So I haven’t been blogging at all since I’m focusing on my upcoming wedding- writing has taken a back burner but not for long. There are lots of stories backed up in my head…they need to be released.
I got a bad feeling about it when I saw the dirty feet of the bum’s girlfriend peeking out around the corner of the Baptist Association. Hey, it didn’t have to be a downer did it? This was true love, for better or for worse. They were curled around each other, toothless and half-naked in the early morning heat. We stopped and watched them for a second before they jerked awake.
“I’m sorry, man, we’re headed out right now ain’t we sweetie?” He grinned through his beard and his love pulled her shirt down and grabbed their little bag of belongings, already heading out. “You gots you a hottie there, man,” the bum said, winking at me and scuttling off. Before Nathan could say anything, they were gone. Men always address him first, probably because he’s a bigger guy and might look intimidating when he’s not smiling. I can’t see the intimidation factor- but maybe that’s because I know him. (And I can kick his ass.)
We shrugged it off and tried the door. Right on time- the email had warned us rather rudely not to be late, so here we were. Locked, and dark inside. I sighed. “Let’s go get some coffee, babe,” I said, and we walked over to grab some at the convenience store next door. We noticed a couple of other people waiting in the parking lot, some more couples out to get their freebie. We sat outside in the bum’s spot and tried to wake up.
“It should be good,” Nathan said, always the optimist. “Maybe we’ll learn something.”
Another sleepy couple wandered up. She was short with short dark blonde hair and freckles, and he looked like he might work in a mechanic’s shop out in Kyle or somewhere similarly small-town Texas.
“You here for the marriage class too?” I asked, and they nodded. We all did the ‘Hey, it’s free!’ shrug. Finally, a tall thin black man pulled up outside, rushing around his minivan pulling out papers and folders.
“I am here!” he said with an African accent. “I am very sorry I am late. I was getting ready for some conference in which I am speaking today, and the other instructors today are not showing up, so I was thinking I would cancel, but then I realized that I had people counting on me today so I am here for you.” Did he want a cookie or something for showing up at all?
He unlocked the door and let us in. Two more couples showed up while we were waiting, all flustered about being late. We let them know they had no worries, at least about being late since the instructor wasn’t too timely himself. After another 20 minutes or so of set-up time and pointed glances back and forth, we finally got going.
“So, thank you for being here. We are here to learn all the fundamentals of healthy relationships, however I have not looked at our materials at all. The other instructors were supposed to be doing this and now I am teaching this myself so we will learn together.” Wow. This was really starting out strongly. He proceeded to hand out various packets of paper, miscounting and shuffling them back and forth for about 15 uncomfortable minutes. It was very apparent that it was the first time he’d seen any of these materials.
I looked around the room. The first couple was next to us, and next to them in the semicircle was a nerd couple. He was white, mid-40s, bearded and dressed in mismatched clothing and a baseball cap, and his woman was short, coffee-black, with a pierced lip and thick coke bottle glasses. They fidgeted and look uncomfortable. The latest arrivals were an adorable blonde doll-like woman with porcelain skin and a very pregnant belly and a tall tattooed dark-haired man. We all introduced ourselves and told a few key facts. We learned that Nerd Couple were the only ones already married, and that Nerd Dude had been married several times and wanted to make this one work. So they were the only ones not in it for a free marriage license. Also, he let us know that he hated his father, and was uncomfortable in social situations, and also that he had no friends. Sweet. His wife liked acting, and they went to karaoke together weekly. The first couple we had met, we’ll call them Small-Town couple, had a couple of kids together and were from a small town. They seemed fairly normal, and also a bit unsure about the whole class situation. The last couple, The Austinites, had met working at a bike shop and had had a lot of relationship problems but wanted to make it work for the baby who was soon to make an appearance. She seemed very sincere and wholehearted about the class, and I started to feel sorry for her immediately. I had a feeling this was not going to be something that would help her out. Her boyfriend didn’t have much to say, but seemed like a laid-back stoner type.
The instructor proceeded to lecture us all about what a good relationship he and his (white) wife had, about how her family called him a nigger at first (everyone almost shit a brick right in class when he said this, loudly, obviously to see what reaction he got), and told us various stories about being a pastor and helping people, followed up by what a great relationship he and his wife had. He was Nigerian, and had a self-help book that he let us know was in his minivan if we needed a copy. He would also be leaving during our lunch break to attend his aforementioned conference, but he would be right back to help us structure our relationships.
I sat in a kind of dull awe as he read directly from his class manual, including word-for-word recitation of the intended “skits and performance” parts of the manual, i.e. “Person number one stands at front of class. Ok, ok we need a person number one. Ok, thank you Nerd Woman. You are an actress, yes? Perfect. Ok, person number two stands next to number one and pretends to be in an argument. Ok, you come up to be person number two. Ok, go.” It was all I could do not to burst out in full-on howling hyena laughter the entire time. I studiously avoided Nathan’s eyes but I could feel him about to explode next to me. He was trying hard to take the class seriously but I was already done for. There was no way I was going to make it through a whole day of this.
Nathan tried to talk to the instructor and argue when he said that the family must always do everything together. “Hey, we take vacations separately a lot,” Nathan said. “We feel that keeping our separate lives is important, and we have a great relationship,” he pointed out when the instructor talked about how you must come to terms on vacation spots when you’re married, or whose family it’s time to visit.
During one skit the Nerd Dude blurted out that he wanted to take his wife home to bang her, which was greeted by dead silence from everyone else and a full pig snort from me. I couldn’t help it. I was bursting with unfulfilled laughter. It was right at the bottom of my throat and it wasn’t going to take much to set it loose. The perfect release was soon to come, luckily for my strained esophagus.
Nathan was asked to participate in one of these read-from-the-page skits, which were getting much worse as willingness from the participants started to wane. It’s always my favorite when Nathan is asked to do anything which places him in the spotlight because he hates it. The skit proceeded as follows:
“Ok, ok now you stand here Nathan. Now, you Austinite dude stand in the middle. Ok, Nerd dude on the other side. Now, middle dude, you lift up your arms. You are representing the tree which is the – let’s see, it says you are representing the family. Now, guy on the left, Nathan right? You bend over at the waist. Ok, like that.” At this point I was shaking silently, looking at the floor. Nathan was starting to turn a dull brick color. “Ok, now, Nathan, you bend over at the waist and you grab on to this guy’s thigh.”
“I’m not doing it,” Nathan said, and returned to his seat, ruining the beautiful skit of the tree and the roots.
That was it, I lost it. Everyone else stared at me but I couldn’t help it. This was too funny. Were we being Punk’d? I was sure there was a camera somewhere.
It was such a train wreck that we came back from lunch break-tacos with the very sweet, genuine Austinites-waited for 10 minutes (the Nigerian was late again), and headed for home. It was sad that something that could have been a useful class was so ill-prepared, and mostly I felt sorry for the other couples. I gave a small wave as we drove past them on our way to “far away from there.” They were all waiting at the door disheartedly for the Nigerian relationship expert. Worse than the sadness over a crap class was that we wasted all that time and still didn’t get a free marriage license. But we strengthened our relationship in more important ways. We can agree on when it’s time to jet!