"There's not much doubt in any of our minds that no complete idea springs fully formed from our brow,
needing only a handshake and a signature on the contract to send it off into the world to make twenty-five billion dollars.
The germ of the idea grows slowly..." - Walt Kelly

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The wedding portrait

My parents had a portrait painted of them on their wedding day, and it had been hanging from the wall in the downstairs hallway for my whole life. I remember the one time that they took it down when I was seven - the entire rest of the wall looked unhealthily faded compared to that one bright spot, an upright rectangle of untarnished, lined wallpaper, almost as if their love had protected that spot from the usual wear and tear of a home with two kids.

That portrait never really held any significance for me as a child, other than to prove that my parents were really in love, no matter how much I heard them fighting over whether or not I really needed those fourteen action figures I had asked for on my birthday.

Now, at twenty-two and desperately searching for a way out of here, that portrait follows me everywhere I go in this house. The completeness of my parents' marriage - almost 30 years long - is scarily impressive, a stark contrast to the ups and downs of my own relationship history, a constant one-up to every date I go on that asks, "Why isn't yours this beautiful?"

Patti Andrews, three months. Sam Moore, two weeks. Andrea Jenkins, a year. Jordan Bradley, seven months. Mel Jameson, forty-five minutes or so.

And now, Kristie Rooney, going on a year and a half. And that might be as far as it goes judging by the conversation I'm having with her on the phone right now.

"You need to stop getting jealous every time I hang out with people! I need to have my own friends, Ryan."

"I would stop if those people weren't your exes, babe."

"Don't call me that. And no you wouldn't! You know as well as I do that if there's another guy around, you get all territorial and whatever and everyone notices and you pretty much ruin the evening."

"Yeah, sure, if you haven't ruined it already by flirting with all those guys right in front of their girlfriends."

"Talking is NOT the same thing as flirting, god! Whatever, I need to shower for tonight but we are not done talking about this. I'll call you back when I get out."

"Fine. Call me back."

I hung up and snapped the phone shut, dropping it onto my pillow as I reached for the beer I had brought upstairs with me. I took a substantial quaff off the liquid and as the slightly bubbly alcohol fizzed down my throat, I wondered. Where was our portrait? Where was my proof that we really loved each other?

I glanced over at the phone resting on my pillow and my muscles tensed as I tentatively reached a hand toward it, hoping it wouldn't ring before I got my hands on it. I flinched and lunged my hand forward, snapping it up and flipping it open.

I stared at it for a moment, contemplating the results of what I was about to do. I moved my thumb over the power button, pressed down as hard as I could and watched the screen cycle to darkness.

I finished the beer and got up and left my room, walking downstairs for another, or maybe two. As I walked down the hallway an uncomfortable heaviness settled in my chest, and I felt anger rising up inside me until my fist clenched around the empty bottle.

I walked past the portrait and put my hand up to the side of my head like a blinder, eager to avoid whatever judging gaze my 30-years-ago parents had in store for me this evening. In the kitchen I opened the fridge and took out two beers, popping one open on the countertop.

I stood at the entrance to the hallway, alcohol in hand, unable to move another inch forward. I stared at the side of the wooden frame hanging from the wall, and finally decided it might be a better idea to stay in the kitchen.

Playing on my iTunes at this very moment:
The Roots (feat. Kweli and Malik B.), Lost Desire

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