Still driving home after proposing and taking Jenny home, he remembers their courtship. After many months and asleep at home, his life changes in one night. Just a normal nightmare, but the memory of it still rocks his comfort and ease about his life and future.
On an outing near a turbulent river and after a slight drizzle, he laughs as Jenny goofs around with a turtle atop a huge boulder near their picnic table. Suddenly, she slips and plunges into the torrent below. She doesn’t come up. Rushing toward her entry spot, he sees what happened clearly in a slow-motion, step-by-step flashback. She slips, feet and hips slide, head flies back to bang the rock; splash and submergence follow. The replay, worse than the event itself, redoubles his fear and magnifies his sense of possible loss.
He jumps in, fails to locate her, and exhausts his lungs before surfacing. Hopefully, he expects to find her swimming to shore, but he finds the same nothing he found inside the torrent. He is alone and downstream. No sign of her further down. Hopefully but fruitlessly he looks upstream. No Jenny. No one else nearby to help. Grabbing his head fearfully, he yells “Jennyyyyyyyy” as he breaks down, cries, and is swept further downstream amid anguish of what can he do now?
Flopping over quickly in bed, he realizes he just heard himself yell. It was real, and he moves to dry his eyes. Screw what the neighbors think they heard. Grabbing the phone, he calls her. She’s okay, but he pours out his remaining anxiety. Too sweaty to continue in bed, he showers again to drown the memory. Instead, it redirects his thoughts toward reality. What would he do had it been real? It prompts him to figure out some answers, for which he searches amid speculation and intermittent dozing for the next few hours.
Can I live without her? Can my life even be sane without her? Replaceable or irreplaceable? That is the question. But those are silly questions. Of course, I can live without her, even a sane life. But in every stretch of self-honesty, I would never choose that option. Surprising himself, he confesses; I strongly desire to live with her alone. Yes, to the exclusion of all others and my independence. Then chiding himself, where did that dreadful thought come from?
Can I sustain our relationship as is, or must I shift into dreadful mode and follow the golden princess to wherever marriage might take us? Can I do all she says we should do? Do I even want to? Will she accept and follow me and my ambitions? Of course, I don’t really know how she feels about marriage. She’s mysterious on the subject. Most women want it though; so how am I to know, unless I propose? Uh, oh! Not a good something to think about.
Can I accept withdrawing from life outside our relationship? Will I forego all other women? Give up my independence for making decisions? Those are tough calls, but…. Hardly pleasant thoughts, so I will think about them later.
But how can I live with her, if she won’t provide sex to check out our compatibility? Marriage? Shack up? Move in together? Sure, we can get a bigger apartment and merge our lives closer together. Talk her into that and sex will surely follow, won’t it?
We have talked often about sex, but only about the marriages of other people. I sense she wants marriage, but she never pushes or even suggests it as either an option or way to go. How come? I know she plans for the future, but she never mentions ours. She leaves it up to me? Why? What do I know about marriage and raising kids? Or does she think our relationship doesn’t qualify for a lifetime commitment? Her silence deafens me about matters I now realize are critical.
I recall when the term commitment came up. She said I am in charge of such things. The same when I mentioned not dating others. She is along for whatever ride I provide. She will do whatever pleases me. Don’t know if I care to take on that pressure.
Seldom done before and usually avoided, he goes deeper into introspection.
I appreciate her silence about marriage, but why would a woman not pursue her dream more assertively? Am I not the right guy for her? Is she just toying with me until she finds someone else? Does her behavior truly signify her love of me? Only me? Really? Any signs it’s not true? Is it really true that she seeks to join my bus ride into the future? Can I let her drive while I maintain the bus?
Surprising himself, he thinks:
Hell, I love her. She must love me. How much? Can I be sure? I wonder, could we live together? Would she? Probably not. What if I propose marriage? Would she accept or refuse? It’s the question of the day? How can I find out? I’m not about to propose, if the answer will be no. What is it lawyers say? Never ask the question if you don’t already know the answer.
Wait a minute, what am I doing toying with the idea of marriage? Am I ready? I’m not ready. She may not be the best, although she sure looks it. How do I prove it? I want her but not unless it’s my decision. Not her praying and spreading feminine charm into my life while persuading me to accept a huge new responsibility. She’s great, but I don’t bend my principles or let girls determine my life, even the most gorgeous.
What if she changes after marriage? Does she want kids? How many? But, man, she sure is qualified to blend our lives, manage our kids, prepare my toast, and kiss me off to work. She’d be like Doris Day in the kitchen of my castle. I could even claim a tax dependent. Wow! There may benefits I’ve not uncovered.
Hank recovers with new plan.
Ah,ha! Okay, that’s it. Now I got it. If she loves and wants to marry me, she will let me in her panties. She will bend, yield, and learn to appreciate my sexual competencies. Don’t know how far she will go at the beginning of such ultra smooth pressure, but it’s time to get this love-fest in a higher gear. It’s been her game of friendship development so far. Hell, I favor friends with benefits. Why have I been so quiet and accommodating of her wishes? My new campaign begins now. I shall conquer the driver of this bus, so she can take me where it’s deservedly beneficial to me too.
But what if she throws me under the bus? Can I recover? Yes, I can, so look out tomorrow, honey, I shall replace you to steer our bus on a new course.
Meanwhile, Jenny knows to expect it. Intuitively, she already prepares for his put-out-or-else campaign. Having privately studied and perfected her strategy of managing sexual aggressiveness and turning threats into friendly banter, she uses techniques to make the competition end up her way. Her sexual history proves this: When passion drives, relationships don’t thrive.
As always, she expects to have her way, and relationship survival is paramount. Until, that is, she decides how and when conquest will happen. Delay becomes more difficult every time they are together.
As she does for each get together with Hank, she anticipates another surprise. Always ready, she doesn’t know the next will reveal Hank as up-and-coming conqueror intent on ….