By Amy Mullis
It’s our anniversary. We are on vacation together in beautiful, historic Charleston, South Carolina, a sparkling corner of the world where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers come together with the Atlantic Ocean, and are rediscovering the joys of navigating life’s little highways as a team. On the whole, I’d rather be juggling skunks. We’re forced into this extramarital mall trip because I got lost on a whitewater rafting trip down the river of nostalgia and the only bra I remembered to pack is the bra I wore for our wedding: an ivory lace number encrusted with sequins and seed pearls. I’ve been saving it in pink tissue paper for almost a decade. It’s great for sentimental value, and loaded with sex appeal, but produces a rather lumpy silhouette under a tank top; especially after almost ten years of married-life food. Needless to say, my cups not only runneth over, they look like both air bags inflated in a head on collision with a pole dancer.
“They used the North Star because it is fixed in the sky. It doesn’t move.”
I’m married to an astronomy nut. I love the guy, but to him the difference between true north and magnetic north is absolute. To me, north is up. Check any map.
“Oh. I though it was all fixed. Aren’t we the ones moving?” I’ve taken two hours to do my hair and makeup and the Captain of my canoe is getting miffed over my directional skills.
“It doesn’t matter who’s doing the moving. The point is that if you see the North Star, that’s North. Get it?”
“Look, I’m not Keifer Erickson. I just want to find the mall.”
“I don’t care if it’s ferns and daisies. I have a desperate need for a department store.”
“It’s probably under that patch of sky that has no stars. See, the city lights have blotted out all signs of any heavenly bodies over there.”
“I wouldn’t say that,” I answer smartly, eyeing a movie poster of Johnny Depp that could make you rechart your course.
“Very funny. Hold the map over here where I can see it. We’re coming to a junction and I think we go west.”
“I think we go left at the Piggly Wiggly.”
“Grocery stores aren’t marked on the map. We proceed to the junction and take the highway west to the next exit.”
“Okay Scout, but you passed the side entrance to the mall twice during the geography lesson.”
“Well, sure, if you want to sneak in the side, we can turn here. I was going to take you in the front door like a civilized person.”
“Don’t try to kid me. Your horizons have broadened so far you can’t see the road in front of you. You can look toward the heavens and find Mars, Jupiter, and the gas station with the lowest prices, but you can’t read the writing on the mall.”
We rode the rest of the way in silence. There’s more noise in the car on the way home from school on report card day than there was between the bucket seats that night. He circled the lanes of cars and glared at me.
“Can’t we do this later?”
I love the guy, but his priorities are way out of order. I arched one eyebrow to alert him to a possible relationship-altering trap. “I’m wearing my sequined wedding bra under a white tank top. All those little disks catch the light and send Morse code signals through my clothes. I look like I’m smuggling two signalmen with diamond semaphore flags. Yesterday a woman at the lemonade stand thought I was trying to call 911.”
“That’s ridiculous. You don’t know your dashes from your dots.”
“Right now my dots are lit up like the beer sign in a cowboy club. You don’t want me to give the wrong impression, do you?”
“No?” he guessed. He hasn’t stayed married for almost ten years without squirreling away some random nuts of wisdom.
“You could look at the tools while I’m in the lingerie department.”
“I don’t like sissy mall tools.”
“There’s that store with all the gadgets.”
The way his eyes lit up, I could use the beam to track him all the way to the laser levels. Real men show sentiment about important things: whatchamacallits, thingamabobs and gizmos with pocket holsters.
“Well, if you’re getting something new,” he mused, “I might just splurge on something with a digital display. Or one of those camouflage holsters that holds hot sauce that you can attach to your belt.”
“Live it up,” I laughed, squeezing his hand and heading off to Lingerie.
The secret to a long and happy marriage is knowing which tool is right for the job. And sometimes it’s not the one covered in sequins.
Amy Mullis enjoys the high and low tides of marital bliss at her home somewhere in the creeks and channels of South Carolina. Shoot the rapids of life with her at www.mindovermullis.com. Bring lifeboats and survival gear.