The Upside Is, He Married Me
The Downside? I'll Never Live it Down
We’ve been married for seven years. That said, I absolutely and equivocally do not advocate drug misuse of any kind. It’s just that, in our case, it led to a very happy, mutually fulfilling marriage.
Maybe I ought to explain.
The year is 2013. I’m living with my aunt and uncle and their family while going to college, because—free rent!—and my aunt is determined to play the part of Yente*.
“There’s this boy, I really think you’ll like him ,” she tells me (more than once.) “He’s cute, he’s smart, and he’s very sweet.” (As if she would say anything else in an attempted setup!)
“Okay, auntie dear,” I mutter to appease her. Maybe the boy and I will end up friends. Maybe. After looking at his Beatles-haircut Facebook pictures, I’m not sure my heart is even willing to risk that.
My uncle was, at the time, working in our church with a group of college students. He attended meetings with that congregation, and his family follows along to support him, and I trail along after them, not wanting to be alone. I arrive on time, for once, and watch my peers trickle in. Is anyone here worth trying to date? I wonder.
Suddenly, my aunt grips my knee in her characteristic attention-grab.
“That’s him!” She whispers. I look at the door on the left.
In strides a young man much cuter than I had seen on Facebook. He’d had a haircut, for one thing. He seems confident, but not aloof. Comfortable among his friends. Content. Cheerful.
“Okay,” I concede to my aunt. I can acknowledge when I am wrong, at least some of the time. “I’ll meet him.” Not wanting to prove her too right, I tack on, “At some point.”
The meeting passes; I pay attention to the speakers a little and the congregation a lot. I’m a people person, after all, and single in a group of other likeminded singles. Can you blame me?
After the benediction, I move, as instructed, to the front of the chapel to have my photo taken for what we jokingly refer to as “the menu”—a list, with photos, of all of the singles. I smile for the camera.
“What’s your name?” Asks a boy behind the camera. I tell him. Raising my hand, I spell my first and last name both aloud and in American Sign Language, as is my habit. And from behind the photographer leans the other boy, the one my aunt so wants me to connect with.
“Do you Sign? Or do you just finger-spell?” He asks in ASL. I respond in the same language:
“I Sign. Do you Sign?”
He responds in the affirmative. He gains several points in my estimation. I reintroduce myself, and we chat for a minute before I’m pulled away by my cousin. To my surprise, I am disappointed.
A week passes. I spare a little thought for the boy with the quick-talking fingers, but I still refuse to bend to the will of my aunt. I will not give in!
The next week, I enter the chapel with a spring in my step. I’m a little late; the meeting is about to start. Another friend of my future husband waves at me, catches my attention.
“Come sit with us!” He whispers, and points to the seat on his right—the other boy’s left.
I pay even less attention in this meeting. I am rapidly caught in conversation with the boy to my right, and I remain caught despite the prattle from the pulpit. Thinking myself smooth, but in retrospect, being very obvious, I give him my phone number. The meeting ends.
The waiting game begins.
I fidget through the day. I fuss at things that don’t matter; why hasn’t he texted me yet? I gave him the right number. Right?
At this particular stage of my life, I am afflicted with all-day, every-day migraine headaches. It is not simply miserable; it is hell. I am in pain every moment of every day, with one important exception: I discovered some time before that my nightly dose of Ambien, originally prescribed for insomnia, alleviates virtually all pain for whatever precious time I fight to be awake.
This pain-free period comes with a price: I get higher than a jet plane determined to leave orbit.
That night, I am still waiting for a text. How can he not have reached out? Didn’t he like me? Wasn’t he interested?
I get to bedtime. I take my Ambien.
Minutes tick past. Will the pain go away? It’s bad tonight. Do I need more medicine? No; it’s been three and a half minutes. Patience.
The drug kicks in in a wave of relief. The pain in my head, the accompanying muscle aches, even the related nausea escapes my perception. I am free.
Free… but the world is wibbly.
I stare at my phone. No texts. Nothing. The meds kick in more; I feel floaty. It is nice, after a full day of suffering, but a little scary. I know that I should go to sleep. I know that this is drug abuse. I choose not to care. The drugs help me in that decision.
I pick up my phone. Do I call him? No; I know I slur and ramble on drugs. Texting. Texting is safe! I type out a somewhat forward message, explaining that he is cute and I am attracted to him. Delete it. Think some more.
I get a little sleepy. High-intensity sedatives do that. I’m also a little cranky; he has had my number for… I check. Nine and a half hours. Nine and a half hours, and nothing?
Maybe he’s a weird non-texter. Maybe he’s scared. Scared. Yes. That makes sense; asking people out is hard. I have no idea if he is used to doing it.
I can help him, I tell myself. Something polite; something non-aggressive. Just a little nudge. I type. I consider. I stare at my phone. Is he ever going to respond?
There is a ding, and I look at our conversation.
Me: Are you ever going to ask me out?
Him: Yes! Hi. I was planning to.
I am relieved. I smile at my own generosity in giving him an easy “in.” I go to sleep.
Morning comes, and for once, I do not think first of the pain in my head. I wake, immediately gasp, and roll, reaching for my phone on the nightstand.
It was real. I said that. I said that. I said that?
Too late now, I think. Nice boy; guess I’ll never hear from him again. If he wasn’t scared before, he certainly is now…
My marriage is wonderful. My life is a delight. But the downside is that no matter what I say, I will never, ever live down that fateful night.
*Yente is the matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof.