June 1, 2008

The Vignette: Monday

He'd been wearing the engagement ring for two months and while he'd never admit it, it made him very uncomfortable. The extra weight was a constant reminder that something was wrong, and the idea of being branded with this circle of metal for the rest of his life made him want to scream.

"Have you ever been in love, Colonel?" he asked.

Anderson looked like he was about to cry.

Harrison answered for him. "Sometimes I think I know what love is. There are all these moments, you know, there's the first date and the first kiss and the proposal and the wedding and the pregnancy and the house and the birth. Those moments are great, those are the once-in-a-lifetime things, right? There are all those moments, those memories, but every lifetime you're only allotted so many of them and one day you don't have these milestones to reach anymore. Nothing's left that's special. Then you're just in it for life and you have no goal and nothing to look forward to. I'm a young guy, Colonel, and I'm getting married this year. I'm already using up all the moments I'm gonna get.

"That's what I think love is, Colonel. You understand that, and you understand that most of the time things might be routine, and you commit to it anyway. I might not enjoy it everyday, and it's not necessarily about loving her or even liking her all the time, it's about the understanding that you entered into a contract to build something greater than yourself and that the things which are needed to maintain that institution might not be commensurate with your own. It's about sacrifice and it's about long-term rewards. She's something so special and from time to time I should be happy to be unhappy as long as I'm miserable with her. Is this making sense? I should be dedicated to my marriage and my family because this is something more important than me. Where's a life of self-indulgence going to get me? It's not going to help her. It's not going to help my child. And, you see, that's my reward: to have been a part of something so wonderful, to hold my wife's hand in the delivery room, to watch my children graduate; to know that it was because of me... that should be worth anything, right? That's worth compromise.

"Then I think, do I feel that way about my fiancée? And the answer is, maybe not."

Anderson pressed his key into the palm of his hand so hard that the skin broke.

The clock now read two. They had missed three while they were talking.