I knew we would have a good marriage. I made certain.
I still remember that day after all these years. My buddies from Kappa had all agreed to meet up by the foyer at the homecoming dance. “None of us would leave alone,” we said. But the flu had other plans; plans it didn’t share with me. I waited, and waited. I think you told me later that you saw my exhaustion and disappointment after half an hour and decided to do something. I felt my pocket get heavier and discovered a bottle of Coke that wasn’t there before. I turned around and saw that smile I’d be seeing for the next lifetime. It was in your smile that I saw the future. And I knew that I had to get to work.
Now, I think we both agree I did my best to make things work. I took on extra shifts at the Mexican place for dinner at the Italian place every Saturday. I carefully curated my class schedule so I could see that smile of yours at least once a day. I even socked some barfly when he made a whiskey-persuaded grope and proudly bore the black eye for weeks. Never once did I ask myself if it was worth it. I knew.
I knew my work had paid off when you said “yes” on the bridge over Peckins Creek. That smile will be with me until death.
Now, I’m nobody’s fool. I knew about rising divorce rates and can name at least ten couples whose marriage was over before it started. I knew I had to take precautions, and I did.
I took so many of them you wouldn’t believe. I took the pledge and gave up drinking. I took a pay cut so we could live close to your mother, who thanked me by kicking the bucket six months later. Once again, I knew it was worth it. I took every precaution so we wouldn’t end up like everyone else. I knew I could never lie to you. Except maybe once. I had trouble explaining why we couldn’t get married in your mother’s church. I said it was on the advice of a priest, which was true. But not of my Irish Catholic variety.
Believe me. I knew how much you loved me. I knew you’d never run off with another. But life is a cruel witch. I had to make sure our marriage would work. So when the priest took my blood and placed it on the altar, I never asked if it was worth it. I had no idea that I should have chosen my words carefully. When I asked the stone goddess that you never leave me, I had no idea that even death respected my wish.
But like a good husband, I won’t sleep without you beside me. Long after cancer “took” you from me, I still see you every night in our bedroom. I’ve gotten used to the smell by now.