“I swear myself away, which is what I do every time I come to you, and what you want me to do because you also are an addict of impossible relationships and theatrical scenes.”
—John Le Carré
Amanda proposed to Sam when they both were fifty-one years old, under the desert stars, the same old song playing. He stood behind her and held her waist, and kissed her ear and said yes. It felt to her that marriage had become the only conclusion.The church was tiny, white reflective stone in the glare of the desert heat, although its stark beauty was tempered by surrounding yellow cactus flowers and blooming sage bushes. Like all the buildings on the street, stone steps led up to the entrance. The town hugged the afternoon shade of a large mesa, as if the buildings themselves were climbing out of the baked clay and making their way toward the flash flood-carved canyons of tall rock in the distance.
Warm light poured in from the stained glass window to blend with the pink in Amanda’s dress and the auburn rust of her hair, forming a visual cacophony of color that wanted to be red. She was nodding at the priest by her side, one flip-flopped foot balanced on her big toe. She yelled to an old man taking bets in the corner, “Oliver, what are we up to now?” and gave a thumbs up to his answer of three hundred twenty dollars. In the daylight when the songs weren’t playing and the stars weren’t out, it all seemed rather ridiculous.
Her dress was beginning to get sticky under the arms and she was tired of standing on her feet in front of everyone. It should never have gotten this far. Their love was supposed to be untested; that’s the only way it held any magic over her. The disappointments that came over and over again always held hope, but this was the biggest disappointment of them all. The number one way a guy could reject a woman, his lover, his friend. Not show up to the church on time. Not show up to the church at all. It was surely, definitively, over. There was no more at the end of this.
It was more than that. Always she had known that it was love. It wasn’t love that could make it through times of contentment, or stability, but love that could thrive only when they both were seeking. Seeking change, seeking uncertainty, seeking to upset their worlds just so that something interesting would happen. A marriage contract added a foundation to this love, and thus nullified it. He knew that, which is why he didn’t show.
She knew it now.
All that was left for them was to seek contentment separately, and come back together when their lives demanded it of them. Finding men for her was easy. Maybe she would find one she could tolerate for a long time and who would forgive her impulsive emotions. Was it hope to also know that Sam would appear in her life again, and then disappear, and leave a void for a short while that would burn and twist its way through her body? Would the short times with him—like that hotel in Pasadena a couple of years ago—be worth their twisted escapes from each other? Was it hope or just knowledge of her addiction?
She stepped onto the platform by the altar and raised her hands sticky with sweat. “He’s not coming,” she said. And then louder, “He’s not coming. Let’s eat.”
And everyone tucked into their food like it was what they’d been expecting all along, and then after the food, the bets were settled and everyone went home. In the tiny bathroom off the church kitchen, Amanda took off her wedding dress and changed into jeans, alone. The sadness didn’t come right away, like she’d expected. She went home that night, and turned the fans on, and dreamed about her sister. Not Sam, like she’d expected.
The sadness never set in heavy and pressing like it always had before. She’d think of him at times and there would be a halting moment where she forgot what she was doing. But that was it.
© Copyright 2010 Windi Padia. All rights reserved.
Windi Padia grew up wanting to be a biologist and is now in the Human Resources section of a state wildlife agency, where humans make much more fascinating subjects. She is currently writing human-interest articles for Colorado Outdoors Magazine. Her blog, Crazy Coppertop, is the diary of a crazy redhead.