Weekly feature by Joanna Michaels

I was 29, then. A young 29. Perhaps it was the years of dancing in bleak, smoke-filled clubs, or perhaps it was the childhood robbed by alcohol and cigarettes—another story for another time.

I was 29. He was 28, younger by only 10 months, yet he teased me all the time. Cougar he’d say.

We met by accident. A documentary I watched compelled me to email random soldiers about opening free clinics (something I still haven’t done) and I’d stumbled upon a beautiful man.

The day he confessed his love, I fell in my closet. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was foreshadowing, or maybe I just experienced a sudden drop in blood pressure.

He flew to Austin and I wore a black dress. It was short. I had worn it for years, but for some reason it seemed appropriate. He later told me he hated the dress. I threw it down a garbage chute in NYC.

He proposed twice, the second time, we both scrambled to take a knee, candied rings in hand. Our friends took photos. My jaw ached from smiling. I wore flip-flops. He hated flip-flops.

In the week after our engagement, I wrote him love letters and send Haribo gummies. I tried to convince him we should wait. He was traditional and asked for my mother’s blessing. She exercised caution, told us to be practical. We didn’t listen.

Once he asked me if I had been sent by his former unit to watch over him. He confessed to asking another soldier if I was FBI. He told me this as we drove in my Hyundai looking for pancakes or some other breakfast food.

We introduced our friends. They were married several years later. I was a bridesmaid. He wasn’t there.

My body was no longer predictable. The signals were crossed and I couldn’t give my future husband the parts that were meant to be given. They stayed locked no matter what we tried.

Strike one.

He called me one night drunk with his awkward roommate. “Is it wrong if I watch videos of abortions?” I laughed. This was foreshadowing.

Strike two.

The night before I moved to NYC, I told my mother that I would either make it or die.

I’m still writing. You figure it out.

I remembered the shower, just before we got in the car to drive to San Antonio. He was washing my hair. “You have to be prepared, JoAnna. You never know if we’re in Afghanistan—you’ll be tortured. I want to waterboard you.” I giggled. He was serious.

We got married in San Antonio. A ranger married us. How appropriate.

He was still convinced I worked for the CIA.

We honeymooned with bullets and overflowing bathtubs. He poured an entire bottle of shampoo into the tub. Bubbles were everywhere.

We went to dinner and my dress blew up from wind. I heard lewd comments.

We laughed and he snapped photos.

At dinner, he told me he had the potential to destroy me. It was said as a mariachi band that he called over was playing to me on our wedding day. I believe that the cliché of time standing still wouldn’t do that polaroid justice. I asked him if we’d made a mistake. I don’t remember much else.

Strike three.

The letters came only days after we married, letters from women I had never met or heard about.

I wonder how many had seen his bullet scar.

I got pregnant immediately.

It was said that I would never have children.

We were at this fancy gala and I wore a fancy gown to fit in with fancy bougie college students who spent far too much money on closet sized living spaces. We were caught trying to fuck in a kitchen on a floor above the venue. “We have found the lovebirds,” a radio echoed. The condom broke that night.

I got pregnant.

I thought of that moment as a belligerent doctor was removing my daughter with a suction. She told me I was doing great.

They told me I couldn’t have kids.

She left half of her in me. For months.

I thought, this is worse than waterboarding.


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