It’s my final year of high school, and while I should be focused on earning scholarships and preparing for University, I am head-over-heels in love. A year my junior, Bob is a dreamboat: quarterback on the football team, downhill racer during the winter season, and lead actor in the school play!
I rush to his locker after football practice, having wiled my time in the library with the pretense of studying. He is surprised to see me, asking why I didn’t go off with my friends after school.
“Because I wanted to be with you,” I purr flirtatiously, leaning in for a kiss. I hook my arm in his and lead him out to the parking lot, where the car I have been working to pay off, awaits.
It was all you, hindsight chirps in. He even said that that you should be with your friends. He tried to warn you, but you didn’t listen.
It’s a beautiful spring day and we drive out into the country just to enjoy it, and I wonder about our future, and if we’ll get married, and how soon I can have kids. He gazes out the window lost in thoughts that I cannot access.
“You should get a job,” I say. “ You know, to save for the future.” I’ve been working since I was fourteen. I enjoy the freedom having my own money brings.
“I have cash,” he responds and flashes me his killer smile.
From his parents! Hindsight yells at me. The boy still lives off his parents – How did you think he was marriage material?
I am seventeen, and full of romantic notions, and sure that I found “the one”. He is handsome, and a good dancer, and plays the piano, and even held my head one day as I puked after drinking too much. Isn’t that love?
After graduation, I move out, and find a full time waitressing job to pay the bills. University starts in the fall and I need to save. Bob gets a job and buys himself a sports car.
“He’s just a boy,” a co-worker tells me. “What do you see in that?”
It’s true that he wears racing gloves when he drives his car, and that seems a little foolish, but he’s my man, and I’m smitten, so I defend him.
And he spent every cent he ever made on that car and none on you, hindsight reminds me. You even forfeited a honeymoon so he could buy those racing tires! But you couldn’t see it!
Another year of our lives passes, and it is spring again, and I have just finished my first year of University and he is approaching his high school graduation and I ask him if he could ever see us married, and he says yes, and I ask if that means we are engaged, and he says sure, why not. And the plans are on!
Note how he didn’t even propose to you, hindsight interjects. Wasn’t that telling in itself?
I decide to let my education go, and he finds a job with a bank, dropping out of school just one month before earning his diploma. We work and save and make plans (well at least I do), and as the wedding day approaches, he gets fired.
“You don’t have to go through with this,” my Father tells me. “It’s not too late.”
“It’s not too late,” my mother assures me. “No one would think any different of you.”
I tell myself it’s just a bump in the road. We’ll get past this.
When my period doesn’t show up , my best friend asks him how he’ll deal with it.
“It’s her problem,” he replies, and walks out of the room, leaving me to break the awkward silence that ensues.
“You don’t have to do this,” she says.
But I do! My heart cries. You don’t understand! No one understands. He loves me. No one else will ever love me.
Oh boy, hindsight sighs. The writing was on the wall, and you couldn’t even see it.
Call it stubbornness. Call it willful blindness. Call it the stupidity of youth. I do marry him, and die inside every night as I climb into bed alone while he stays up with his guy friend watching movies until three or four in the morning. And I work two jobs, sixteen hours a day, while he sleeps till two and then moves from the bed to the couch where he channel surfs till I come home and make his dinner.
Even when you took in a boarder to help pay the rent, you just worked harder, never asking him to pick up the slack, hindsight reminds me.
“You are going to burn out,” the friend I had ignored for him tells me months into the marriage. “I just worry about you.”
“He just needs to find himself,” his mother tells me. “He doesn’t want to take just any job, he needs a career.”
So I seethe inside as I go from day job to night job, and pay the bills, and do the laundry and shop for food, and clean up after his posse of unemployed friends.
None of it should have been a surprise to you, hindsight accuses. It was your own desperation and lack of discernment that drove you there.
“He prefers male company to you,” my mother points out. “Doesn’t that suggest something to you?”
It isn’t that I haven’t notices, and when I ask, he says that it’s just that I am not sexy. He’s tried, he says, but I just don’t do it for him. It’s my fault, I think. I am disgusted with myself. I start working out, but am too tired. I can’t keep up the pace.
It’s not till I discover his private bank account where he’s been hoarding money that I realize that the price for his dream is just too much, and two weeks before our second wedding anniversary, I kick him out.
“Get help.” I tell him. “Find out who you are and what you want from life.”
He moves in with another woman.
And I, broken, bruised and ashamed, push on.
Thirty-seven years ago today, I was about to be married, and despite all the counsel to not go through with it, and all the evidence that this was perhaps not the best decision – I did it anyway.
Damn you hindsight, for never being there when I need you.