“Have I told you about my theory that Kindle and those other e-reader things are going to start advertising as bedbug-free?”
There followed a puzzled look that signified, “What are you talking about and why the fuck did you say ‘bedbug?’”
“Every time you read about bedbugs people are throwing away their books.”
“No, I don’t think you’ve told me that one. It’s a wonder I didn’t make you throw away…”
“Oh, I wouldn’t have done it.”
“We probably would have broke up.”
If you can make it through bedbugs you can make it through anything, which isn’t even close to being true but is pithy and probably something people say. Bedbugs get a lot of attention, but they are minor on the list of life problems. M. and I have endured, so far, poverty, uncertainty, unemployment, employment-related ennui, Bush, geography, tragedy, travel, and relatively temporary familial antipathy. There are a lot of people out there who’ve dealt with a lot worse. The bedbugs are stressful still only because she’s in close proximity to them at work and fears bringing them home again. I’m at the point, though, where I don’t really care if she brings them home because I know we can get rid of them. Some people are about to shout “Heresy!” but bedbugs are not the worst thing that can happen to you.
Capulin Volcano National Monument, outside Capulin, New Mexico, is an extinct cinder-cone volcano between 58,000 and 62,000 years old. The volcano’s base is approximately four miles in circumference, while the diameter of the crater is 1,450 feet, and the elevation at the top of the volcano is 8,182 feet, about a thousand feet above the surrounding plains, all of which has nothing much to do with anything except that M. and I were standing atop it on July 12 around 4:30 in the afternoon.
On the rim of a volcano one feels pulled to take a plunge. She didn’t want to go up there because we were tired and had been driving all day from Tulsa and were making remarkably bad time. We decided to drive through Oklahoma on U.S. 412 (which connects with U.S. 64/87 in Clayton, New Mexico, which then connects with I-25 in Raton), rather than go up to I-70 through Kansas. The latter route is faster, but we get tired of it, and I find the drive through Oklahoma prettier and more interesting. The vast emptiness of the panhandle strikes me as sublime, and M. sees it as the perfect setting for a double-homicide.
We had stopped at the volcano a few years before on our way down to Arkansas-Kansas-Missouri-Oklahoma, but when we got to the top it started storming, and we stayed in the car because we didn’t feel like getting struck by lightning. I applied the old argument about sometimes when we love someone we do things we don’t necessarily want to do, an argument she couldn’t refute because she uses it all the time, and plus how often did we find ourselves driving past an extinct volcano?
“It costs money.”
“No, it’s free.”
It cost $5. There were these horrible children, and as I waited for them to leave I commented on the general beauty of the landscape. We were on top of a volcano; where once there was fire, ash, and lava, there were junipers, piñon pines, great mullein, Indian paintbrush, chokecherry, the plant for which the volcano is named, capulin being the Spanish word for chokecherry, and I don’t really know what else. There was some kind of metaphor there. It was a clear day, so we could see, at least theoretically, as we couldn’t really make out the state lines, Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma, as well as New Mexico, where we were.
“I wish those horrible children would go away. Maybe we should walk past them.”
She didn’t want to walk any farther, so we waited. When they were gone, I said, “Remember how I was going to come back for your birthday?”
She wasn’t sure what I meant. Her thirtieth birthday was on June 14. In my original plan, I was going to be working in New York over the summer, but I was going to secretly travel to Denver to be there on her birthday, but as it worked out I found myself broke and temporarily jobless, so I changed the plan so that I would spend the summer in Colorado, and I threw her a surprise party instead.
“I’ve been thinking of ways to surprise you. I was thinking, I could really use that insurance.”
“If you want to, we could do that thing—that thing that people do that gay people aren’t allowed to do [by a repressive social regime]…”
There was more, and this romantic speech was punctuated by repeated eruptions of “What?” and “Are you kidding me?”
“Yeah, I’m just fucking with you. Not really.”
“You want to marry me?”
That was the idea.
On the way down we saw a deer. It didn’t spook; it didn’t run away when we backed up to look at it.
“That’s a mule deer.”
“Yeah. I was going to say it’s one of those deer from the brochure,” she said. “I think it’s a momma deer. I can see its teats.”
It’s a known fact that the No. 1 cause of divorce in the U.S. is weddings, which is why we’re going whatever is the opposite of all out—none in, perhaps—on the ceremony. There will be no showers, no tuxes, no frilly dress, no band, caterer, wedding coordinator, rehearsal, or drama, just peace and love and good food, good friends, and a not insubstantial number of Goods. We planned the whole deal on the way home from Raton. The wedding will be on August 14 at 5 p.m. in the country near Collinsville, Oklahoma, in case you want to come. There will be beer.