My Family Tree is Rotten but Keeps Bearing Fruit
My father is one of three men, but my mother never bothered to figure out which one should have been there to teach me to ride a bike or give me away on my wedding day. My grandparents were married for six decades. We’re not sure if Grandma was ignorant of the affairs or if she was just scared of raising seven kids on her own. Aunt Mary has six kids with six different fathers, but she has no wedding ring. Aunt Gina, however, has a whole drawer full of wedding rings, but no children — not for lack of trying. Uncle Milo would need six figures to pay all his child support, but no one’s seen him in years. Uncle James hasn’t seen his kids in years, but that’s only because his wife refuses to let them visit him in prison. My cousin Laurel passed her baby off as her husband’s for five years before he got suspicious, but he was never very bright. We all thought my cousin Will had actually bucked family tradition and had the white picket fence fairytale, until his wife came forward with accusations of abuse. His trial is still pending, but the illusion is shattered either way. Then of course there’s me.
I sit on the balcony of a Paris hotel, chain smoking while my groom – whom I’ve known for approximately three weeks – sleeps off a bottle of champagne. We don’t exactly have a view of the Eiffel Tower, but if I lean over the railing and crane my neck, I can see the tip. This is what he has cashed in his life savings to give me. We both believed it when I said this was what I wanted, but now I wonder which woman I will be: the one that packs up in the middle of the night and leaves my husband alone in Paris hotel room, or the one that stays to wallow in the bed I made. The truly nice man has no idea what it means to be strapped to my family tree. It probably looks dandy at first, surrounded by pretty apples. He’s bitten in, savoring the sweet juices, but it’s only a matter of time before half a worm slithers down his throat. I light the last cigarette in my pack, and feel a connection to the lovers walking the street below me, wisps of smoke curling from the orange lit tips of their own cigarettes. Maybe Paris is my place. I think of the consummation of my marriage and decide this will be my last cigarette ever, whether I am pregnant or not. I exhale and watch the smoke curl and stretch and disappear into the Paris night sky. I try to read my future there, but I only see my roots.