When I got married for the first time, I knew from the beginning that it was a huge mistake, but I was so overwhelmed by circumstances that I simply didn’t know how to get out of it. I have never been good at stating boldly to the universe what I want, particularly when it involves standing up in front of people and making it known that I actually want something. So, after things got to a certain point, for me to put my foot down and say, “I want NOT to marry you” was virtually impossible. I know that I might come across as assertive or confident or whatever in my safe little blog world, but trust me, when it comes to standing up for myself in most situations I am pretty much a spineless jellyfish.
Of course, I didn’t want a wedding–but then I never did. We got married in my parents’ family room, by the justice of the peace who lived down the street. Of course, my mother was terribly disappointed that I wanted nothing to do with traditional wedding stuff…no shower, no reception, none of it. I just wanted to get it over with and get on with what I hoped would be a relatively normal life married to an insanely jealous sociopath. Yeah. Good luck with that.
From the get go, my mother wanted to give me some kind of celebration. Finally I gave in with one request…that, aside from my father, ALL guests had to be female. Spouse and I already had long, intense agonizing arguments regarding two male friends of mine…neither of which had ever been the least romantic. One wouldn’t be a problem because by then he lived far out of town and likely would not come back just for this little party. The other lived in town and I begged, I mean BEGGED my mother not to invite him. This was the one time in my life where my mother failed me.
So, we planned the party. I gave her the guest list I put together, maybe twenty or so friends from high school, college, and co-workers, all female. She found a place, a clubhouse at someone’s apartment, and we set a date. I was eager for the day to come and go so that I could just get on with things in peace. My stomach was in knots worried that someone would say something wrong, ask the wrong question, mention someone who wasn’t there (male) and everything would blow up like an acetylene torch.
The day came. People started to show up. Everyone was female, and on the list. I began to relax just the slightest bit. Then, when I was in the kitchen area of the facility, my mom came over with this big grin on her face.
“Look who’s here!” I turn around and looked into the face of my local friend.
And I froze. Even now, I can remember the feelings of sheer terror that coursed through me and the sick sensation of utter betrayal. It wasn’t until I left my husband under cover of darkness nearly five years later, and finally showed her an article about a woman who had done the same thing and written about it that my mother finally understood just a LITTLE of how I felt around my husband all the time. She never took the danger of him seriously, I always did.
So here I was face to face with a dear, dear friend. We had met my senior year in college when I cast him in a play I was to direct for my senior project. He was a young journalism student in college out of town, but home long enough to be able to participate in the play that quater. We hit it off. He took me to my first gay bar and drag show and taught me how to disco. When he went back to school after the play, we stayed in touch. We wrote letters…LETTERS, can you imagine. We stayed in touch after I graduated and moved to New Orleans. After I moved back to Atlanta, he was living in the funky Virginial Highlands area and I hung out with him while he wrote his first novel. He took me to go see Raiders of The Lost Ark when it first came out and we loved it as we laughed together over the quirky new-retro feel of that movie. In fact, we and several other people had agreed to move into a house together, but then I had to get it into my head to join the circus and “fall in love.” I couldn’t possibly have been more stupid.
He was there to celebrate my disaster of a marriage, not having any idea of anything. I stood there and looked at him, and I was struck dumb. I know he wanted to hug me and congratulate me and all I could think of was I could NOT let this male person touch me in front of my husband because I just knew he would have dragged this beautiful man out of the building and beat him up in front of me. I couldn’t possible risk it, so I did something even worse. I just turned my back on him. Literally. I backed away and tried to pretend I hadn’t seen him. It was the most awful thing I have ever done, but honestly, at that time in my life, I truly did not know what else to do.
Momentarily, I was saved when another friend from college had a convenient fainting spell and all attention turned to her. In the melee of trying to get her situated, I think my other friend, if I could even be allowed to call him that now, slipped out unnoticed. I honestly don’t remember. I remember the fainting and then I remember packing things up to leave afterwards, but that’s about it.
I hated myself and I was so angry at my mother. I confronted her later and she simply could not understand why I was so upset. I don’t think she ever did.
A year or so went by. I had the baby and the husband was in prison. I was working in an office job and found out through the grapvine that my friend now worked for the Atlanta newspaper. One day at work I said what the hell and called him, leaving a message under my married name. He called me back. It was obvious that he didn’t reconize my voice, but then, we hadn’t talked a lot on the phone, and I had already started to develop my “phone voice” for business.
Thankfully, when he finally realized who it was, he was glad to hear from me. I can’t express the relief I felt. I told him I wanted to see him, to explain what had happened that day, so we met a couple of days later for dinner. I finally got to tell him the sad story of my marriage, how scared I was, and admit to, and apologize for, my complete cowardice that day. We cried together over dinner, but at least I knew he hadn’t given up on me.
We saw each other a couple of times after that, but shortly he moved to the West Coast and began a career as a screen writer. Now he’s married to his husband and we keep in touch via Facebook. There are moments that I still blush with embarrassment over what I did that day, but more I am filled with gratitude that I can still call him my friend.