This morning when I got to work, Sandra was waiting for me with a magazine. She shoved it under my nose just as I was settling down at my desk. It was a thick magazine with a woman wearing a white dress on the cover. “What is this?” I asked her.
“It’s the Wall Street Journal,” she said, slugging me in the shoulder. “Come on, Tessie… it’s Modern Bride magazine!”
Yes, it sure is. The smiling woman on the cover in a flowing white gown looks about as far from me as you could get without being of a different species.
“Isn’t it a little soon?” I asked.
“Soon!” Sandra cried, aghast. “Aren’t you excited? Don’t you want to pick out a dress?”
It’s hard to get excited about a big wedding when your mother just kicked your fiancé out of the house.
But anyway, Sandra forced me to sit there and look at dresses. The more I looked at them, the more I thought to myself that I was going to look awful in my wedding dress. These dresses are not flattering to a woman like me. First of all, they were all sleeveless. My arms really don’t look good in sleeveless dresses. God, I really need to lose some weight.
“Is there any designer you’re interested in?” Sandra asked me.
“Um,” I said. I couldn’t even think of any designers that made wedding dresses. Oh wait, I thought of one. “Vera Wang?”
Sandra’s eyes lit up. “I love Vera Wang. I think they have some dresses in here from her.”
I feel like there must be something wrong with me that I’m not more excited about looking at wedding dresses. I mean, it’s not that I don’t want to marry Jim. I do. I really, really do. But the whole actually wedding part makes me uncomfortable. Women who know every wedding dress designer are the same women who actually look good in wedding dresses. As I flip through the pages, I try to imagine myself in any of these dresses and I just can’t do it. Why can’t we just elope?
Today I had hands down the weirdest conversation of my life.
I was sitting at my desk, minding my own business. Actually, I was doing a working lunch, eating a salad from the food stand downstairs. I’m trying to eat salads for lunch as much as possible. It’s kind of painful because I honestly don’t like salads very much. Lettuce basically tastes like water to me. I could cover it in a decent salad dressing, but any salad dressing that doesn’t taste like ass is loaded with calories. So I’m basically stuck eating crunchy water for lunch every day. I feel like a rabbit. It’s awesome being an overweight woman.
Anyway, I was halfway through my delicious salad when I heard a voice call my name. I looked up and was surprised to see Vincent Alton standing in front of my cubicle.
“Oh, hi,” I said.
“Hi yourself,” he said. He looked down at my food. “I was just coming by to invite you to lunch, but it looks like I’m too late.”
“Guess so,” I said, swallowing a bite of salad. “Is there something you need to discuss?”
“No, no,” Vincent said. He smiled and I realized he didn’t look much different than he did back in high school. He still that cool, suave look. “I mean, nothing work related. I just thought… we could reminisce a little more, that’s all.”
“Oh,” I said. I didn’t think we had done that much reminiscing at our last lunch. Well, Vincent had, I guess. I just sort of listened. High school wasn’t such a great experience for me that I really want to reminisce about it.
“It’s just really great to see someone from back home,” Vincent said. “Especially you, Tessie.”
Especially me? What did that mean? “Um, yeah,” I said.
“I have to be honest with you,” he said. “There’s something I should tell you…”
I looked up at him. For some reason, my heart sped up. What was he about to tell me? Something awful? Was he about to confess some mean prank he pulled on me in high school? “What is it?”
“I, uh, I kind of had a crush on you back then,” Vincent admitted.
I almost choked on a lettuce leaf. I felt like I must have been taking crazy pills. The extremely popular Vincent Alton had a crush on ME in high school? How could that be even remotely true? I can’t believe he even knew who I was except to maybe make fun of me behind my back.
“I always liked intelligent women,” he said. “Which you are, of course. Plus I always had thing for women who have… er, I should say, are full figured.” He was staring at my breasts as he said that last part.
I was frozen. For the second, I felt myself being swept up in a bit of a fantasy. The most popular guy in high school was telling me he had a crush on me. I mean, how amazing was that?
“Anyway, we ran in different circles, so I figured it wouldn’t work out,” Vincent concluded. “But… I just had to tell you.” He laughed a little bit, sort of, at himself.
“Um, well, thanks,” I said.
God, this was awkward. I looked up at him and he was giving me this look that made me think that this crush wasn’t all in the past. I looked down at the ring finger of his left hand and it was bare.
“Jim’s a really lucky guy,” Vincent said.
With those words, he gave me one last look and wandered away. I looked back down at my salad and pushed it away. I needed a brownie. I wondered if the vending machine outside the elevators had one. I started digging around in my purse for loose change.
“Oh my god, Tessie!” I looked up at the sound of Sandra’s voice. She was staring at me wide-eyed. “What was that about?”
“Nothing,” I said. I was too embarrassed to explain the whole thing, even to Sandra. But she bugged me a little more and finally I told her the story about Vincent being the popular kid in high school and now admitting he used to like me and maybe still did.
“Oh, boy,” Sandra said. “You better not tell Jim about this. He’ll go nuts.”
I laughed. “Come on, Jim doesn’t get jealous.”
Sandra snorted. “Are you serious?”
“Damn, he’s really got you fooled,” Sandra said. “You honestly think he doesn’t get jealous?”
I frowned at her. “What are you talking about?”
“I mean, he’s not crazy jealous or anything,” she amended. “But he’s made comments to me before. Believe me, he’s aware of when other men are looking at you and he doesn’t like it.”
I was really surprised. Jim is such a prototypical laid back Midwesterner that I can’t even imagine him being jealous. But then again, I remembered how he kept his arm around me the whole time we were at lunch with Vincent. Maybe he’s more aware of these things than I am. Actually, it’s a little sweet that he gets jealous.
I have to admit though, it adds a little bounce to my step that Vincent Alton admitted he had a crush on me. I actually felt kind of hot, for the first time in a long time, maybe ever.
Sometimes the nicest part of making love to Jim is lying in bed with him afterwards. I roll off him (I’m always on top) and then lie next to him, both of us breathing hard. Then every few minutes, we’ll look at each other and smile. Jim isn’t the first guy I’ve ever had sex with, obviously, but he’s the first one where I’ve ever felt like we could have sex then drift off to sleep together.
Yesterday after our exhausting lovemaking session, Jim didn’t look much like he wanted to sleep. He was running his hand along my bare chest like he wanted another go at it. He looked like he wanted to say something, so I was surprised when what he finally said was, “I think we should get married in a church.”
This was a bit of a revelation for me for two reasons. First, because it made me realize that Jim is already putting thought into our actual wedding ceremony whereas I am not. He’s actually very excited about it. I mean, somehow this is the first thing he’s thinking about after sex. Second, because I don’t think I’ve ever even heard him say the word “church,” much less suggest that he wanted to spend possibly the most important day of our lives there. As far as I know, Jim has absolutely no religious inklings. I think he once said he’s Lutheran, but obviously not practicing.
“Really?” was all I said.
“Well,” he said. “We’re both Christian, so…”
“So?” My parents are Greek Orthodox. Personally, I haven’t set foot in church once since I left for college. I really resented being dragged there when I was a kid, to be honest. “I didn’t know you were so religious,” I said jokingly, although I actually was a little nervous that he really was religious and had somehow been concealing it from me.
“You know I’m not,” he said. “But my brothers got married in a church and I know it meant a lot to my parents.”
“Hmm,” I said.
“You don’t sound excited,” he noted.
“I just think it would be a lie,” I said. “I mean, neither of us believe in that stuff.”
Jim was quiet for a long time. Finally, he said in a kind of surprised voice, “You don’t believe in God?”
Oh no. “It’s not that I don’t believe in God,” I mumbled. “It’s just that… well, there’s no proof of it. And there’s a lot of bad things that happen that make me think that… I don’t know, it’s less likely. But I’m not sure. There might be.” Jim wasn’t saying anything, so I kept on babbling. “I mean, you have to admit, a lot of bad things happen to people who don’t deserve it. I would think that you, of all people, would…”
Jim was looking at me with raised eyebrows.
“Forget it,” I said.
“So basically,” he said, “because I’m crippled, I can’t believe in God.”
To my surprise and relief, Jim laughed. “To be honest, I think I would have agreed with you fifteen years ago. I remember when I came home from rehab, my mother tried to get me to go to church with her and I told her exactly what I thought of God and her church.” He paused thoughtfully. “But maybe I’m getting more philosophical in my old age. I think everything happens for a reason. I survived that accident, I’m here, I have a great job, and I’m marrying the woman I love. So it’s hard to be bitter at God. If He exists, that is.”
That is one thing I love about Jim. He’s not a bitter person. I feel like some people are never happy, no matter how much they have. Jim has the ability to be happy with almost anything he’s given. I wish I were more like that.
“We don’t have to get married in church,” he said. “I can see it makes you uncomfortable, and you’re right: we’re not religious.”
“We can compromise,” I said. “Next year, we’ll get a Christmas tree.”
Jim laughed and hugged me. I felt relief that a church wedding was off the table. But I still feel decidedly unexcited about the whole wedding concept.
April 6: There’s been something going on with Jim that I’ve been sort of hesitant to write about. Writing here is therapeutic for me, but I feel like it’s somehow hard to write about the things that upset me the most.
A couple of weeks ago, Jim noticed a sore on his heel. He can’t feel his feet at all, so he wears large shoes with a lot of cushioning and tries to adjust his feet to take pressure off them, but I guess things still happen. Apparently, he’s gotten sores on his feet before, something he won’t talk about except to say that it was a pain in the ass to heal.
He went to the doctor today finally. I wanted to go with him, but I couldn’t get out of work, so he went himself. I don’t know what exactly the doctor told him except he came home and was in a really bad mood. He didn’t even want to talk to me, which is unusual. Jim is one of those people who is honestly almost always in a good mood.
I caught him later tonight in bed putting some antibiotic ointment and dressing on his heel. He was struggling a little bit and I said, “Can I help?”
“No, it’s fine,” he said.
“Jim, stop it,” I said. “I’m going to be your wife, right? You should let me help you sometimes.”
He looked at me a long time, then finally he leaned back in bed. “Okay,” he said.
I was shocked he agreed. “Really?”
“Yeah, knock yourself out,” he said with a wry grin.
This was the closest he’d let me get to the sore and when I took a look, it honestly didn’t look too good. I’m not going to describe it or anything because that would be gross, but it didn’t look like you could put a band-aid on it and it would be all better by tomorrow. I did kind of a bad job hiding my reaction and I think I said something like, “Whoa.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “Thanks a lot, Tessie. Look, I can—”
“No, I just…” I hesitated. “I’m just worried about you. How long do these things usually take to heal?”
“I don’t know,” he said. His eyes clouded slightly. “My circulation sucks. Last time things got pretty bad and the doctor was saying I might need to… you know…”
I had no idea what he was talking about. “Need to what?”
“Have my foot amputated.”
I gasped. I couldn’t help myself. Jim seemed nonplussed by my reaction. “Yeah, not something I was too excited about either,” he said. He studied my face, looking troubled. “Tessie, would you still love me if I had to…”
“Of course I would!” I cried. “I can’t believe you’d ask me that.” Although part of me was really horrified by the whole thing. Losing a foot is a big deal. Under the “for better or for worse,” it pretty much solidly falls in the “for worse” category.
“You’re right, I’m sorry.” He sighed. “I’m sure it’ll be okay. I just worry. I don’t want to feel like I’m falling apart or anything.”
Jim is actually in pretty good health in general. Aside from a few issues with his feet, which I guess is a problem area for him, he seems like he’s never sick. He never even gets a cold. But even though he’s pretty young, I know that deep down he’s scared of his health deteriorating. And I’m scared too. I mean, didn’t Christopher Reeve DIE of a sore? And he was a celebrity with the best medical care. The thought of it makes me shudder. But Jim is going to be okay, I know it.
To be continued...