“Let’s count how many times Julia does her big, horsey laugh.”
This, your cynical murmur to me as we tucked in to watch Roberts’ blockbuster hit, “Eat, Pray, Love.”
And I laughed. With you. Not her.
In 2010, there wasn’t much laughter in our marriage. It was a period of time when joy was held hostage by my kidney failure and this kid lost in the forbidden candy store of Pills, Poison (What’s your…?”) and self-Pity.
I was Sick and scared.
And cold. I was always cold.
Cold blood. Cold hands. Cold feet.
[Like a Runaway Bride.]
The last time I wore this dress I was 26, my mother’s kidney was working just fine-thank-you-very-much and I did not know I was an alcoholic.
You were singing your heart and soul out in the nostalgically quirky and quaint “Forever Plaid”, even as your theatre-stud tendrils were clipped away; shorn in favor of that military-esque buzz-cut that made you look about 18. After 7 years, my transplant was not sustaining any “Seven Year Itch”. It was “Kicking and Screaming” just the way I liked it, despite the Prednisone-induced “moonface” that made me look about 16. And I was about to start my second TV season as the longhaired-liberal, bohemian-bubblehead “Annie Hamer” ("Liberty Street"), who was as successful at driving home a career as she was at driving away men.
[Good thing I don’t take my work home.]
Yes, somehow I had found a man who wanted to be with me all the time. He wanted to marry me. And he promised to never let go of my hand.
On May 27th, 1995, our life together was running as smoothly from plot point to plot point as a slick, well-oiled Julia Roberts romantic comedy; streaming forward with the hypnotic momentum of a movie montage set to the beat of a current Pop smash.
Boy Meets Girl. Boy Loves Girl. Girl Loves Boy back. Girl Smothers Boy. Boy Runs For The Hills.
[“Hen. He’s 18.” #thankyoudrew #maleperspective]
Boy and Girl get back together. Boy moves in with Girl. Boy and Girl Go On a Honeymoon. Boy and Girl Get Married.
[Yes. In that order.]
No, sweetheart we have never walked the line. We have never wanted the white-picket world of sippy cups and diaper genies. Never wanted to enter data under the florescent halos of deadlines and demands. Never wanted to rise with the dawn, but soar with the stars.
I’m sure “It’s a Wonderful Life”, but it was not the Life of Wonders we wanted.
But no one could have predicted the plot twists that lay ahead.
Do I really want to flashback through it all today? Our “Stranger Than Fiction” series of events so surreal, if only they could have been snipped away like filmstrips, left to curl fetal on the cutting room floor. Only in the movies could the leading woman run from the gift of her husband’s kidney and into the arms of drugs, alcohol and no regrets.
Ours was the marriage you peeked at behind fingers as it unfolded on the big screen.
I’ve always been running it seems. It was just so uncomfortable to me. The skin I lived in. Death. Illness. Unemployment. Alcoholism. But you never cared. Every time I threw up that soft-focus filter of self-pity through which I viewed my life, you shone back a spotlight of love so bright; I couldn’t help but see what you saw. Love. Acceptance. You didn’t care. You never cared.
You loved me no matter what.
You are the man who squeezed my hand atop the billowy folds of my puffy, white dress (Ahem! Ivory!) on “in sickness and in health”.
And you’ve been squeezing ever since.
With you, I don’t need to walk a red carpet to feel like a movie star. Every night you choose to sleep by my side is a blockbuster event. I don’t need botox to feel beautiful. My fines lines that snake down to the burgeoning pucker of an old lady lip are like the trails of a map we have charted together—and survived. And I don’t need an Academy Award. My prize is the grandest of all. Your kidney. Our “Kid”. With the gleaming glomeruli that clean my blood and cleanse my soul, I am your golden girl.
I finally accept that.
Oh, my Prince Charming. How exhausted you must be. Chasing after this Cinderella with your kidney as Glass Slipper in your hand. Chasing a girl so crazy for you, but not so crazy about herself. A crazy girl running with the folds of her silken gown clutched between fists of defiance; tiptoeing away from Her Past into No Future, leaping over The Present, trying not to feel it rise up to meet her feet. Until she tripped and fell, and realized that lying in the mud wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
And thank god you never let go of her hand.
In 2010, we hoped Julia’s movie would make us laugh. I remember you left the room because you were bored, but maybe you were just tired of finding nothing to make you laugh. I remained alone and continued to count her horsey guffaws to recount later—because I thought it might make you smile.
This is the third time I have worn this dress.
[The second time was for a callback for a Sears’ commercial.]
Today I am 45, our kidney is working just fine and I know I’m an alcoholic. Sober and happy.
Today, I hear the beat of that Romantic Comedy montage all over again.
And today, we don’t need Julia to make us laugh. We’re doing that all on our own.
ACT 1: “Lights, Camera, Action!”
ACT 2: “The Perfect Storm.”
ACT 3: “Ever After…”
Here’s to ACT 3, my Prince Charming.
This Runaway Bride is down for another 19 years.