Tuesday, July 27, 2004
It's a new beginning for me, Zack and I to be specific, but at this exact moment I'm so sick of being a "we" that I can hardly stand it. He and I are moving into a trailer in a park Brunswick, and so I check off another on my list of "things I'll never ever do in my whole life" list, a version I'll estimate was modified at around twelve years of age.
Get married-- check.
Move into trailer park... -- check.
...in Maine. -- check.
Have redneck children-- pending...
I'm sure the list is longer, but I'm tired. It's been a long day's worth of being something I never expected or hoped to be, and that can wear on a girl's ability to really concentrate. I complain that Zack falls asleep so much easier than I do, but if it weren't for that I'd never write anything. These late-night manifestos are the only thing that keep me in distant contact with the self I'm slowly abandoning: people like Jeff and Mark complain that I never have time for them anymore, and my comeback is always that there are other people I'm struggling to keep ties with, too, and I have to budget what time I have left at the end of the day between all of them. What I don't let on to is that those other people are all versions of myself.
People comment on how young Zack and I got married, and I tell them all different lies and exaggerations on why that it is; I've lost track, so here's the low-down, the truth's truth, or what I've pieced together of it. For what it's worth. We got engaged early, that's true, but we agreed on the stipulation that very night that if we were going to make that kind of commitment, we'd wait years before actually going through with it-- it'd give us time to grow into it, to be the right age and the right people. And it seemed like a smart plan-- we were in love, and we'd have plenty of time to practice being in love forever before making it forever forever. It was a smart plan, actually. Sure, anyone we'd announce the engagement to would write it off as one of those High School Sweetheart things, but when the day finally came, they'd have to hand it to us. It wasn't until well after the engagement that Zack decided, with my naive permission, to join the Marines. He signed on at the end of his senior year and was due to go to Boot Camp in November. Knowing this, we decided it was best to speed the wedding up, and this wasn't the mistake, either: It only made since, I couldn't live on base with him without being married, and I'd been living without health insurance for a long time, which prevented me from seeking treatment for the Vaginisimus. We'd marry before he left for bootcamp, I could start treatment while he was gone, and we'd be a blissful millitary couple upon his arrival, complete with base housing and a naval paycheck. How perfect it would be. (sic)
So we announced the engagement to both sets of parents, and the planning for the wedding began. The date was set for October 18th, arrangements commenced, invitations went out.
And then the Marines started fucking with us.
They wanted to send Zack to bootcamp the day after we were to be married, then Zack protested, and they claimed he'd never told them about having a fiancé. Now I had to be checked out and approved, and he took a tongue lashing from some higher-ups for trying to run his own life. The war wasn't getting any better, and I was scared. About this time we started talking about ways to get him out of his commitment. Zack announced to his parents that he didn't want to be in the Marines on his birthday, October 2nd. We did some research, found blessed, blessed Objector.org, and with the help of the GI Rights hotline, we had him more or less officially out just before the wedding.
And so, the urgency to be wed was dissolved. But everything was done, the dress, the food, the people, the place. And we'd made such a stink about how we weren't getting married just for insurance, we were just speeding up the inevitable. There was no getting out of it now, and why bother? It seemed that slamming on the brakes for something as trivial as having no reason to get married was some kind of insult to what he and I were. An affront of logic in the midst of our perfectly nonsense love affair. We were a fairy tale, and why should it matter if the fairy tale ending came on a little early? We still had our happily-ever-after to look forward to.
So that's why we're married so young. And, to be precise, I don't think that was our big mistake, either.
Our big mistake might have been agreeing to the Marines in the first place. It seemed nice. Money. Security. He'd be providing the housing and a decent paycheck, so I could get some part-time gig and focus most of my attentions on being the writer I'd always dreamed of being, despite having gotten married. And it was a way of giving him a future, as I felt so guilty about the future I'd already denied him...
Because he wasn't sure, that's why! He didn't fucking know what he wanted to be and he didn't care about school. He didn't want to go to college. We had layed in bed once, when we had just started dating, and I complained to him about the bitter cycle of life.
"It's not fair." I told him. "You break your back in high school so you can get into the best college, where you work your ass of just so you can get a good job. You bust your hump at your job so you can put away a savings, and by the time you get a chance to enjoy everything you've worked for, you're too old. You get a few years of RVing, then you die. I don't want anything to fucking do with that system."
"That's how always felt." He said, and it wasn't what I expect him to say.
"Really?" I asked, turning on my side, to watch how he looked as he answered.
"Yeah. I don't care about high school, and I don't care about college. I just do well to avoid having people lecture me about not doing well. But I don't want it. I don't want to live like that."
Hearing him say that, that's what started the wheels turning. Until then, I'd thought for sure that when I went off to massage school, that'd be the sad, but inevitable, end between us. I'd go be a masseuse somewhere and a older and wiser Zack Smith would go off to UMO like every other zombie Lisbonite, and maybe sometimes we'd write e-mails. But when he said what he said, I realized that he was a kindred spirit. Here was someone who wanted what I wanted, could live the way I could live. Neither of us cared about school or academics or the workaday world. We both wanted excitement, we both wanted freedom, and best yet, we both wanted each other. This really started to make things come to life for me.
But it was just laying-in-bed talk. As usual, I was listening too hard.
About a month after that, just after one of our joking conversations that we should run away from it all and get married and live in a van at the side of the road just to be together, I told him something I hadn't planned on telling everyone. "Listen...we keep saying things like this, we keep talking about some imaginary future. Why don't we talk about a real future?" So we did. I told him, if he wanted, we could try for a lasting relationship of some kind. I'd be willing to come back from California for him. To wait around until he finished High School. And while I wanted to get out of Maine for good more than anything, I could endure Lisbon until he was done school, and then we'd get out and start adventuring together. He said he wanted that, too.
And, lo and behold, I'd just done something incredible. I'd made real sacrifices for someone else. I'd put myself on the line and committed to someone I loved, and who I trusted loved me. That was big for me. It was nothing like I'd ever expected.
And then came the engagement. Blah blah blah, we've been over that.
Zack hadn't expected to go to college, so he applied to a few uMaine schools to make his parents happy. It was when the acceptances came rolling in that trouble started.
He'd made a few references to college, and that confused the hell out of me, so I finally asked him, trying to seem ever-so-casual, "So...what's happening next year?"
"Well...my parents are really on my case. I guess I'm going to college."
This shattered my world. This was out of left field. I had no idea what was going on. Was the engagement nothing to him? Didn't he realize that I was waiting for him? Didn't he realize that this was our life now? Where was the discussion, when was the decision? What the fuck did his parents have to do with this?
It was a few days before I finally let it burst. I told him that it messed up all of our plans, that it forced me to stay in Maine, to linger around while he was in classes all day. It added up debt for us and it put off my dreams four more years, and for what? Because his goddamned parents wanted something he didn't?
In my defense, I said this, I was never unclear about this. "Just tell me it's something you want, tell me that you really want to go, and I'll be more than happy to wait for you. But I can't wait four years and wrack up four years worth of debt just to make your parents happy. So please, please...tell me it will make you happy, and we'll do it. I need you to tell me that it's what you want."
And he couldn't tell me that. So he agreed not to go.
I guess this was the big mistake.
I wasn't wrong. I couldn't have waited. When the Marines thing came around, it seemed like a perfect solution, a perfect future. I should have known what people told me: (and this was the only time I consent that they were right and we weren't.) There's never anything perfect with the Millitary.
I guess I'll never forgive myself for Zack not going to college. I try to tell myself, over and over again, that all I really asked was for him to make the decision on his own behalf, not his family's. But I'm a year away from that now, and the exact conversation is a year hazier in my mind. I'll never be entirely convinced that I didn't just say "No."
And here's what really scares me: How much better off would he be today if I had just backed off? When I met Zack, he was a self-mutilatory head case on the track to suicide, or at least that's what he lead me to believe. Whatever happened between me and him, I knew I'd leave him better off than I found him-- I had that assurance to lie back on. I could get him a little off track, dizzy him up a bit, even break his heart, but he'd be in one piece. For better or for worse, everyone would have to be grateful that I saved a kid's life with my gratuitous romance.
Now all I can do is think where he'd be now if I'd let him go off to college: happily asleep in some busty coed's dorm, getting an education and a sex life that I can't give him. I think this image has become to foremost insecurity of my life. There seems no greater discomfort than the belief that someone you love and need would be truly, truly better off without you.
God, I hate that coed. Now, because of her, everything is wrong. She is in the back of my mind, always, and I can't be happy. Zack can't make me happy. And because he cannot make me happy any longer, he's become unhappy, and drastically less the man I fell so in love with, back when things were looking over some beautiful precipice from which we would fall so gracelessly.
So my fairytale marriage and my nonsense love affair have become just your everyday tradgedy, with none of the Shakesperean glamour and none of the Tarentino charm. Just tradgedy, day after day, year after year, line after line.
I want so much to run away from the way the mistakes I've made have turned me into this whining, pitiable thing that even I would turn away from, given the chance. I want my friends back, my dreams back, my beautiful beautiful Zachary back. I want to stop paying for the one mistake I keep on making: refusing to forgive myself for any of them.
"This kids they lost their graces...
She broke down the other day,
You know, some things in life may change
And some things, they stay the same,
~Damien Rice, Older Chests
On with it.