Judy T. Oldfield
Definitions of a Marriage

Mon Chou – (Fr.) ca. 1997 1. A phrase of French origin that literally translates as “my cabbage.” 2. A French term of endearment. 3. A phrase I learned in French class freshman year of high school and began calling you, which you did not like (see definition 1).

Light – (Eng.) ca. 1998 1. A source of illumination or heat. 2. An ignition. 3. A light cigarette. What I chain-smoked through sad, angry teenaged tears the night that we broke up.

Ginseng – (Chi.) ca. 2000 1. From the Chinese jen-shen. A plant native to Eastern Asia and North America. 2. A plant often used in herbal medicine and teas. 3. The tea that I was drinking when I ran into you at The Coffee Bean that day in February of Junior year when we finally started talking again.

Baby’s Breath – (Eng.) ca. 2001 1. A small, sprig-like plant, native to Eurasia, Australia, and Africa. 2. Flowers often used with others in a bouquet. 3. The flowers I wore in my hair at our Prom.

Sweetheart – (Eng.) ca. 2003 1. A term of endearment. 2. A word that I used in a short story in college and which my professors and classmates found unbelievable and old-fashioned. 3. A word that we called each other in college, when we were twenty years old and engaged and maybe a little bit old-fashioned.

Blue Moon – (Eng.) ca. 2004 1. A month with two full moons. 2. Something that doesn’t happen often, as in, “once in a blue moon.” 3. What I named the blue Civic my parents bought me, and the reason we have never had a car payment, despite the dents and scratches it has accumulated and the fancy cars our friends bought.

Us Against the World – (Eng.) ca. 2005 1. A phrase meaning two or more individuals fighting the rest of humanity or human systems. 2. How we felt when we moved to Seattle and were just married and had no friends. 3. The period in our lives when we had a small, dark, studio apartment and used cardboard boxes for furniture and went out drinking together on the weekends.

Gidget – (Eng.) ca. 2006 1. A California surf movie from 1959. 2. A character in the film Gidget, played by Sandra Dee. 3. A word you called me, playfully, alluding to my short stature.

Monsterface – (Eng.) ca. 2007 1. A visage that is angry or magical. 2. The call-and-response facial expression that we make to each other, biting our upper lips and furrowing our brows. 3. Our secret; how you will know me from my evil twin or clone, should that day ever come.

Yalla – (Arab.) ca. 2013 1. A word of Arabic origin meaning “let’s go.” 2. A term we picked up while spending the winter in the Middle East during our sixteen months of travel. 3. The thing we say to each other when we need to get going. 4. A word we say to our nieces and nephews to get them moving, without telling them what it means, forcing them to rely on context clues.

Too Into Each Other – (Eng.) ca. 2014 1. A phrase meaning that two people spend an inordinate amount of time together. 2 Bordering on codependency. 3. A phrase my mom said, asking if we were just a little “too into each other” because we do everything together. 4. The truth, as in, yes, we probably are a little too into each other.

Depression – (Eng.) ca. often 1. An above-normal amount of sadness or sorrow. 2. A feeling of despondency or inadequacy. 3. The creeping feeling that has always woven in and out of our lives, that has driven us to seek refuge in each other, to escape our lives to travel, to lay in bed and surf the Internet too much, and to find more worth in each other than we find in ourselves.

Together – (Eng.) ca. always 1. To be present in one place. 2. A group of two or more. 3. What we always are and always will be. Us against the world.

Flash nonfiction from Portland Review’s Winter 2016 issue.

Judy T. Oldfield's work has appeared in The Stranger and Saveur.com, among other places. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Michigan University in English and Comparative Religion. An adventurous eater, Judy has eaten rotten shark in Iceland and tarantula in Cambodia. She lives in Seattle.