My Lover Suspects I Have a Wife

My Lover Suspects I Have a Wife
How else to explain my fascination
of late for brooks and runs and old rivers?
No errand seems complete without stopping
at some trouty stream, taking two hours
for twenty-minute trips for carry-out
Indian food. I return muddy, watered,
smelling of crayfish, tandoor chicken, nan.
Or is it in the way I show interest
in places you and I have never talked
about before?–In Chincoteague Island
where people on the beach wave at people
in the water who wave right back at them,
where small horses eat from the same hands
that hold her dearly when she finds your mail.

I’m sipping a finger of “Mango Merlot” while “Mrs. Warner” paces upstairs, anguished over the choice between flats and heels, basing her decision on metric sound effects. It’s still three hours before sunset—the witching hour—when my inner self-medicating doctor becomes an inner bartender.

Tonight’s fiasco is a rain-checked wedding reception for Julia’s friend Lisa. The theme is traditional and casual: a toast by the best man, a first dance, and utensils meant to be thrown away after using. If anyone knocks a plastic spoon against a plastic wine glass would Lisa and Wayne even hear the kissing cue? At their ages there wouldn’t be any blushing.

Lisa’s wedding party had some novelty. Most of our vow exchanges had involved men marrying men. This was only our second wedding reception—except our own—for a man and a woman. No one had come to ours since we tied our knot on the run, and Andrea’s wedding to Curdy involved carpooling with a racehorse trainer. Instead of chasing down garters on the wing we talked tricks for speed and stamina, getting the first jump and the last bob. There’s a lot to learn about gambling at an old time wedding.

Gifts are another matter. It’s one thing when the couple are in their twenties and don’t have a garage or anything. What do you buy someone who’s been buying shit for so long? Lisa and Wayne had at least 75 years of home-owner consumerism between them. It was time to start thinking about subtraction. I suggested a U-Haul rental for trips to the dump.

We settled on a cherry pie. The day before, Julia found the perfect pie tin. Instead of wrapping it, she’d bake a cherry pie in it from scratch and give it to them that way. We tossed in a bottle of dessert wine. But we realized too late we had the wrong cherries. We needed sour and all we had was sweet. Then Julia mistakenly opened the Mango Merlot, confusing its lip-colored contents with Cabernet. “Damn,” she said.

The two of us lose heart quickly. We have that much in common. “The last thing those people need is dessert,” I said. Weight was one of those tricky subjects between us. Julia is rail thin and counts her calories with decimal places. She can wear anything she wants, whereas me, well, I just dress in what I think I can get away with. Lisa was like me, an ectomorph.

Julia came downstairs like a herd of buffalo. “You decided on the heels,” I said.

“Jesus,” she said, “Are you drinking already?”

I waited outside the Hallmark store while Julia hustled in and back. She waved a card for me us to sign. “Shit,” she said. “It’s all in Spanish.”

“That’s OK,” I said. “It’s more exotic if they have to look up the meaning of what we’re trying to say.” I wrote a little note: May you always find true North, south of the border. Julia crossed it out and wrote her own little note. She drew a box around it shaped like a house. “I haven’t wasted half my life,” she said, stuffing the card into a bag filled with tissue paper. “But I have spent half my life with a pig.”

Right then I started to compose a sonnet. Sonnets were supposed to be an argument, right? Maybe some disagreed, but it seemed like the perfect form to talk about marriage, where everything always had to be so perfect just because it never was.

I composed it to myself like I always do, saying the words in my brain, repeating a phrase, turning it over. Not recommended while driving. “You want to get around this guy?” Julia said. I made a left and pulled onto Lisa’s street. Her house was dark. There weren’t any cars parked in front of it. “Maybe the party is at Wayne’s house,” I said.

My inner bartender—I’ll call him Scott—offered some critical advice. “Divorce,” he said. “That’s the whole reason I’m never getting married.”

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