Imagine this: You are on your honeymoon. St Louis. City of BBQ, river boats, and the Arch. A tourist mecca, but a place you’ve always loved to go. You have good memories, fond even, from this city. That time right before your parent’s divorce, when the entire family was at the height of its naivety and denial. You still thought time could be controlled. Back then, before it all went to shit.
Anyway, the Honeymoon. My first.
I wasn’t that eager, not like I should’ve been. Nor was I that excited about St. Louis, city of the Blues. We’d chosen somewhere close, only because my husband had to be back at work in two days. The bank where he’d worked for three years had announced blackout dates weeks before our happy occasion. Later, they’d fire my husband, a guileless and likable person, a teller the old women trusted so much they’d ask for him by name, because of a cash drawer miscalculation. By that point, we were no longer interested in the things you do on a honeymoon.
They say one rotten apple can spoil an entire barrel. Or is it a tomato? I hate tomatoes. Certainly, my mood on our honeymoon proves the truism. Looking back, it certainly seems more like cause and effect than it does any sort of natural consequence. We checked into our hotel, the black cloud already hovering.
“Oh. This is what Express means,” I said, the ‘sss’ echoing a little too long.
“What? It’s not bad. There’s a pool…!”
His cheerfulness was too forced to do any good. And optimism had always annoyed me. I went from nonplussed to disappointed, assuming it would only get worse.
“I’m. Afraid. Of. Water.”
I guess that room was nice, not that I remember. Definitely nicer than the no-tell motel we used to have college sex in. What I do remember is having a timely realization that my husband neither cared nor paid attention to ambience. He was in it for something else altogether.
He gazed at me lovingly.
I stared back helplessly.
We met on the bed, still clothed with a polyester floral bedspread.
It must’ve been at least a few minutes—it takes me that long to “get in the mood”—when a noise behind me, something like the rattle of a doorknob, started to distracted me. Not that it took much.
“What is it?” my husband demanded. He had a way of asking a question that meant he didn’t need an answer.
I tried to ignore what now sounded like one of those newfangled credit card keys going in and out of the lock. Click-click, Swish. Click-click, Swish. Jiggle, Jiggle.
“Honey, um… I think…” Whooooosh.
My husband, now realizing neither those click-clicks nor my scream that followed were a part of his diligent foreplay, jumped off the bed.
“What are you doing in my room?” the strange man asked.
“What are YOU doing in OUR room?” my husband threw back.
“This is my honeymoon!!!” I wailed, suddenly indignant, but not sure why. After all, we were still decent.
I looked at my husband, who was angrier than I’d seen him. I once had a college boyfriend who convinced me when a guy stopped in the middle of fooling around without “finishing,” it hurt. Perhaps I was misreading anger for pain?
The man was bald and big, but harmless-looking, in a Tony Soprano plays gay-kidnapper kind of way. He wore a khaki jacket for Chrissakes. But we were kids. If an authority figure existed, it wasn’t my husband. The fact that we were married was almost laughable, actually. We liked each other, had a few good dates, and the next thing I knew he was sleeping on my couch. By the time I’d figured out that sort of in-limbo arrangement wasn’t going to be accepted by either of our families, I had grown used to him. Like a spoiled cat, I allowed him to be around because he paid attention to me.
Of course, the key situation was easily worked out, nothing more than an annoyance. The men might have even shook hands. Later, we made fun of ourselves: Serial killers don’t use keys to get into your room. Ha. Ha. Ha. I actually felt a little better; life wasn’t so serious, so predictable. But my husband’s mood for the rest of the weekend was as sour as mine had been, and he eventually brought me back down. We were never that good for each other, something it wouldn’t be fair to blame on that weekend alone.
Honeymoons are supposed to mark the start of something, even if you aren’t exactly a virgin when it comes around. Ours did, but not in the way you’d expect. And, while I adhere to a firm “No Regrets” policy, I do sometimes wonder whether consciously living my life rather than floating through on the expectations of others would’ve saved me heartache or just brought a different sort.
Just imagine: You’re a young woman, free, untethered. You’ve just rented your first apartment. Downtown. A brick building with wooden floors, character, and more stories than you’ve yet to amass. You’re a clerk at the local newspaper, but one day you’ll be a writer. Or maybe you’ll own a book store. You don’t really need to decide yet. You’ve got time. And, for a little while longer, you’ve got the control.