Excerpt of I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck
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But Philip is not crazy.
Despite the old saying - said by whom? - about how mathematicians
are the ones who tend to go mad while artists tend
to stay sane.
Logic is the problem. Not the imagination.
* * *
With her fingers, she traces the outline of his lips. Her head fills
with images of bereaved women more familiar than she is with
death. Dark-skinned, Mediterranean women, women in veils,
women with long messy hair, passionate, undignified women
who throw themselves on top of the bloody and mutilated corpses
of their husbands, their fathers, their children, and cover their
faces with kisses then, forcibly, have to be torn away as they howl
and curse their fate.
She is but a frail, wan ghost. With her free hand, she touches
her face to make sure.
On their wedding day, it begins to rain; some people say it is
good luck, others say they are getting wet.
She is superstitious. Never, if she can help it, does she walk
under a ladder or open an umbrella inside the house. As a child
she chanted, Step on a line, break your father's spine. Even now, as
an adult, she looks down at the sidewalk and, if possible, avoids
the cracks. Habits are hard to shed.
He is not superstitious. Or if he is, he does not admit to
it. Superstition is unmanly, medieval, pagan. However, he does
believe in coincidence, in good luck, in accidents. He believes
in chance instead of cause and effect. The probable and not the
What is it he always says?
You can't predict ideas.
The rain has briefly turned into snow. Flurries - most unseasonal
for that time of year. She worries about her shoes. White
high-heel satin shoes with little plastic pink rosebuds clipped to
the front. Months later, she tries to dye the shoes black but they
come out a dirty brown color.
She should have known better. Black is achromatic.
A country wedding - small and gloomy. The tent for the
reception, set up on her parents' lawn, is not adequately heated.
The ground underfoot is soggy and the women's shoes sink into
the grass. The guests keep their coats on and talk about the U-2
pilot who was shot down that day.
What is his name?
Mark my word, there's going to be U.S. reprisals and we're
going to have a nuclear war on our hands, she overhears Philip's
best man say.
Someone else says, Kennedy's hands are tied as are McNamara,
George Ball, Bundy, and General Taylor's.
The best man says, Kennedy is a fool.
What else can he do? a woman named Laura asks him.
Don't forget the Bay of Pigs. Our fault entirely, the best
man replies. He is getting angry.
Let's not talk politics. We are at a wedding. We are supposed
to be celebrating, remember? Laura says. She, too, sounds
Laura, the last she has heard, is living in San Francisco with
another woman who is a potter. The best man was killed in an
avalanche. He was skiing in powder down the unpatrolled backside
of a mountain in Idaho with his fourteen-year-old daughter.
She, too, was killed. Her name was Eva Marie - named after the
actress, she supposes.
Anything can happen on a summer afternoon
Stop, she thinks, putting her hands to her ears.
Rudolf Anderson - the name of the U-2 pilot who was shot down.
Strange what she remembers.
How, for instance, once, in Boston, when she was in college,
she caught sight of Fidel Castro. She still remembers the excitement
of it. Dressed in his olive green fatigues, he had looked
good then. He was thirty-three years old and he wore his hair
long and sported a shaggy beard. Catching her eye, he smiled
at her. Of this she is certain. But she was not a true radical; on
the contrary, looking back, she appeared timid.
Pretty and timid.
Again she thinks about those dark-skinned, Mediterranean
women, women in veils, women with long messy hair, and
she wishes she could beat her breast and wail.
Excerpted from I Married You for Happiness
by Lily Tuck. Copyright © 2011 by Lily Tuck.
Excerpted by permission of Atlantic Monthly Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.