Lisa Carver and Nerve.com
The first time I got married I was newly nineteen; he was thirty-four and French. I wore my work apron we did it between shifts at Kelly & Cohen’s Diner. Because Jean Louis could barely speak English, he kept saying, “What? What you say me?” which made the lady justice of the peace very angry, and I was laughing so hard I thought I’d fall right over. In his nervousness, his fingers swelled, and the ring didn’t fit. “Putain de merde, this . . . this American thing!” he yelled, flinging it to the floor. We’d known each other about fourteen days.
I liked Jean Louis because he was really funny and he was more paranoid than me. We moved to Paris, where I knew no one and people made fun of me for my choppy French. My husband was a composer, he liked to be left alone. Up and down he’d go over the keys, up and down, and I’d stay locked in my room, writing, with the (expressionistic, and really quite great) paintings of his last woman stacked up against the walls, reminding me always of how transient everything is. Impermanence and chaos felt good to me I’d learned how to navigate them in my youth, and I wasn’t really familiar with anything else. Jean Louis felt like home to me.
I loved being married so much I stayed that way even after he moved to a hut in South America 3,000 miles away. There was only one phone, a twenty-mile hike from Jean Louis’ hut, but he called from it every few months. He sent me the newspaper clippings of the time he accidentally burnt down a small rain forest (there was no garbage pick-up in his village, so you burned your garbage, and I guess Jean Louis did that a little too wildly, just like he did everything else). I kept him informed about my cats and career and romances and my mother’s death, and I still felt married, like my daily life was the dream and this piece of paper we’d signed all those years ago was the real thing. But then one day he called with an urgent voice and said he was back in France and we’d have to get a divorce. He was being sued by the French government they said his CDs incited violence and he was afraid they might attach my earnings to his if I was still his wife. I
seven years. Four days after my divorce was finalized, I met Dave. Which is probably why I got so drunk I threw up on him (leaving my indelible first impression).
I never had anyone like Dave before. Unlike for my wayward, wandering first husband, or the intervening Byronic alcoholics, marriage is a serious thing for Dave. He really wants to have me, to hold me, to be married. He can surprise me, but he is neither unpredictable nor undependable about the big things. He would never burn down a rain forest; nor would he leave me. With the others, it was a given that we would part, and most of the relationship was spent rehearsing for that point the little psychodramas of the leading-up-to-the-end, and the leaving itself. There was tang of regret and sentimental memory on our tongues even as they entered each other’s mouths for the first time. Some people can’t enjoy life except for when they feel hounded by death. I’m one of those people. With Dave there’s only time for life, and I don’t know exactly what one does there. I don’t know how to act. On that slimy rock where we were married, I lost my mariner’s log, and I never learned how to navigate by star systems.