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Excerpted from Even the Stars Look Lonesome by Maya Angelou. Copyright 1998 by Maya Angelou. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"My last marriage was made in heaven. The musical accompaniment was provided by Gabriel."

Maya Angelou, Even the Stars Look Lonesome, Part 1

My last marriage was made in heaven. The musical accompaniment was provided by Gabriel, and angels were so happy that ten thousand of them danced on the head of a pin. It was the marriage to end all my marriages. My husband had dropped out of architecture school and become a builder. In fact, in Britain, where he had lived, he was called a master builder. We married in Los Angeles, where he bought and rebuilt old houses, then sold them at handsome profits. We then moved to Sonoma County, where he found more old houses to refurbish. He restored a genteel, polished look to old Victorians and modernized 1930s bungalows. After several years of rapturous married life we moved to the Pacific Palisades, into a futuristic condo that thrust its living room out over a California canyon with a daring and an insouciance usually to be found only in a practiced drunk pretending sobriety. There in that very expensive and posh settlement the foundation of my marriage began to collapse.

With all heart-sore lovers I say, "I don't know what went wrong." But I suspect it was the house. The living room was two stories high, and I put my large three-by-five-foot paintings on the walls, and upon those vast reaches they diminished and began to look little better than enlarged color posters. I laid my Indian and Pakistani rugs on the floor over the beige wall-to-wall carpeting and they drowned in the vastness of the living room, appearing little more than colorful table mats on a large boardroom table.

Everything was built in--standard oven, microwave oven, grill, garbage disposal, compactor. There was nothing for my husband to do.

Before, when our marriage had shown weakness--as all marriages do, I suppose--I would argue with my husband on his procrastination in taking out the garbage or his failure to separate the cans from the glass bottles, or his refusal to brush the Weber clean and empty the ashes. But, alas, since the house did everything itself, I couldn't blame him for his inconsequential failures, and was forced to face up to our real problems.

Floundering or not, we still had the ability to talk to each other. I asked what he thought was the matter, and he said, "It's this damned house. We are simple people and it is too damned pretentious." (I did question if we were truly simple people. I was the first black female writer/producer at Twentieth Century-Fox, a member of the board of trustees of the American Film Institute, and a lecturer at universities around the world--from Yale to the university in Milan, Italy. He was a builder from London, a graduate of the London School of Economics, the first near-nude centerfold for Cosmopolitan magazine, and formerly the husband of Germaine Greer. Our credentials, good and bad, hardly added up to our being simple people.)

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