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MARTY'S BROTHER
did you see something in troy when you first met him that told you he would be successful?

MARTY
no.

MARTY'S BROTHER
really? well how did you know he would be successful? that it would work out?

MARTY
i didn't know. how could i?

MARTY'S BROTHER
so you didn't know something the rest of us didn't?

MARTY
no. not really. i never thought about it.

i'm with marty's brother and her entire family and the rest of the free world who saw us together at the start and wondered what that extraordinary girl saw in that totally pedestrian and unimpressive boy. how a guy like me driving a beat up 76 volvo station-wagon, pale, pasty, concave chest, completely broke, manual labor job could forge a relationship with a girl like marty. marty was a remarkable young woman. she was smart. funny. independent-minded. hard-working. athletic. beautiful. wildly confident. fully engaged in life. had a bright charisma that renovated any room she entered. had more boys interested in her by seventeen than most people can claim in a lifetime. and those boys were well-educated, full of promise AND they were beautiful. heck, some of the guys were so beautiful i would have dated them.

but marty chose to be with me. i spent a good amount of time feeling about marty the way i felt in my professional life, fearful that someone would look up one day, notice me and ask why i was in the room and say to me and to everybody present that i didn't belong there and ask me to do the adult thing and leave on my own accord, and please do not make a scene by having to be drug out.

but back to the brother's question. when marty shared this with me it was something i assumed others thought but this was the first time it had, to my knowledge, ever been spoken out loud in real question form. this was the first time i'd seen proof that others were thinking what i had always assumed they were thinking (and i myself was thinking).

some weeks later on a long drive in the car i asked marty the same question. why she chose me. what did she see. she didn't have an immediate answer and looked out the window in thought. as i saw her start ruminating on it, a panic set in. like a for-real scary sort of panic. i thought this question and her contemplation might expose a mistake in her thinking and show me to be a fraud, an accident. that it would plant a seed of doubt in her about me. and yes i confess, it is a little nuts being 27 years and 3 kids into a relationship to still be this brittle about it but i still, after all this time and shared experience, view marty with that same first-moment reverence.

TROY
you know. forget about it.

MARTY
no. no. it's an interesting question.

TROY
no. it isn't. really. please forget i asked.

but of course it was too late. the bullet had left the gun and was charging, molten, towards its mark. we sat in silence for a deafening bit, marty continuing to gaze out the window at the blurred landscape.

MARTY
it was because you loved me.

TROY
what?

MARTY
you loved me.

TROY
well, of course i loved you. how could i not? but lots of people loved you. i saw them, lined up down the street, out of the neighborhood.

MARTY
no. lots of people loved parts of me but wanted to change me. you were the first person who loved me as i was. you never tried to change me. you loved ME and i could always see that.

this comment felled me. still does. i can't imagine these guys, any of them, even with their affluence and looks and promise trying to manipulate what to me was the most beautiful, interesting and authentic woman i had ever crossed paths with. it would be like "fixing" a Dali with a crayon or "improving" a frank lloyd wright home with aluminum siding. their thinking was daft, mad, and backward all at once.

but what i always knew was marty was the perfect partner for me. and i hoped then and now that i could be a worthy partner to her. so i guess that all made sense. those others hadn't found their person yet. i had. and that was the difference then and continues to be the difference today.

i am blessed with many fortunes in my life and the vast majority of them i look past and take for granted with shameful frequency. my health. my family. my friends. my environment. my opportunities. but i do believe that when it comes to marty, i have very rarely forgotten her place in my life and hardly a day goes by that i don't thank all of the random and circuitous circumstances and intersections that had to take place to put she and i before one another. aside from being adopted by my mother, it was the single most significant thing to ever happen to me.

JAN2017

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