“There I was,” recalls the time traveler. “A married man, despite my vexed relationship to marriage as sacrament and institution.”
“Okay,” nods the narrator, eyebrows raised, trying to intuit from what he knows of the traveler’s past what might lie on the other side of “vexed” if that word was hyperlinked. “You’ll have to say more at some point—but go on.”
“Sarah and I had exchanged our vows seventeen years prior,” explains the traveler, “outdoors, in a state-sanctioned but otherwise nonreligious ceremony, with the blessing of friends and family.”
The traveler pauses, proceeds haltingly here in his telling, reliving again the flowers, the arbor, the sunshower afterwards. “I wasn’t seeking to marry,” he adds. “That wasn’t part of any future I’d imagined for myself in my youth.”
Narrator considers this, nods again approvingly, asks what he’d imagined in its place.
“As far as I can remember,” muses the traveler, “all I’d wanted was to write.” He smiles, picturing himself hunched over his notebooks in years past.
“But you and Sarah fell in love?” asks the narrator.
“Yes,” confirms the traveler, “no denial of that on my part. And there we were, in the final months of our Master’s program: both of us wanting to pursue PhDs in English, with hopes of earning a living, despite already mounting debt, by continuing to teach courses at the college level.”
“Fair enough,” says the narrator, elbows propped on the arms of his chair, fingers arched to form a pyramid. “But how did you get from there to the decision to marry?”
“The immediate stress in those days,” breathes the traveler, voice achieving new resolve, “was that we were drawn toward different programs. Mentors dear to us at the time advised us to go our separate ways. ‘Sarah should go to Buffalo,’ they told us. ‘Matt should go to Brown.’”
Narrator purses his lips, tries to conceive the traveler’s dilemma.
“I remember us crying afterwards upon leaving those meetings,” murmurs the traveler. “Neither of us wanted to live apart.”
Traveler looks up here in his telling, eyes glinting. “And so it happened.”
“Just like that?” inquires the narrator. Traveler nods. “Just like that,” he replies, snapping his fingers as if to illustrate. “Over dinner one evening: we agreed to marry.”