Cecilia has been pressing me to finish this story. It’s done! I told her. Finis! And as I discovered, marriage was the ultimate business for Oso. It was the end to everything, rather than the beginning it should have been. Let nobody say that Oso runs my life because it would be a lie. I have to admit that the order we created–together!–has always made a strange kind of sense to my soul, despite all.
First, I’m going to tell you, rather than show you, a little more about Oso. Oh, I’m sure you understand what kind of man he is after having read my previous installments. But this time I’m going to be blunt. Oso is brilliant. I have a PhD in genetics and am currently living my dream as a researcher; he has no degrees and his IQ outstrips mine by a good fifteen to twenty points. He’s instinctive. He’s clever. He’s in charge and has the bulldog body to back it up. He scares the living daylights out of most people because most people can’t compete with him on any level, neither physically nor mentally. In addition, he hires the right sort of engineer who will create the right sort of innovative products that will make Oso very, very rich. More on that in a minute.
Do you remember? When asked what his future plans were, back in high school, the yearbook staff highlighted this quote: “I’m going to make money.” They printed the words in bold as if he had said something profoundly important or noble, something along the lines of what a high school girl might breeze on about: “I plan to end world hunger!” Perhaps the term important has been slightly misconstrued as an end rather than a beginning, and perhaps the yearbook teacher, Claire, intimately understood how much more clever Oso was than the average idealist. Making money, and being brilliant about it, creates the means to propagate charity.
Oso did make money, and this money spawned more money, as well as a cluster of charity projects, which he, of course, headed, that benefited his local community. But I would sorely appreciate the credit I deserve in all of this. Oso, being one type of brilliant man, never could quite grasp that not all brilliant men were of his ilk. In the early days, when he was just forming his team, he brought over a stack of resumes to my apartment and slapped them down in front of me.
“I don’t get these people, Julia,” he said. “I need to know if they’re geniuses, autistics, both, or neither. I need to know if I can work with them. You have to help me.”
It wasn’t the first time I wished he would use the words please and thank you when commanding me to do something. I thumbed through the pages and stifled a yawn. I honestly didn’t care about Oso’s employees, or potential ones. “By these people I assume you mean engineers. You don’t expect me to read through these resumes, do you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“There’s no way I can tell from a resume whether someone is a genius or autistic. I have to interview them, and even then, I won’t be able to give you an official diagnosis without tests.”
“No tests. They’re potential employees, not patients. I’ll allow you to interview them.”
He wouldn’t ask for my professional opinion. He would allow me to give it, while failing to notice that I would rather have poked hot needles in my eyes than be put in a position where I could cause Oso to fail in his great life task of making money. What if his business went bankrupt, owing to me? From that day forward, and despite my protestations, I was part of his hiring team, but that was only because I was successful with my choices the first time around. Oso insisted those were the ones he would have picked, anyway, and he was thankful for the confirmation. It happened that way consistently. Ever after, Oso would have picked the same people I tentatively recommended, who then went on to positively succeed at their jobs.
As it turned out, I had a skill for picking competent, creative, and sane people. The last trait, obviously, was the most important. Once, when his human resources department insisted he had to hire at least one female for the sake of appearances, he handed the project to me because I was the one who had chosen his male-dominant team of shifting players. The females had never quite convinced me they had the two Cs and the S keeping them in balance and, frankly, I must admit that Oso doesn’t work well with women of any competence level. He doesn’t work with them at all. He charms them. On the other hand, I may have had a natural prejudice toward any young female who would be working under Oso. His charm worked a little too well.
I sifted through the female resumes, narrowed the group to the top three achievers, and then picked the ugliest. By ugly, I mean receding-chin, nose-like-a-toucan’s, ugly. And Oso henceforth loved her—in, I hope, a completely Platonic way. She was loyal, smart, and attune to deadlines, which most of his brilliant men just weren’t. She had the stamina to push projects through to completion. She was his godsend. His word, not mine.
What does all this have to do with the end of things? It has a lot to do with it, actually. About three months after Oso and I finally married, we decided to buy a house. He left the decision up to me, told me in no uncertain terms to pick whatever house I fancied. That was a first. I chose a house in town for ease of commute; I chose a middle-sized bungalow for ease of cleaning; I chose it for its front porch, its basement, and its two above-ground stories. Without the porch or basement measurement, the house was about 1600 square feet. The basement would be mine; the other two stories would belong to Oso and the children in whatever way they divvied up the space.
“No,” Oso said, after I gave him the tour.
I almost blew up. He’d given me the choice. Me. How dare he say no? “Why not?”
“Because I don’t want you living in the basement and pretending we still have our own places. I can see what you’re thinking, and it’s not going to happen.”
I tried to control myself, but I couldn’t. I shouted at him. “So now I’m not allowed to pick a house with a basement?”
He had the grace to appear surprised at my outburst. “The house is beautiful. It’s yours if you want it,” he said, and his mildly amused tone irritated me. “You’ll live on the first floor with me. Not in the basement. The kids can have the upstairs. I need you. More than you’ve ever needed me.”
And that—right there—is the end of it. Oso needed me. He needed the toucan-beaked woman, but differently. He needed me for safekeeping until death. We moved in and sent the kids running through from the basement to the top and then down again. Meanwhile, we shut ourselves in our very first room together, and Oso may have sighed and relaxed for the first time in his life. He flopped down on the bed we’d just assembled together.
“Will you bring me a beer, Julia? Please?” he asked. “I’m tired.”
Oso had clearly arrived, but had I? I had a career, three children, a husband, and a house—achieved, or blessed, in that order. I fetched Oso his beer (he had, after all, asked nicely) and then wandered upstairs to look down at the spring apple tree blooms in my new backyard.
I hadn’t arrived, but I was home. At least for now.