Good Night, Mr. Knightley – Part 4

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In the end, we did decide to postpone the wedding till Dad could travel, throwing everyone into a fit. It would probably be the last wedding for a long time in our family; it was my wedding, and I wanted everyone sitting there in a straight line on their chairs wrapped with white satin, everyone in my line of sight. I wanted our day to be a happy one, and I would do everything in my power to make it so. No one was going to run up to me carrying a phone, waiving the receiver at me (Amy, Amy, bad news . . .) as I was starting to walk down the aisle. I don’t want that call; I won’t take that call. I was turning into Mom, trying to organize us out of any unhappiness, trying to waylay the tragedy winging its way toward us.

And for once, my decision was the right decision because our original wedding date that very pretty, early May day turned out to be the day of Napoleon’s funeral. Obviously, no matter the level of vigilance, there was no preventing despair from flapping through the window and sinking its claws into whomever it damn well pleased. We were nobody special. I began to obsess about something happening to Ross, practically afraid to let him out the door, which drove him up the wall. “Just live your life, for Christ sake,” he’d snap at me. “Live till you die. Just live till you die.”

But my mind kept churning it out, over and over and over and over. What if he was the victim of a random shooting? What if he was in a car crash? I’d play that scenario out in my mind to the minutest detail: the call from the State Police (Sorry, ma’am. Is there someone there with you?). What if someone had a bomb on the plane he was boarding? What if he contracted whatever disease I had last seen on TV?

What truly stopped me in my tracks, however, was his upcoming trip to the Philippines as part of a human rights fact-gathering delegation. Halfway around the world and out of my arms. I just found him; I couldn’t let him go. The mission was to observe trials, meet with the abusers, comfort the abused. The mission was not without risk. What if he was detained, roughed up . . . or worse? And I understood in intimate detail every possible debased permutation of those terms. I didn’t know what was more frightening—that I could love this man so much or that others could have so little regard. I began to think about having his child, about having something left of him if he were to—thinking the unthinkable—leave this world to enter that beckoning void. ‘Your father was a great man,’ I imagined instructing my chimerical son in my more morbid moments.

Ross would be in Manila beginning in mid-June for two and a half weeks. I made an appointment with my gynecologist for that time, but didn’t say anything about it. I wasn’t sure why. I had been forewarned by Maureen’s experience that it wasn’t necessarily an automatic thing. First get off the Pill and make sure everything’s a go, then broach the subject—yeah, I could just see his face. ‘What’s the thinking behind this—I thought you wanted to go back to school?’ he would say. ‘Do you really want to bring an innocent child into such a crap world?’ I was sure he would say. ‘Let’s get married first, you seem to be having trouble enough with that.’ Ha. Ha. I was sure he would balk at it, but I was sure our child would be wonderful.

“See you Thursday,” I said to Paul, going out the door of the office. “I’m leaving early; I have a doctor’s appointment.”

“Everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah, yeah, it’s just a routine check-up thing,” I said, waving my hand dismissively. “See ya.”

However, I should have said goodbye, because that woman getting off the bus worrying about all the things she had to do the next day, that woman walking down the street, finally proud of herself and so in love with her headstrong fiancé with the dangerous flash in his eyes, so concerned with keeping all her beautiful things together, that hopeful young woman who went in through the door of that medical office building never came out again.

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