A BAKER’S DOZEN
Believe me, you don’t want to have anything to do with a Triskaidekaphobian even if you find it easy to spell or pronounce. I think I am in a position to offer this advice with some authority since I was, for a very short time, mind you, married to one and it has taken me years to get over the aftereffects of this merger. These people are really strange. They fear the poor old number 13, thereby making everyone else around them feel imperfect or ill-advised, not to mention frightened.
So, admit it, your first thought is why in heaven’s name did I marry one then? Well, you have to go all the way back to my final year in college when I thought I had three good reasons, none of which, as it turned out, were valid. That was the year I met Laconia. College is, I know now, the time and place a young man is at his weakest. He has very little money, eats pizza for breakfast and sleeps in an unmade bed for almost 9 months per year. Every female is gorgeous and more time is spent thinking about how to meet one than with books and classes. So she and I met and spent quite a bit of time together. She did a lot of talking and I did a lot of grinning. At that time, I had no idea she was a phobian of any kind even if I knew what one was, which I didn’t. That’s reason #1.
And then there was her name, Laconia. I agreed with my friends it was most unusual but I was drawn to her because, as a child, our family had spent a whole summer at Laconia, Vermont and I had retained fond memories of that time because it hardly rained and I didn’t have to wear underwear. Reason #2.
The third reason, and the easiest to understand, is that I was a red-blooded male in the prime of my lust. I believe to this day Laconia was the inspiration for the guy who created the football cheerleader. I can only say that it mattered not what Laconia said at any one time as long as it came out of that amazing structure. It is a mystery how I managed to wait until graduation before proposing. We dated for that whole year, her talking and me grinning, followed by one summer of returning home to sleep in a bed my mother would make each morning (I had a hard time getting used to that) eating decent food, working in Mr. Kelly’s shoe store, and writing to Laconia 100 miles away.
We married that fall. She was all for it because I had $300 saved up from working for Mr. Kelly. I was all for it because I was looking forward to having several questions answered I had on hold since reading those magazines I kept hidden under my mattress. I can tell you now, it was a horrible mistake. Our union lasted only slightly longer than it took for our relatives to get back home from the reception. And it was all due to that viciously malingered number 13.
We arrived in the Pocono Mountains late the afternoon of the beautiful wedding and checked into our assigned chalet. While she unpacked I thought I would bribe her into an early retirement, so I ran out and bought a dozen doughnuts. The bakery was a small Mom and Pop place whose policy was to add an extra unit to a purchase of a dozen of anything. THAT MAKES 13, MY FRIEND!
I have only hazy memories of what happened when I got back to the chalet except that there was much screaming, quite a bit of doughnut throwing by Laconia and a lot of hopping around on one foot by me as I tried to get back into my pants. The next thing I remember was being on a plane back to Canada by myself. I never saw Laconia again. Our honeymoon had lasted exactly 6 hours and eight minutes.
I read somewhere that life is a long series of beginnings with very few satisfying endings. I have no reason to doubt this. My unfortunate marriage to, and divorce from, Laconia, for example, was the beginning of my fear of women, gynophobia, which lasted until I was in my fifties. I even tried to be gay at one point but quit when I realized I kept forgetting the rules. Then I met Fanny. I don’t know how she managed it but somehow she made me realize just how wonderful a lady can be. I went to the altar once again last year and have no regrets. That she looks a little like Aunt Em in The Wizard of Oz is not important. Another beginning, but one I am convinced will have a happy ending, Fanny hasn’t a single phobia in her whole body.
Richard Torpey January 31, 2008
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