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 inevitable.
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 angry.
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.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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