We are driving to a restaurant. I am dressed up. She is dressed up. We are not talking, just driving. The radio is playing Don Williams’ song, “Amanda.”
“…Amanda, light of my life,
“Fate should have made you,
“A gentleman’s wife…”
Soon, we are in a swanky restaurant. All the servers wear black. The appetizers come on square plates, doused with sauces that have fancy names that I can’t pronounce. Everything here costs more than a summer cottage in Maui.
Napkins are spread upon our laps. My wife and I are not talking because we are nosy. At the table next to ours is an elderly man with a woman who looks about twenty-one.
The man kisses her. She giggles. When the old man’s waiter arrives, the man orders aged Scotch. His date orders expensive merlot.
Our waitress arrives. My wife orders sushi for an appetizer. I’m still looking.
When the sushi comes, it looks frightening. The lime green stuff that comes with it looks like guacamole, but it is actually nuclear horseradish that will disfigure your sinuses for life.
My wife loves sushi because she is more cultured than I am. She has been to foreign countries, she knows the difference between good wine and Boone’s Farm, and she is sharp enough to win Wheel of Fortune.
Somehow, she married a guy who has never been anywhere or done anything. A kid who was once at a famous bar in New Orleans with his buddy, where the bartender offered him a free glass of thirty-seven-year-old Scotch. And this kid—who has always been a few clowns short of a circus—refused the Scotch and ordered Coors instead.
I’ll never forget it when my buddy said, “What were you thinking, you big hick? That Scotch probably costs two hundred bucks per glass.”
My only defense was that I was a fool. And God looks out for fools.
The waitress brings more sushi. My wife loves sushi. She deserves all the sushi she can get.
This is our celebration dinner. It’s been a long week. We’ve been on the road for seven days, trapped in a small vehicle.
She drove across six states. I tapped on a laptop in the passenger seat. Mostly, I was writing you. But between bouts of writing, we would have these long conversations about nothing.
She would say, “I wonder if I woulda made a good attorney.”
“You? A lawyer?”
“Yeah, you think I coulda?”
“I dunno. You’re a great arguer.”
“You always beat the stew outta me.”
“I woulda gone into business law, that’s where the big bucks are. What would you have been if you coulda been anything?”
“Willie Nelson’s lap dog.”
She laughs. She knows that we come from different sides of the tracks. But it doesn’t seem to bother her.
“Hey,” she went on. “Let’s go out for dinner tonight, what do you say?”
“Aren’t you tired?” I said.
“Yes, but let’s go anyway.”
“Do you wanna go somewhere nice? Or just Applebee’s?”
“Definitely not Applebee’s.”
So that’s how we got here. We went home, showered, and stepped out on the town. The lady, and her clown.
My life is full of irony. For example, I did not expect to become a writer. I had no aspirations of being anything more than what my father was. A faceless man in denim and boots.
He was a man who always choose Coors over Scotch. Not because Scotch wasn’t good, but because it was too good.
That’s probably why I never touch it. Me drinking Scotch would be like a possum eating wedding cake, or a chimpanzee flying a commercial airplane. It just wouldn’t be right.
I am sloppy, forgetful, under-confident, bad with numbers, I always forget to carry cash, and I’m a slow driver. As a young man, I could never keep a reliable schedule. And I know without a doubt that I wouldn’t make it past the first round on Wheel of Fortune.
My writing career is because of her. My wife. It’s all her. She made it possible. She blazed a trail through the woods for me, then she gave me space to be myself. You might not know that, but it’s true.
Maybe you have read things I’ve written before and thought, “Hey, anyone could write this crap. What makes this dude so freaking special?”
The answer is, nothing. Nothing makes me special. But she certainly makes me feel like I could be.
I wish I could buy her something. Something fine. I wish I could give her something that shows how much I care. Something better than sushi on a square plate. Something that would let her know how I feel.
Sometimes, I lie awake in bed listening to her breathe beside me. I think about how much fun it is being alive together. And how I dread the day when they will place a wreath upon my door and carry me away.
I wish I had more than these weak words. But I am what I am. And God looks out for fools.
We are interrupted by a waitress. She asks what I will have to drink.
I am about to speak when my wife answers for me.
“He’ll have a Coors,” she says. “And so will I.”
Then she winks at me.
Fate should have made her a gentleman’s wife. But I’m glad it didn’t.