At the Tiki Bikini Hut in Nassau, a Bahamian man made a comment about the Mercedes on my finger and said, “I would have married him, too, had he given me a rock like that.”
I turned to you and smiled, my blushing hidden by a week-old sunburn. I took another sip of the piña colada out of the coconut I had to hold with both hands, the one chopped open and carved into a drinking vessel with a machete by a quiet man behind the counter, and noted the heavy smell of dead fruit, a life decaying in my hands.
The place was not what I had imagined when you insisted we stop before catching the bus out of downtown and back to our all-inclusive hotel where we had been trapped for days, enchanted by the cabanas, endless free drinks, a burger grill on the beach, a heated pool, a hammock beneath our window that I never got to try.
The Tiki Bikini Hut was rated the number one place on the island for tourists, and so we sought it out, climbed atop two cushionless stools, and listened to the travel woes of the British couple next to us who had arrived that day, their luggage lost by the airline. Flies and wasps swarmed us, seeking the sweetness of the fruit and alcohol that trickled down blenders and sullied the counters. Beyond us, a public beach was littered with white bodies, and beyond that, a blue-green ocean.
You grinned back at me and squeezed my shoulder, knowingly. Two months married and we are finally on our honeymoon, finally away from the pressures of being newlyweds, from the well-meaning people who start every conversation with, “So, how’s married life?”
We can’t answer the question because the truth is scary to admit. It’s hard. We bicker, fight, avoid each other, can’t agree on things that used to come so easily. Nobody warned us of what marriage is.
I gazed at my ring then up at you and leaned forward to kiss you on the temple, letting my lips linger on your warmth until it no longer felt like a performance, until the affection was an act of undeniable and endurable love.
Melissa Grunow is the author of Realizing River City: A Memoir (Tumbleweed Books, 2016). An award-winning writer and Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, Yemassee, New Plains Review, Blue Lyra Review, and Limestone, among many others. She is also a live storyteller who regularly competes in NPR's Moth StorySLAM and is a Metro Detroit 2016 Listen to Your Mother cast member. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from National University and an MA in English from New Mexico State University. Visit her website at www.melissagrunow.com or follow her on Twitter at @melgrunow.