it myself. And yet, here I was being dragged up the pathway by Phillip, who had turned into some sort of caveman. 

"We'll do it another time" I called out cheerily, an absurd show designed to convince them that everything was fine. "Everything's fine."
"Are you sure?" I could see Jenn did not think everything was fine.
"It's fine" I called back before we disappeared into the house. I stopped worrying about them when Phillip threw me across the bed. 

"Thank God," I thought, "Thank God." No one would expect me to stay now. Even my father, especially my father, would tell me to leave, never mind the money he'd spent. $10,000? $15,000? Even in 1975, it wasn't much to spend on a wedding but it was a lot for my parents. Phillip and I had been married for three and a half months.


Part Two ... How it began
He was tall and almost cool with aviators and a mustache that matched his shaggy golden brown hair. What made Phillip uncool was the way he had to shove those aviators up his slippery nose over and over, an act of uncoolness I could relate to all too well. The other thing that marked him as uncool was that he was full-time; a management trainee at Drug Star in Santa Monica. The rest of us that worked there, the young ones anyway, were part-time. We were going to school, trying to be something else, trying to find a real place to start our careers. The drug store as a place to have a career? Definitely not cool. 

At first, I thought Phillip was sort of dopey – was being the manager of a drug store really his goal in life?— and he had a weird laugh, like a horse's whinny. But he was persistent. He'd wander over to Cosmetics after Hetty and Joanie had gone home, and I was the only one left working in the department. 

"Need change?" he'd ask, watching me clean the glass shelves with a feather duster, straightening the rows of Revlon nail polish with a ruler. Cherries in the Snow. Fire and Ice. Love That Red. Suddenly self-conscious about the hem of my pink cosmetic smock resting just above the hemline of my mini-skirt, spotlighting its very micro-mini-ness, I'd straighten myself up too.

I'd check my register drawer, just to be sure. "Nope, I'm good, thanks."

"You have beautiful, ah, neck skin," he said one night, pointing to my throat.
"Neck skin?" 
God, what a weird thing to say. And yet, "beautiful"?
"Ah, the hollow of your throat? It's ah — the way it goes in? It's nice."
My hands fluttered to my throat, my fingers finding the little indentation, flattered, blushing. 
"Oh, thanks! I guess? No one's ever told me that before."
He stood smiling, looking satisfied, no intention of leaving.
"So, um, how do you like it here?" I leaned back against the counter, ready to listen.

Phillip had come from somewhere over the grade, out near Camarillo, or maybe it was Carpinteria. He'd been living with his mother and his mentally retarded brother. Their dad had left long ago. He didn't know a soul in Santa Monica, except for us, the employees of the small drug store chain where I worked, paying my own way through college. He'd just found an apartment a few blocks away on California, a one-bedroom on the ground floor, where I found myself hanging out after work one Friday night with Chris and Julie, who worked in the pharmacy and a couple of the newer kids who worked the registers. It was a housewarming I guess. Chris brought a six-pack; I half wondered where it came from because he was underage, but Julie must have rung it up for him. One of the new employees, Wendy, brought cookies she'd made. Peanut butter. She was into witchcraft, or so she said. She looked it with her black matte dyed hair and skin so pale as though she never ventured out into the California sunshine. I thought she was just as odd as Phillip and I could tell she liked him. And hated me. Which was fine. I wasn't interested in Phillip anyway, the only reason I went was that I knew Chris was going to be there. Chris with his surfed out hair, jock-hard, and compact body, but sweet and smart and surprisingly funny ways. 

Chris was too young for me, I knew that. He'd just started college while I only had a couple of semesters to go. But he didn't seem to care, and when he asked me out to a movie at the Aero, I said yes. And wondered why. What was I doing with this short, blond guy in the white turtleneck who looked like he stepped off the ski slopes on his way to a wrestling match? He wasn't my type. I felt foolish. As if being with him proved I couldn't get a date my own age. I could. Phillip. I got the feeling that the more Phillip saw Chris flirting with me, the more Phillip traipsed after me like a puppy. The same with Chris. For a couple of weeks, it was addictive and heady; each of them trying to woo me, making me feel as desirable and dizzy-headed as Daisy in The Great Gatsby. 

They both had the same dismissive attitude about each other.
"Are you really going out with him?" Chris would corner me in the break room as if Phillip were some sort of lower species.
"Isn't he a little young for you?" Phillip would ask with a sneer, unlocking the door to let me out after closing. Making sure I got across the street okay, watching until I disappeared up the stairs of the apartment building where I was living with my parents. Living at home was okay. It was convenient if nothing else since I worked right across the street. I didn't own a car, didn't drive. I took a bus to UCLA where I'd transferred after a couple of years at Santa Monica Community College. Or high school with ashtrays, as we used to say.

I told Chris he was too young for me and that I was too old for him. I told Phillip I didn't want anything serious right now. Chris was cool — "Are you sure? I thought we were having fun?"  and we gave each other a hug. 

But Phillip wouldn't give up. At night, when we both worked the two to ten shift and the store was empty, he'd stand in the middle of the housewares aisle and find me in the overhead security mirror. "Please?" he'd mouth the words into the mirror, "please go out with me." 

Over Christmas break, I went to Vegas with Julie and another girl, Patty, who did the bookkeeping. We'd gone to a work party and driving home, Patty said, "Let's go to Vegas. If we leave now, we'll be there by morning." 

Vegas? I'd been to Las Vegas with Laura for my 21st birthday the year before. We'd stayed at the Riviera, splurged on tickets to Frank Sinatra, seen Joey Heatherton and Sonny Bono sitting together at the coffee shop, and got picked up by a couple of high rollers. But we'd planned that trip for months. 

Go to Vegas just on a whim? I couldn't believe the word coming out of my mouth. Yes. Yes! 

We swung by my place, and I woke my parents up to let them know. "Drive safely" they mumbled, not nearly as surprised by me as I was. I might have been a little buzzed, but Patty, I assured them, was stone-cold sober. 

We landed at the Horseshoe Casino downtown before the sun was fully up, feeling cool and edgy after driving through the desert all night. 'Head out on the highway. Looking for adventure-'

And starving; the Bun Boy was closed when we passed through Baker, so we scarfed down some steak and eggs in the hotel coffee shop. And then we crashed. The next thing I knew hours had disappeared into the eternal, timeless Vegas vacuum; we were playing Keno and eating cheeseburgers when the sound of my name over the p.a. system broke through the onslaught of bells and whistles and change clattering in the surrounding slot machines. 

Simone Good. Telephone call for Simone Good. Just like in the movies. Like I was Joey Heatherton.

I was confused. Who would call me in Las Vegas? My parents didn't know what hotel we were staying at; I hadn't even known what hotel we'd be staying at. 

I didn't know what to do, how to even take a phone call. Was it really like the movies? Was someone going to bring the phone to the table, like in some old gangster flick?

"What do I do?" 
"Find a house phone," one of them said. 
"It's by the elevators," the other said. 

I picked it up nervously, still feeling like I was in a movie, but now it was Doris Day in some Alfred Hitchcock thriller like it could only be bad news on the other end.

"Yes? This is she." 
"Thank God you're okay. I was really worried about you."

The voice on the other end of the line sounded familiar, almost like Phillip, but that didn't make any sense. Why would Phillip be calling me? How could Phillip be calling me?

"Phillip?! Phillip, is that you?"
"Yeah, it's me. Are you okay?"

I didn't understand. Was something wrong?

"Yes, something's wrong!" 

He said he'd been calling everywhere looking for me. All the hotels. I couldn't help it, it felt good that he'd gone to so much trouble.

"I can't believe you just took off for Vegas in the middle of the night."

I couldn't believe it either. It wasn't like me.

"You could have got in an accident! You could have been killed."

"Don't be ridiculous." I laughed. "I'm here, I'm fine. But I don't get it. How did you even find me?"

"I called your house this morning, and your parents told me you went to Vegas. I've called every effing hotel in town looking for you. I was really worried."

I couldn't say anything for a minute. He tracked me down in Las Vegas because he was worried about me? He'd called a bunch of hotels looking for me. For me! I couldn't help feeling flattered, but what was he so angry about? 

"Oh! Well, that was really sweet of you. I'm sorry you were worried, but I'm fine. Thanks but really, I'm okay."

"You're okay? Well isn't that just great? I guess I can relax now, huh? Because I've been going nuts here. You guys were all shit-faced when you left here. I can't believe you'd do that. I was going to drive you home, remember? You said I could drive you home?"

"Wait, wait, wait. Hold on a minute! No one was 'shit-faced'. God! Besides, it's not up to you to make sure I'm okay. That's not your job." 

I did not remember telling him he could drive me home. Maybe I was wasted? 

"Can I help it if I care?"

"If you care? Look, I'm here, I'm fine. We're all fine. Thanks for checking on me Phillip, really but Julie and Patty are waiting for me so I'm going to go now, okay? I'm going to hang up."

"When are you coming home?"

"Excuse me?"

"When are you coming home?"

"When am I -? - um, you know Phillip, I really just don't know. Later. I don't know. But right now I've got to go. So long, okay."

And I hung up.

"That was Phillip," I told the girls back at the table. 

They looked at me, eyebrows raised. "Phillip?" In unison. 

"From work?" Julie asked. "Calling you here?"

I dug down into my purse, looking for my wallet, avoiding their eyes. "Yeah, Phillip." I put a twenty on the table. "Weird, huh? He wanted to know when I was coming home." 

Weird for sure. So why was I feeling so weirdly flattered?

Part Three
The next couple of months blurred by. Phillip kept up, I don't know, I guess I'd call it a full-frontal attack, but gently. First came the awkward acknowledgment that calling all over Vegas, hunting me down, was going too far. He neighed his whinny of a laugh.

"I guess I got a little crazy."

In return, did I tell him I didn't need crazy in my life? Did I tell him to scram, to get lost? Did I tell him we were on two separate journeys? Or instead, did I say nothing? Did I find his fascination fascinating and blush demurely when he talked about the skin in the hollow of my throat or told me I looked pretty in pink?

Funny how something like that, a compliment when you're craving one, can stop up a hole for a while.

Otherwise, the days kept disappearing, poof, going, going, gone. I kept going to classes, bumping along in the Big Blue Bus from the corner of Fourteenth and Santa Monica to UCLA, feeling out of step with the world around me. I'd fooled around, taking too long to get the required credits to transfer from Santa Monica City College. English Composition. Journalism, Modern Dance, Theatre Arts classes like Sound Production and Beginning Acting, Astronomy, Marriage and Family, Speed Reading, Piano. A soupy mess of credits. By the time I transferred to UCLA, anyone I might have known from high school was gone. Most of the kids I knew at all had gone away to school anyhow, living lives straight out of Goodbye Columbus, while I was still living at home in my parents' two-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica. 

I went to class. I went to work at the drug store across the street. I went home. I went to class. I went to work at the drug store across the street. I went home. It felt like my entire generation was hanging out on the lawn, barefoot on the grass in front of Royce Hall, while guys with guitars played Ventura Highway and hacky sack between classes. All the while I hurried by, weighted down by Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, and Saul Bellow, keeping my head down, following my pattern; class, work, home, class, work, home. 

Work meant seeing Phillip. No matter what my schedule was, his always seemed to match up. If I was on my break, smoking upstairs in the stock room, Phillip found reasons to come up, searching for a case of Pampers or WD-40. It was that kind of drug store; we carried everything. Or I'd be working in the hair care aisle, pulling bottles of Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific forward, filling in the empty holes, turning them so the labels all faced front, and he'd show up asking what was the best shampoo for his kind of hair. What did I use to make mine so shiny? Or I'd look up and find him standing at the end of the cosmetics aisle, tossing the red zippered cash bag back and forth, checking to see if I needed singles or quarters. 

Little by little, we got to talking more and more, my built-in defenses evaporating like the vinegary smell of the Windex I used to clean the mirrored cosmetic counters. Bit by bit, my sharp, protective edges got a bit blurrier. He was nice to me, he was growing on me. And the biggest truth? There wasn't anybody else.

Chris had been too young; I'd let him know that he should move on and he did. No big deal. Like a bottle of Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo: No Tears. The last time I'd seen Derek, my old boyfriend, months after we broke up, I realized I wasn't hurt or angry anymore that he'd gone to Europe with his friend Gary instead of me, even after all the plans we'd made, I was just over him. Utterly over him. That point where you look at someone, and just can't see what you ever saw in them? I was there. Done.

I'd dated other guys but they were in the past. After Derek, there had been Evan, adorable Evan who starred in the SMC college production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and who seemed destined to be a Broadway star. Oh Evan, who slayed my heart before he broke it, telling me he loved me like a sister, ditching me for another girl, an older actress of 26. Jerry, a jock studying to be a lawyer so he could negotiate sports contracts and who smelled like sweat and sex. Mike, a basketball player so tall it hurt to look at him. Steve who sang me a song he'd written for me on our very first, and therefore last, date.

There'd been this a guy I met at the bus stop a couple of times. This super handsome guy who said he'd moved from Atlanta to LA to be an actor; he was just riding the bus while his car was in the shop. He took my number, he never called. I guess he got his car out of the shop, I never saw him on the Big Blue Bus again.

There wasn't anybody at school either, except maybe this one nice-looking boy in one of my English classes; The American Novel: Fiction post World War II, 1945 - present. I sat in the same back corner of the room every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am, and every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am, he came in and sat next to me, made small talk, asked if I'd finished the assigned reading, stuff like that. I could never figure out if he was flirting or just the friendly type. He never stopped me on my way out of class, never said 'going my way?' never said 'hey, you want to grab a cup of coffee?' the way guys do in the movies. I wasn't bold enough to do the asking, I wasn't that kind of girl. Instead, I continued as before, following my established pattern, living by rote, wearing a groove in the road. I went to class, I went to work, I went home to my parents' apartment. I went to class, I went to work, I went home to my parents' apartment.

Something had to give. It turned out to be me.


Part Four
I couldn't tell you how it happened. There weren't a lot of real dates; our courtship was a verboten workplace flirtation. Furtive conversations in the office where we sales clerks counted out our cash drawers. Small get-togethers at his place with friends from work, in, on what was becoming our secret. Somehow, slogging through the last, grey, overcast days of a California winter, I found myself looking up one rainy night and finding his reflection in the drugstore's overhead security mirrors, captivated as I watched him fall to his knees on the floor, right there in the middle of the greeting card aisle. Where once he'd asked me to go out with him, now he was on his knees, his reflection in the mirror asking me to marry him. He dropped to his knees in the middle of the store; I couldn't get over that.

The truth? Oh God, the truth. I luxuriated in his want. I lapped up his attention like a lost kitty, purring into his pats the way a cat pushes and presses into you for more petting, deeper strokes. Insatiable, a stray cat left to prowl the city in search of a dish of milk left on some kindly soul's back porch, I couldn't get enough. There are girls pretty, poised, smart, and confident enough, they don't need someone else to tell them who they are, some guy to tell them they're good enough.  I wasn't those girls. There are girls so sure of their place in their worlds, so powerfully aware of the sexuality they ooze, they can play with a boy's want, tease a young man's aching physical need the way a cat toys with a trapped mouse. The kind of girls authors wrote about in books, the kind of girls that filled the pages of the young women's magazines I devoured. Girls I wanted to be. Girls I wasn't.

Twenty-two going on twelve, I was frozen in adolescence, a girl-child, still living at home, still searching for my saucer of milk. Silly and shallow, I'd long fed myself a steady diet of articles with titles like How to Get a Guy to Like You, expecting nothing and everything in return. I once asked a guy I was seeing why he never told me I was pretty. "I wouldn't be with you if I didn't think you were pretty." That wasn't enough for me, I needed more, I needed to be told. But when I charted my physical features, the good vs the bad, all I could see was the Con side of the page: thin lips, thick glasses, lanky hair, small breasts. I didn't see the pretty eyes behind the glasses. The nice smile. The sometimes sarcastic sense of humor.  Flaws, flaws, flaws. That's all I saw. Not the kind of girl men mooned over, not the kind of girl they wrote songs about.

Philip, poor Philip, he made me feel like I was.

I said yes.

Not just yes, but yes and let's hurry, setting a date little more than a month away. My friends and family waged a war around me, their words meant to stop me from being so wildly impulsive.
"You barely know him!"
"Are you sure you love him?" 
"What can you possibly see in him?"
"Are you pregnant? You don't have to marry him just because you're pregnant."
"Please, Simmy, don't throw your life away." 
"Do you really want to do this?
"What's the rush?" 
"Why can't you wait a while at least. If you still want to get married in six months, you can always get married then."
"You're making a big mistake." 
 And to my parents, "How can you let her do this?!"

The look on my brother's girlfriend's face frozen in stupefaction. What was I doing?!

The more they said, the deeper I dug my heels in. No I wasn't pregnant, we were in love, waiting wouldn't change anything, why can't you all just be happy for me?

The truth, the horrible truth? Some part of me knew they were right. So I did the mature thing.

I went shopping for a wedding dress.


Part Five
I dreamed of a wedding dress that would make me feel like a princess, Grace Kelly style. Not that 'the perfect wedding' in quotation marks was some kind of fantasy I'd been harboring; I wasn't one of those girls who'd been dreaming of her own wedding day for years, who kept a file stuffed with pictures of white rosy bouquets and reception decoration ideas pulled from magazines. I wasn't a total ninny with a secret stash of handmade place cards hidden in the basement, just waiting for the right groom to come along. But I was getting married, and I knew how I wanted to look. I'd been waiting my whole life to turn into Grace Kelly, maybe this was my moment. Sleek and simple, my dream dress was an elegant slip of floor-length satin, a gently scooped neckline to show off just a touch of décolleté. Borrowing the latest copy of Modern Bride from the drug store's magazine rack, I thumbed through its glossy pages on my break, searching for my dream dress come true. I gave up when it became clear that the phrase 'champagne taste, beer budget' was written with me in mind. If that dream dress was alive, it existed only at a price so high, it was dead to me. Instead, I ended up walking down the aisle suffocating in an overpowering haze of gauzy chiffon, pinched at the waist, yards of sheer and shiny white ballooning around me, puffy transparent sleeves sticking to my arms, the high collar of stiff lace choking and scratching at my throat.

"Who gives this woman — this flighty foolish creature — away?"
"Her mother and I do. —We tried to talk her out of it. What's a father to do?"

You'd never know from my dad's distinguished voice, the thick, emotion-charged cough echoing in the church, that my wedding was a rush job.

When the minister asked "If any of you know why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace," I held my breath but no one stood up and shouted their objection. No one pounded on the church's glass door. No one said a word; they'd all had their say during our quickie courtship. We wouldn't be deterred.

Philip and I had had the mandatory meeting with a church minister, assuring him that no, I wasn't pregnant, and looking him right in the eyes, we convinced him of our genuine love and devotion for each other. So what if we were young and had only known each for a few months? It was easy. Strangers to each other, we were even more so to him, Philip being new in town and me, not being the churchy type, he took us at our word. Except for Sunday School as a child and a brief period of religious fervor at age eighteen when I'd been baptized at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, my spirituality heightened by the urge to impress Guy, the long-haired, dope-smoking leader of our youth group, the eldest son of the preacher man, I hadn't spent much time in the pews. I wouldn't have dreamed of going back and getting married there, at St. Paul's, where I had history. Where for a time I'd dressed up in my Sunday best and mingled with Laura and her mom and the other churchgoers after the service, consuming punch and sugar cookies, and wondering if Guy noticed my outfit. Better to be married by a stranger who couldn't see my heart.

We'd driven over the grade to Carpinteria so I could meet his mother and his brother Joey, a big-hearted, overgrown boy of a man who told me he loved me and hugged me so hard and for so long that Philip had to peel him off me.

"Sorry. He doesn't know his own strength."

"That's okay. It's okay Joey, I love you too." I didn't —how could I, we'd just met? — but I wanted to as if my wanting to was the same thing.

We'd settled on a color theme. Actually, I'd settled, Philip had won the round with chocolate brown tuxedos paired with frilly-fronted coral colored shirts and boutonnieres.

The brown velvet bow tie the salesman at Gary's Tux Shop showed him clinched the deal.

Coming out of the dressing room, grinning and shoving his glasses up his slippery nose, Philip looked like he was a teenager, going to his first prom. All set to borrow the car keys from dad. I'd never been to the prom. Seeing Philip all decked out, a vision in brown and peach, I wasn't sure I wanted to go now.

"How about black?" I was trying to steer him toward what my mind insisted was the only reasonable color choice in wedding tuxedos. Truth? When it came to tuxedos, I didn't think there was such a thing as color choice.

"Black?" Philip countered with what I was sure was a sneer. "Black is boring."

The seventies or not, I wanted to tell him his peachy-keen color combo was tacky but how do you tell your fiancé his taste makes you want to gag?

"We'll look like we're going to the senior prom."

He preened in the three-way mirror as the salesmen brushed invisible dust off his shoulders.

"Nah. We'll look cool."

While I hadn't been planning a wedding in my dreams, I was beginning to think maybe Philip had.

Brown tuxedos it was. With coral, peachy shirts. I countered with my idea of hippie flare; oatmeal colored dresses by GunnySax for the bridesmaids, tie-dyed fringed shawls tinged with shades of brown and coral around their shoulders. My sister Nancy was my maid of honor, my best friend Laura and my brother's girlfriend Jennifer were my bridesmaids. I knew they'd all look beautiful with flowers in their hair.

Nancy found us a band; my brother's friend Larry would take the pictures; and my dad made some phone calls to find a place for the reception. Everything was coming together fast, so very fast; when my dad and I met with the catering director at the Miramar Hotel, the hefty reality of prices per head became clear in my spinning head. When they confirmed their ballroom was available for March 22, I bit my nails while my dad insisted we book it. The thousands of dollars my parents were spending on this wedding was starting to make my stomach flip. It was an awful lot of money, money they could never get back. I had to ask myself, what was I doing?

Picking out and mailing off invitations, that's what.

We couldn't afford the thick, creamy card stock that I, with my obviously superior taste, wanted, but like the wedding dress, couldn't afford. Still, I refused to go with the shiny ones with the garish pink metallic flowers imprinted on them that Philip, with his clearly, decidedly inferior taste, was drawn to. Cringing as he revealed his lack of refinement in front of the stationery saleswoman — a stranger I'd probably never see again — demonstrating just how much my husband-to-be was not a classy fella, was maybe not even in the same league as me, I hated myself for being so superficial. I really did.

It's just that somewhere along the line, I'd begun to hate him just a tiny bit more.


[Writer's note: Somewhere in here I'll have to deal with the actual marriage but I'm not there yet. For now, this post-marriage patch came to me yesterday.]



All my troubles seemed so far away. 

He'd left a tape on the front seat of my car. I always kept the passenger window slightly open, just the slimmest space between glass and door but enough to let fresh air in. He must have slipped it through the narrow gap sometime in the middle of the night. Stood by my car in the dark and pushed the tape through with his long, skinny fingers. Was he still wearing his wedding band? Would the gold glint in the moonlight? I didn't know.

Yesterday, he'd labeled it with a black Magic Marker. I wished I could resist, wished I could just throw the tape away without listening to it but I couldn't help myself. Would there be more yelling? A prayer for my soul? Tears? I looked around, didn't see his car parked anywhere on the street and stuck it in the tape deck and held my breath.

Yesterday. All my troubles seemed so far away. It was Phillip, singing softly, while the Beatles song played in the background. I could hear Paul McCartney's beautiful voice, overlaid with Phillip's own tuneless, cracking one:
Why she had to go? I don't know, she wouldn't say I said something wrong Now I long for yesterday.
I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry. I nearly threw up. It was over. He knew it was over. Why couldn't he just leave me alone? Did he think this would make me change my mind? Every move he made, made me want to run further and further away. The week before he'd left the bakery box with the top layer of our wedding cake inside—the one we'd saved in the freezer for our first anniversary—sitting outside my front door. My roommate had found it, showed it to me nervously.
"He left your wedding cake."
Confused, I lifted the lid, looked inside. He'd stomped it flat with his boot. The plastic figurines snapped in pieces, cake and white icing and pale peach frosted flowers mangled together.

I felt like I was living inside a thriller;  a really bad movie of the week that I just wanted to be over.

And now this tape. And one of my favorite Beatles songs. I couldn't believe he'd have the ego to sing along with Paul McCartney! Then Phillip started talking, in that same soft, sniffly tone he'd been singing in. I ejected the tape, threw it in the backseat. I knew what he would say, what he'd been saying to everyone, calling my friends on the phone and telling them all about me: how terrible I was to do that to him, how could I? what had he done to deserve that? Nothing, Phillip, nothing. I was a terrible person. Small, selfish, superficial. Shaky, slightly terrified, I pulled out onto Barrington. I was sure he was right but I still had to get to work.

Yesterday. All my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though there here to stay. Oh I believe in yesterday.

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