So we were married.
We went on a miserable honeymoon (he hated Disney World, said everything was “stupid” or “gay” and wanted to go to Daytona USA. So we went) and closed on our house a week later.
Within a week I was out of school, married, and a homeowner.
Also? Twenty years old, inexperienced and a complete mess.
My parents moved away and that was that. I was alone with a man I barely knew.
Worse yet? As I got to know him? I realized I didn’t like him. At all.
He was mean.
Mean is such a “meh” word, isn’t it? I don’t think the word “mean” really describes it, but I can’t think of any other word that’s appropriate either. Mean also seems like a childlike word, and basically? I was a child. So it seems appropriate.
So he was mean.
He enjoyed the pain of others. Once we were at a restaurant and a couple at the table next to us were fighting. Instead of enjoying our meal he spent the whole time eavesdropping on their conversation and gleefully pointing out when the girl was crying.
He was racist. He was rude to everyone. Refused to make any kind of decision. If we were going to a restaurant he absolutely refused to pick the place. He made me. Once? He stopped the car in the middle of a really busy street until I would just name a place to eat. We could have been hurt or killed, but it didn’t matter. Then? No matter where it was that I picked, he would criticize my choice and complain the entire time.
He was dirty. Showered maybe once a week. Would not clean up anything, ever. Would not even throw his tissues in the trashcan after he blew his nose in them.
Would not help me put away the groceries I bought. Complained about every single thing I ever made to eat, ever. Criticized me so harshly for the way I did laundry that I washed every single item on cold from then on and would never set the dryer above “air/fluff” because I was terrified of shrinking something of his.
If I fell down, he would laugh at me. Point and laugh and not offer to help me get up.
His birthday was in January. I saved my money so I could take him on a romantic trip to the mountains. It snowed and his car got stuck in the snow and he screamed at me, in front of everyone in the hotel lobby, about how he wasn’t going to go up there again. The hotel employees looked embarrassed for me.
He would not hold my hand in public.
He wouldn’t even talk to me.
But I was married to this man. Divorce was absolutely out of the question. This man was my husband and frankly? Time was running out. I know how ludicrous it sounds that time was running out for me, at twenty years old, but it was.
So I got a full-time job. I got a dog. I had friends over while he worked half the night. And I planned for the baby that I would have.
People around me were getting pregnant. My ex-husband had a number of male cousins and they were all right around the same age so there were a lot of weddings all at the same time (also? All the cousins married women named Jennifer. I was the only one not named Jennifer. Not surprisingly, everyone called me Jennifer anyway). All the Jennifer’s were getting pregnant.
I was not.
I was getting desperate.
I was also lonely. Terribly, dreadfully, mind-numbingly lonely. I had one good friend that I spent time with and she was completely obsessed with her boyfriend, so every single conversation was about him and what he was doing and what would happen if he said this or that. It was really exhausting.
But what could I do? I'd burned my bridges. I had made my choice. I was here, in this house, with this man. And that was that.
We went to rural West Virginia for Labor Day weekend in 1997. I woke up and it was on the news that Princess Diana had died.
I was so sick. Miserably sick. The weather was different and I was in a car on really curvy roads for hours to get to the place we were staying. I get violently carsick and always have. He knew this, yet he still drove like a maniac, shrieking around curves. He even got a speeding ticket on the way home.
I thought I was sick because of his horrible driving, but when we got home I was still sick days later. I threw up eight times in one day. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. Any little smell made me gag.
I went to the drugstore after work one night, came home, went to the restroom and three minutes later I knew.
I was pregnant.