My husband saw me at a party and decided he wanted to marry me.
That is what he says. I was doing an impression of myself on the
back of a motorcycle with my university sweetheart, a young man
who loved T. S. Eliot and Harley-Davidsons, and who told me to
hang on to him as we swept down Storrow Drive in Boston, the
winter wind cutting through our clothes like glass. If I allow
myself, I can still remember exactly the warm smell of his
leather jacket, how I clung to him, and how in my fear and
discomfort I cursed all the way to the ballet.
We sat on the plush red seat cushions and kissed before Baryshnikov came on stage, the whole of his powerful frame a knot of kinetic energy that leapt as though the stage were a springboard. I always insisted on sitting up front so I could appreciate the strength of the dancers, the tautness of their muscles, the sweat on their skin. My lover of motorcycles and poetry once licked my eyeball so quick I hadn't time to blink, and told me he dreamt of crossing a desert with me, of living on nothing but bee pupas and dates. In warm weather he trod across the university campus in bare feet and a four-week beard, singing loudly in German, which was his area of study, to find me in the chaste, narrow bed allocated to undergraduates. There, while the church bells chimed outside my window, he took his time crossing my body with his tongue.
"I'm Stephen," said my husband, a stranger to me then. Dark jeans, expensive jacket, an upper lip that is full like a girl's, against a startlingly handsome face. "Are you plugged in to something?"
My legs were straddling empty air, my back vibrating with an imagined Harley engine, my arms wrapped around the nothingness in front of me. I was laughing. I wasn't sure at first that Stephen was even speaking to me. I was surrounded by young women--he could have been addressing one of them. But the crowd I was entertaining with this impression seemed to shrink back with Stephen's approach. Apparently, they all knew him, knew the type of man he was and to back off with his arrival. I didn't know anything. My lover, now dead, was killed in a highway collision on his way to work one morning. I couldn't even drive a motorcycle, knowing only to hang on to the boy in front of me, whose head was shielded by a shining black helmet. His precious head.
"Pretending to be on a motorcycle," I said. Suddenly, the whole idea seemed stupid.
"Do you like motorcycles?" asked Stephen.
"I used to."
"Would you like a drink?" he asked, nodding toward the bar. "A glass of wine, perhaps?"
I said no, I don't drink. This wasn't actually true, but I had no idea I was speaking to my future husband. He was just some guy. None of my answers were supposed to matter.
He smiled, shook his head. He wasn't easily dissuaded. "Let me guess, you used to drink," he said.
He was the first man that night who looked right at me instead of slightly over my shoulder, who didn't make me feel he was comparing me to a whole list of others. And the first man who had offered me a drink, I might add. "I'll have a glass of white wine," I told him.
He nodded. And then, without a shimmer of uncertainty, he reached out and touched my hair with his fingertips as I searched the floor with my eyes.
"Canadian?" he asked.
Excerpted from Daniel Isn't Talking by Marti Leimbach Copyright © 2006 by Marti Leimbach. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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From NYT bestselling author Ann Leary
The captivating story of an unconventional New England family.
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