They say that many stories begin with a marriage and end with a funeral, or vice versa. Such a pattern can be found over and over in old movies. Black and white ones, aptly enough. It happens in books too, though not as often, I think.
In any case, I am going to start this story with a marriage—my third, to be precise.
Things had been going pretty damn well in my life as May 2006 came around, and it was high time they did, or so I figured. I was nearly two years free and clear of a long divorce from a thirteen year marriage to my second wife. There was no great acrimony to the end of that marriage. It was just a long time in coming. There was no great trauma, no swollen eyes from endless weeping, no flying plates and shattering saucers, no legal suits and counter suits.
That would all come later.
At the time it seemed the whole thirteen years of for bettering or worsering just kind of wilted and fluttered to the ground, like an afterthought of Autumn’s on a windless day. For all the love we had professed in the past, one might have thought that the end would be a bit more audible.
But, again, that would all come later. For the time being, that October and November of 2004, it had simply been deferred.
And this in itself will matter later.
But for now, I’m about to marry again.
May 6, 2006.
My fiancée has left the house early in the morning to get her hair done. And whatever else that women get done on such days. All I know is that it takes much longer than one might imagine. Is there some kind of byzantine ritual that takes place, the details of which have been kept secret from grooms through the mists of the past to the present day? What goes on during these hours and hours of hair-doing? What sorts of spells are cast, what witchery done, what magic webs woven and stealthily cast?
Or is it really all just primping and gabbing?
I do know this much: A couple months ago my wife mentioned in passing that she was going to stop and get her hair done on the way home from work.
Two days later, she asked if I had not noticed anything new.
Now this is a subject involving a frightful expanse of possibilities. What could it be? Was there a new piece of furniture? Had a new sofa come into the house and somehow failed my notice? Had the pictures on the walls changed? Had she gone out and gotten liposuction? Had she gotten a tattoo on her ass?
Naturally, I had completely forgotten about her hair.
And now here she stands waiting, arms folded, gaze unblinking, one side of her lips and nose cocked slightly upward and to the right—a signature facial expression of hers which is hard to describe without implying some kind of congenital distortion.
I cannot think. I have holes in my brain. Not literally holes, of course, but close enough. They are called demyelinating plaques, which is something about which I will have more to say later on.
At the time I decided her pajamas must be new, and so I said as much.
This was incorrect.
She had, in fact, cut her hair. I had committed a faux pas of the highest order. Husbands, please never fail to notice when your wife has cut her hair, for the hair is the glory of the woman and the woman is the glory of man. So say the scriptures.
Ah, but you say, she has cut only the smallest part, she has cut but a few strands from her bangs, she has cut but an eighth of an inch from her shoulders!
No matter. The hair has been cut nonetheless. She has altered her appearance, her very person, and moreover (as you soon learn) it has been done exclusively for you.
Oh miserable man! So out of his depth. Lost in the unsearchable womb of the woman. How shall we understand but by beginning with the acknowledgement that we simply do not and never will?
Now this has all been a digression. It has been two days since I wrote down the previous sentence, and I have little idea now what my train of thought might have been. I return again to the holes in my brain. I fling demyelenating plaques at the feet of the reader, begging forbearance.
Perhaps I should not start with a marriage after all, for the demands of continuity are overwhelming.
Perhaps I should first tell you what’s wrong with me.