Thursday, March 17, 2011
The Thing I Always Think About on St. Patrick's Day
March 18, 1972
I’m getting married. My father and I are standing in the entry way of the church, me in my white dress, the tucking of the bodice straining over my breasts that are already swelling, an absurd crown of flowers fading on my head.
This isn’t how I wanted to look when I got married, something I hadn’t even realized until that moment less than ago an hour when I stood looking at my reflection in my mother’s bureau mirror. Had I always imagined myself wasp-waisted in satin? How did I not know that about myself? But here I am, holding a bouquet of roses, my arm hooked through my father’s, and I am carefully not looking down the length of the aisle toward Mike because everyone will see, certainly, that I do not really love him.
Instead I look at the faces turned toward us, my dad in one of his everyday suits, me in this dress I cannot stand. Felicia and Lisa, seated on the aisle in the pew closest to us, wave and smile and wave again. Mike’s parents and sisters are down in the front, craning their necks for a better look; his grandmothers’ stare toward the altar, resolutely showing the backs of their heads. My brothers are on the other side of the aisle, and I can tell they are joking with each other. The rest of the pews are full of people I know and care about in varying degrees, people I’ve invited because it’s a party, right? Just a party.
My father’s arm flexes, pulling me off-balance, and suddenly I am closer to him than I’ve been in years, the fit of our bodies so natural and perfect that I remember suddenly the simple truth that I am made from him. I remember that I love him completely, in spite of everything.
“We don’t have to do this,” he says. “We can figure something out.”
Yes, I think. Yes, please, Daddy.
I can’t imagine, though, what else can be done. I have decided. The only way I can save myself is this way—marry this boy, have this baby, escape my mother’s madness. But yes, my heart says. Yes, my body tells me. Yes, yes, yes please let’s leave right now and go somewhere safe to figure out something else. Please save me.
But here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people. And he has offered this too late. I shake my head, pull away from his strange and familiar comfort. “I’m doing this,” I say. And he nods, the music begins and we step into the aisle.
If there were one moment in time I could summon back, it would be this moment when my father remembered—too late—that he had the power to save me.