January 16, 2009

Learning to Listen
S.C. Morgan

The first time I married I did it in haste, like a pebble propelled from a slingshot.

I married the year after I graduated from high school—the same November America elected Richard Milhouse Nixon president, the year Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were gunned down, and the year after my little brother was killed in a shooting accident. If you believe in omens—as I have learned to—I ask you, what good could come from all of that?

I remember the day he asked. We were living in Bavaria—Garmisch-Partenkirchen—in a funky room we rented from a hausfrau so I could work while he went to The Goethe Institute to learn German.

"Because I want to," he'd said.

He sat straddling a wooden dining chair—the only chair in the room—his arms crossed over the back. I sat on the edge of the bed. A shard of light fought its way through the weathered drapes. As he spoke I examined the dust particles suspended in flight, floating in that single beam of light. My recollection is that he didn't actually ask, but rather suggested that "we might as well" as we were already living together. Confronted, I felt vulnerable and didn't know the right answer.

A small moth of a thought fluttered through my brain and whispered, Don't do this. But, the voice was ineffectual, too timid, drowned out by the crashing circumstances of life.

Then, as though listening to someone else, I heard my own voice say, "Okay, why not?'

Okay? Why not?

So casual, so little regard for myself, and, looking back, so little regard for him. I believed then that life was long; a person could make mistakes and move on. I was only along for the ride.

He seemed happy enough with my answer and hugged me, but I felt like a liar, too afraid of being alone to end it.

I'd say our marriage was a bit like the proposal, offhand and with little regard for each other's intrinsic value. We had no idea what to make of life, we simply made it up as we went along. We paid the price for our mistakes.

Eleven years and two children later, when the little voice inside said, You better leave him now, at 30, or you will be doing it at 40, it thundered in my ear.


S.C. Morgan lives on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. An American expatriate, her writing has appeared in Escape From America, Real Travel Adventures, and Notre Dame Magazine. She writes about nature and human nature—anything that is interesting.


Bob Sanchez said...

Excellent work, Sarah.


Ruth L.~ said...

Sigh . . . I've squashed many a little moth. Good introspective piece, Sarah.