Carolina and I are talking again. It was always just a question of timing, the scintillae of permanence in her voice, like all things Southern, an affectation of manners. This time I have with even voice and sound mind laid marriage on the table. I have planned an elaborate question-popping once I've heard her answer. If it is no it will be easy enough to convert it back into its original form (a parade against wearing fur, beloved but ineffective.)

The things we are talking about are Important Things, things I had never considered particularly important before. Things like my bowed legs.

A genetic deficit to our children, Carolina chides. (Theoretical children ... surely.)

They've done me alright, I note.

Carolina laughs and her legs alpine and smooth stir ever so slightly as she inhales.

Besides, I note, cumulatively, our genetic account is in the black.

There, another Important Thing: our joint bank account. (Not so much theoretical as merely unpracticed.)

Another deficit, she announces a smidge too haughtily (the poverty of Carolina is understood and naturally dismissed), and while she ticks off the finer points of our prospects (death by law school debt) and the basic gist of inflation theory (death by inertia), I am fixated on her feet, gangly roots, Atlases of a hollow earth, founding members of a hallowed institution. I snatch them up in my hand, tickling them idly.

Another One: how to handle our impending identity crisis. The items on the list which are not dreadful are inconceivable, and those that are neither seem to be less in the spirit of the Ten Commandments than Carolina's liking will tolerate. Getting sober, Tantra, opening credit lines, bombing subways, shooting heroin, Little Red Book clubs, taking up golf, abusing privileges, lowering expectations, swinging, driving BMWs, these are the pastimes we will rely on when the Important Things have all gone to seed.

Now she is saying yes.

I hear the distant whistle of a parade master and the clipped, confused applause of what I imagine to be ten thousand women in fur coats on reprieve, oblivious of the parallel dimensions where lesser selves prevailed. We sit quiet Carolina and I in our own unshared worlds.

My hand is on her calf and her breathing is hushed and I feel these oblivions of ours joining into a dull cloud of happiness, exhausted by Important Things.

Now my hand is on her knee and while what ever we were before I gladly submit to scrutiny by a purposeful universe (by all accounts, also a parallel dimension, or perhaps merely a thought exercise, Socratically eradicated) what we are now falls outside scope and even listening carefully I cannot be sure Carolina is breathing at all.

My hand is on her thigh and a squadron of trombones spike the air with a thoroughly American flavor of perverse triumphalism and I realize in the pleading clamor of an escaped moan that Carolina's lesser self has prevailed in this dimension and a quantum of regret will envelop our lives, and I, Candide, victor of chance, and my hand pause only slightly in our voyage to marvel at the university of south Carolina as the marching band stops outside our narrow window and waits for us, eternally, to engage.

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