Absolution

Karen Kelly Kieran got married on a Monday. She married a nice boy from down the street, Art he was named, or something friendly and an ‘A’ name, Arthur or Aaron. I was against the wedding from the beginning. Nothing wrong with A, that I knew anyway – not that I didn’t try to make a case before I discovered there was nothing remarkable about that man, and remarkably so. Most of us there is a little bit of naughtiness carried over from a lifetime of making at least one major mistake per year. A, if he’d done the same, didn’t leave anyone too egregiously insulted. Like any poor scientist, I then tried to use these facts in service of the facts I was looking for, to make a case to Karen that A was unremarkable, and not the man she should marry.

She was unconvinced.

Karen was a selfish, bubbly, well-read, temperamental, sneaky, ditzy woman, with hair that fell off her like fire. She had learned to smile despite growing up under the thumbs of two perfectly incapable parents, in a perfectly ineffectual small town somewhere in America where the traffic lights work fine but no one knows how to leave. She was capable of giving you a hard time. She could make you laugh.

In all the years in that small town Karen never wanted to leave. She could have gone far beyond community college, and farther beyond the meager job she casually eked out of connections with the community, as a kindergarten teacher, sometimes K-8. I was only there for so long, on transfer, and we loved each other, I think. But at the end of the day – at the end of all these days – she was more or less happy. And I wanted to make good on that promise someone made me a long time ago about better days than those coming.

She wouldn’t go, but no matter. She didn’t want to see me any more anyway. Not upset, not worried, she told me she enjoyed the time we had together but she wanted to get married, settle down and go to the town dances on Saturday nights.

Why I came back to see her get married to A I can’t explain, unless I do have a deep masochistic streak that loves to hole me up in small town motels hours from the airport. I pictured myself objecting to the couple to be wed, then tearfully absolving her of her infidelity, saying I just wanted her to be happy.

What a lie. I didn’t want her to be happy. I wanted her to live with A for a few years, watch him get fat, and search the frosted windows of their little house for the road that leaves the town, then dial my number. Except I’ve changed phones, and she’ll never see me again. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is.

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