Opinion » Note

Happy Valentine's Day

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It's a wonder my wife married me. Not only had I convinced her to move into a three-room alley house in rural north Idaho, it was amid the onset of a particularly cold, sloppy winter. A native Portlander, she was used to rain, but the mounds of slush and mud that piled up around our shack gave her pause. When it became clear her three retail jobs and my night job as a bartender couldn't support us, we made the decision to not turn on the heat until Dec. 21. Before long, we were stuffing newspaper in our clothes and huddling next to a space heater, watching movies through the steam rising from our breath. This was an inauspicious start to our cohabitation.

Still, she stuck by me. Even on Dec. 21, when we finally turned on the heat and all the mice in the neighborhood flocked to our house to stay warm. Even as we tried to sleep through the sound of the mousetraps snapping in the dark.

One night, after our winter of discontent, I was working the bar alone. It was a quiet Saturday and there was only a handful of patrons—mostly friends. The conversation turned to love and loss; specifically, how my pals had lost their lovers and couldn't find new ones. I performed my bartenderly duties and listened to the litany of complaints. I bought a fifth of Old Grand-Dad bourbon from the bar and invited one particularly unrequited buddy back to my shanty for some latenight counseling. After several hours, a couple of burritos from the gas station and the better part of the fifth, my friend told me I had it made. I had a partner who would live in a shack with me, freeze with me and kill mice with me.

I said good night and crawled into bed around dawn.

"Hey," I said, nudging my sleeping beloved awake, which she did with a snort. "Want to get married?"

"Are you drunk?" she asked. Not the reaction I was looking for.

"What?" I said, indignant. "Well... maybe. A little. So, do you? Want to get married?"

"Yeah," she said, rolling over. "Let's talk about it tomorrow."

Ten years and two kids later, I'm still amazed (and grateful) that worked. Read more stories about marriage here.