Hank ends his retreat, calls Jenny for a date next day. On rereading his note aimed at convincing her he knows what he is doing, he begins to have more than second thoughts. How to deliver his plan, verbal or written? Her to read or hear? At home or in public? Might a couple of drinks be appropriate to loosen his tongue and impress her ears to listen favorably?
What is he after? Her to marry him? Or her to consider if she wants to marry into his method of preserving a marriage? If she doesn’t grasp the full meaning of his plans for their future, disappointment is likely to set in later. Can he overcome that?
Tossing much of the night, anticipating something less than total success, he decides. His apartment, white wine spritzer, he will just let her read it. They will discuss the pros and cons and decide how to proceed. Anticipating victory for his side, he finally dozes off.
He awakens with a startle. He just dreamed her reading the letter in front of him. Misunderstandings prevail, her uh-ohs rock his spirit, she gives him sour or at least questionable looks. He re-reads his letter and can find nothing to cause what he dreamed. He changes his plan: He will read it to her, add comments frequently, and hope for the best with his being more proactive.
In his dream, she also reacted and spoke about romance, affection, and warmth being missing from the letter. Consequently, his heart must want marriage more than her. Or so she will think.
After they chat making the date, Jenny emulates his insomnia. He emailed his plan with the eight strategies for managing their conjugal life . She finds no objections but will later beg for more clarity. She worries more about his attitude and the seed planted in the email, which seems to hint that she will not be responsible for much if they marry. He seems dictatorial.
The eight strategies are also lacking in love, affection, and closeness. Seeing all of it as rather cold and barren, too logical and deep-reasoned for her, she wonders if it will work. Or, is he unclear in his thinking about what she needs and expects in a marriage?
Puzzling her way through his model for life together, her attitude turns toward negative thoughts. She loses some interest in even showing up at his apartment. She reminds herself that when he does get around to showing affection, she loves both his method and sincerity. She will show up.
In his apartment, she stands near him as he fixes them a spritzer. They settle on the couch talkative and in good spirits, as both try to fake off discomfort. TV off. After basic preliminaries, Jenny swings her palm toward him as if to say, you’re on.
Hank feels victimized, under fire before he can start. Confusion sets in, so he turns to his most reliable method and keeps his mind on track by using whatever comes in numbers.
“Darling,” he begins, “it’s a short story. There I was on retreat. I had three goals for the weekend. Should I marry you, and that was easy to decide. What tactics and objectives would we be living by? I sent the email with my results, and it’s proper that we discuss and perhaps argue them, but later. Finally, toughest to describe and most important for our discussion tonight, I worked out the logic, reason, and strategy by which I could promise you a good marriage with plans to make it last a lifetime.” Going by the numbers calmed his confusion, he talked easier.
“I know you’d like to hear it, but I am not proposing yet. I can’t promise you a life of endless romance. I’m too practical or something. Too much else intervenes. So, I have tried to describe what I can provide you, if you choose to accept me as your husband. None of it has been easy except your soliloquy about how you kept yourself faithful to yourself over those years. You inspired me to figure out how I could be a good husband to myself and hope it would satisfy you as much as your ‘confession’ about your accomplishment satisfied me.
“I know you want me to make you happy. I’m both unsure how and what makes—or rather will make—you happy living with me. I’ve always envisioned that you would be living with me in a home—perhaps this apartment or some other hut—and that you arrange, decorate, manage and thereby make yourself happy.
“That’s the model on which I used to base my dreams of marriage and it making you happy. That is, before you taught me how a person can be much better by pursuing a single but great goal; not what drives but what you can accomplish, how it builds character, and how it makes many things respectable. And so, to learn to exemplify it, I went on retreat to figure out how to use your method.
“Now, I recognize my prior innocence of what it takes to make a woman happy. I know it takes much more than I planned to provide. I am still unaware of what, when, why, which, who, and how makes you supremely happy. But I feel the burden to make our life better will produce it for you.”
Hank goes on to describe the thrills he felt and anxiety burden of his retreat. Cold food, but a hot keyboard when he is sure of his intentions. Meandering through the woods as he resolves tough questions about his own future. Shooting rocks over the hillside with his five-iron, when his mind goes blank. And the constant thinking of her and eventually having many kids as he continues to talk to the steering wheel on the way home.
Now immensely satisfied with his weekend as not a waste of either time or effort, he moves on. “I had fun.” Slightly embarrassed, his face flushes as he spouts his new motto about children: “If four is a ball, then six takes only gall.” Fearing he is serious, she just stares. Her mood seems to darken, and he gets on with the show, his tour de force, his masterpiece of achievement. If she can’t take what he offers, she may not be the one for him.
“I wrote you a letter explaining my logic and reasoning about marriage as responsibility rather than just the joining of two emotional personalities. The joining is a piece of cake; it even starts by feeding each other a bite of the cake. But sustaining a marriage is a constant struggle to merge two interests and match them into one. That, my dear, is my personal ambition that you shall hear about and as I composed it and settled my thoughts last weekend among so much natural beauty in West Virginia.
“You need to know who I really am to determine if I’m the right man for you. I know you’re right for me. Even more than right, essential. I want to marry you. And if I do and live out the persona of the man I can be, that I will shortly describe, then I know you will be forever supreme in my life and no other can or will ever replace you.”
He initiates a toast. They exchange smiles and sip spritzers. He brings out sheets of paper, unfolds them, and starts to read. She gets more comfortable to hear….