He certainly didn't want to hurt Tally and he wasn't sure if, with his limited lexicon, he could fully articulate his belief that he loved her too much to marry her.
This whole idea of setting free your most beloved came to him, not from Sting in his first solo album after leaving The Cops, but from a novel his nerdy cellmate Zeke Salamby loaned him, John Fowles's French Lieutenant's Woman, an existential masterpiece riffing on the Fallen Woman archetype while half parodying, half commending the great Victorian novels.
(To say more about this masterwork of metafiction would be unfair to the hundreds of fans of the Howard Desseray epic who plan to read it once the holidays have finally ended.)
But how to explain this to a somewhat conventional abductee whose interest lay mostly in studio art and welding and whose book shelves were stabilized only by the ballast of Xavier Hollander's best works?
Finally, during their Tuesday evening tiddlywinks marathon, Howard, holding his two squidgers in his hand, began to voice his fears. He opened by reminding her of that wise assertion made by Samuel Johnson, famous for having his life chronicled by someone who in modern days would have been arrested for stalking and invasion of privacy: "Celibacy has many pains, but marriage has no pleasures."*
Tally listened carefully and pensively, her head lowered, staring for no good reason at the new wart-hog tattoo on the back of her right hand, a little luxury she had afforded herself at a flea market near Townsville.
Listening was all she could do, really. Howard's position was too idealistic, too Keatsian one might say, too rich with all that was ever written, painted or said about True Love by the brightest and best minds, yes, too full of pure grandeur for a mere abducted welder to refute, even with the cogent argument she had prepared beforehand.
So while he spoke with the sincerity only love can evoke, utilizing a variety of sentence patterns, rhetorical questions, dazzling analogies, and an abundance of Oprah Winfrey quotes, Tally replayed in slow motion the conversations, counseling and ruminations that had led her to this point.
People would talk, she knew that. Her parents, of course, would complain that marrying one's abductor was clearly a step down the social ladder, making it even less likely that their neighbors would invite them over for ore durves, apper teefs, or puh teet for.**
Tally's well-meaning friends had already warned her about the likely imbalance of power in a marriage that began as an abduction.
Her friend Patrice asked her, "Don't you think the submission and powerlessness you felt as an abductee would resurface each time you two were confronted with a major decision? Can't you see how you would defer to his wishes, especially if he were holding a roll of duct tape? In his heart, Howard will always see you as a commodity -- chattel, if you will. How will you ever undisempower yourself?"
"Chattel? Are you sure it's pronounced like that? And I have complete confidence in my ability to achieve self-undisempowermentilization."
But even before her friends "cracked their teeth" (Big House slang for "spoke") Tally was well aware her marriage to Howard wouldn't be a paved highway, a recently lubricated sliding-door track, but she also knew he was more than just a typical abductor. He was a man of lovingkindness.
She would never forget that he had honored her wish not to be bound and gagged the day he first abducted her, and as their relationship grew warmer, it was she, not Howard who, on special occasions, suggested the duct tape.
And she wouldn't be going into the marriage a stereotypically naive welding student. She wasn't in denial. She understood it was what it was. She didn't have her head in the sand. She wasn't blindfolded (anymore) by love.
In fact, she had read the cold statistics in Ladies' Home Journal that showed the divorce rate among heterosexual abductor-abductee couples was almost as high as that of "normal" heterosexual couples.
And then there was the couple's rich storehouse of memories to consider:
They spent a lot of time together, pitching horseshoes, eating oysters on the half shell at Ned & Jed's Fish Camp, attending arena football games, combing the lint off their matching dark blue "I'm with Dipshit! 😆" sweaters, sniffing some corks at Vins somme Nous,*** and driving Howard's 1965 Buick Riviera through the Citgo car wash, windows down.
Who else could give her a life like this? And was even this a rhetorical question?
It was time. She must make Howard her own, abduct his magnificent heart and hold it for ransom beyond his means . . .
*Author's note: To my dear friend and Johnson scholar John Vance: I know, I know.
**Please keep in mind Tally's speech affliction, phoneticalism.
***Roughly translated, "Wine Is Us," according to Howard's former cellmate and French friend Maurice.