It was a sultry, sunny day in the middle of May. The kind of day that could land beads of sweat along my hairline as a reward for simply walking to the mailbox in north Florida. It was the kind of day that made me pine for February. But none of that mattered now, because I was above the clouds, inside a climate-controlled cabin, on my way to 2% humidity. We were flying to San Francisco for our honeymoon. I had been married now for 19 hours. For some people, marriages are interchangeable. They turn spouses in like library books over the course of their life until they find the one they like well enough to keep. For others, a honeymoon is a vacation with the person they’ve been vacationing with for quite some time.
Neither of those was true for me.
For me, marriage was forever—permanently permanent– and the honeymoon was the beginning of some things I didn’t know a whole lot about. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
I was nervous. I was as nervous as Jezebel on Judgment Day. I had been nervous since the pizza guy arrived at our Marriott the night before because we had both forgotten to eat at our reception. I almost invited him in as a chaperone, but Todd tipped him and pushed him back out into the hallway.
And so there we were now, over Oklahoma somewhere, with Todd happily partaking in the in-flight entertainment and me sitting in my seat overthinking every single moment of my life that had led to these seats on this airplane with the young fella to my left.
This is why only adults get married.
I was 22.
That is not an adult.
I’m a textbook overthinker. I’m not good at it or creative about it. But I’ve been doing it since I was 9, so I’m well-practiced if nothing else. There in 23A, with nothing but wispy white clouds within view, I tried to figure out where we were going to be as a couple in 30 years, or 50. And what I decided was that Todd had made a terrible mistake.
Poor Todd. He didn’t know what he was taking to San Francisco. He didn’t know what he was chained to for life. I was crazy. I was a crazy person who had finally learned to wear a little make-up more subtle than my 1980s rouge racing stripes and who finally had a head of hair that didn’t cast the shadow of a dinosaur-sized Q-tip. He had fallen for a person who looked like she had it all together. But he didn’t know. My crazy was going to spill out like the contents of my suitcase and he’d soon know that he’d married the horse head from the Godfather.
I set my thoughts aside because a flight attendant was two rows ahead of mine, handing out headphones for the in-flight movie.
“Would you two kids like to watch Groundhog Day?” she asked, pulling two plastic covered headphones from a weird little basket. I looked at Todd. He was smiling and nodding, so I smiled and nodded, too. What a nice man I married. The flight attendant called us kids.
My fear that I wasn’t marriage material had formed in my stomach and was swelling toward my throat like a gas bubble. What if it was an actual gas bubble? What if I start burping like a frat boy in the middle of Groundhog Day? If I do, then Todd will know. He will know that he has married a fraud. And a burper.
The fears died down a little as I chuckled through Bill Murray’s predicaments on the screen in front of me. I was being ridiculous. Everything was just as it should be. We knew what we were doing. We did this on purpose. Our parents approved of it. My mother had actually begged me not to mess it up. She knew I had some crazy in me. It was all good. All good. I exhaled, as if to clear the last of my emotional toxins out of my lungs and looked over at my partner for life. He was wearing his headphones. His face was relaxed and happy. And behind the round, tinted lenses of his glasses, his eyes were closed. He was asleep. He was going to miss some critical transformations in the movie.
I looked back at my movie screen and saw the flight attendant coming back down the aisle with her little basket. She leaned in and dropped an Andes mint on my tray table and without a word placed a mint on the tray of my sleeping husband. Bill Murray’s alarm was going off again in my ears as I gingerly unwrapped my heavenly patty from its shimmering green bathrobe. Wow, that’s good. It’s like having Olive Garden in my mouth.
It was over so fast. I wondered if the flight attendant would bring me another when my eyes wandered to my left and settled on Todd’s tray table. His mint was just sitting there. He hadn’t flinched. I looked back to the movie and tried to get on board with the crazy hijinx, but I could no longer concentrate. That mint looked so isolated. So vulnerable. I began to hear persuasive debating in my ears. He doesn’t like chocolate. You’ve never seen him eat an Andes. It’s going to go stale while he sleeps. He’ll never know.
That was the worst one. He’ll never know.
It was all too much. I needed the mint.
I reached over and silently swiped his mint, unwrapped it, and ate it.
Funny. His didn’t taste nearly as good as mine had. Maybe that’s because I had stolen it straight out. In that split second, I had become a conniving, thieving Wife Bandit and nothing would ever taste sweet again.
Less than 20 minutes later, with the movie still playing into my deaf ears, Todd woke up. He looked over at me and smiled sleepily. Then he looked to his left at the stranger in the window seat. That man had a mint on his tray. Oh no. Todd looked across into the middle section of seats. There were mints there, too. Then he looked back at me.
“Hey. Where’s my mint?” he asked, innocently. “Did I get one?” Right then I had a decision to make. I was a thieving Wife Bandit, but I wasn’t yet a liar. I didn’t have to be a liar.
“Yes,” I said and contorted my face into something that I’m sure scared him as bad as what I said next. “I ate yours.”
“What? Why?” he asked in shock. He wasn’t mad. I could tell he wasn’t mad. But he’d had his first tiny little glimpse into my “for worse” and it was uglier than he’d imagined and sooner than he’d expected. After all, we were still inside 24 hours from saying those vows. How quickly I sold his love for an Andes.
“I was hungry. You were sleeping. I’m sorry.” And I was sorry.
“Man. I can’t believe you ate my mint,” he said, staring at the seat back in front of him.
It was the first wrong thing I did as a married woman. Almost 27 years, 4 kids, and 6 houses later, it’s still one of the more terrible infractions of my life. That mint still sits on a tray table in my mind as a reminder of what I’m capable of.