Jack Christian discovers that over-thinking romantic engagement will lead you to the realization that the person you love could totally ruin your life.
When one becomes engaged to another, if that person is honest, he will also engage the striking, hopefully fleeting, realization that this person could quite possibly ruin his life.
The range of this ruination could span from keeping the house stocked with icecream and potato chips — from which he is unable to restrain himself — to the execution of subtle, passive vendetta. The ruination could be physical, psychic, or financial. It could be all three and more, and could start with a small, irresolvable tiff over television volume, after which the surrounding atmosphere remains permanently tinged by sabotage the same shape as the apartment walls. Or, it could stem from a turn in conviction, say, a sudden remorse at not having committed matrimony in a Catholic sanctuary, at losing out on that penultimate sacrament, the infected scar of which leads over time to the conviction that one’s partner is a bad man, that he is deserving of a Dee-Vorce.
This is just what I imagine. How else to explain the salient bitterness of some older couples? How else might they travel from a lusty and synchronized Point A to a terse and hunkered Point B?
The ruination could just as easily be that which one inflicts on himself through the catalyst of the other, by virtue only of her presence, the mirror she holds to him, the shortcoming he previously kept hid, the undoing he was probably always going to do anyway, that he does in some future in front of her, and which will maybe be attributable to red wine and a late-night, encroaching proclivity to not worry so much over where he urinates. It could also be his ruin of her, by his antics or his temper or his lowliness, and the resultant guilt that he must keep in the form of an ignorance that is his ruin.
To become engaged is to flash melodrama such as these, and to ponder them in the remarkably small amount of time it takes the brain to shuffle through. It is to be un-stalled, actually, by the thought, which appears to me in Gothic-style, block letters (“RUINATION”), as it might on a death-metal band’s t-shirt, while the sun bounces off Anna’s hair, and we hold hands, nearly skipping down the street returning from our walk, taken only for our enjoyment of being together. As we pass under the large defiant dogwood tree on the side of the apartment building whose new buds persist despite last week’s blizzard, I view Anna for an instant in terms of the percentage chance we’ll cause each other this kind of ruin, an instant in which I also think she is particularly sexy in her dark bluejeans.
Then, it’s gone, with no decimal settled upon, as we come into the mud room, and further gone as we march up the steps that creak simply to announce they’re steps, by which time the idea of ruination is transformed into the small triumph of imagining one’s death but not dying, of staying cool in the face of the in-actionable intelligence a mind will produce, of the superstition that thinking this thing will play some small, useful role in keeping it from happening.
Photo: Flickr/Corey Ann