“I have only the Vegas memory,” Maury said. Or perhaps it was “vaguest.” His eyes were hazing in that way that indicates the beginning of a recounting. “It was late,” he continued, “and she was nubile.”
I felt myself privileged finally to hear Maury tell the tale, so often adumbrated but so rarely revealed, of his brief marriage.
“It was a Lebanese restaurant. No – Algerian; they were playing nuba music. I was nibbling a bit. Through the haze – ob Rauch, ob Nebel – I glimpsed a figure, obnubilated.” (Maury does not limit himself to English in his periphrastic peregrinations; the German he said meant “whether smoke or cloud.”) “I did a belated double-take; she had eluded my gaze. But when I turned back to my libation, I was elated to see her coming my way. I say elated because she was, in this lugubrious tableau, a jubilee, a liberation. I invited her to sit, and introduced myself. She said her name was Luba. I observed that it reminded me of ya vas lyulblyu” – Russian for “I love you,” as Maury knew I knew. “She was bubbly but knowledgeable. We ate, and libated, and debated; it was ennobling. By evening’s end it was indubitable: we did not dabble; we were a couple. We went to the chapel.”
Maury stared off into the near distance. I waited. “Well?” I asked at length.
“It is no coincidence that obnubilate and nubile – and nuptials – sound similar,” he said. “Latin nubere, ‘wed,’ shares a root with nubilum, ‘cloud,’ apparently through the idea of veiling. Indeed, my eyes were veiled metaphorically just as she was veiled – obscured, obnubilated – literally. We had chosen, as our music, Pink Floyd’s Obscured by Clouds; it proved to be apposite, not only because of the obnubilation of thought and vision but because I found myself soon thereafter on the dark side of the moon.”
“She was nobility, and her family, on hearing the news, mobilized. ‘Noblesse oblige!’ It seems a lowly plebe was not suitable. Our ring was no longer a dollar-store bauble; it was the veritable baleful band of the Nibelungen. They saw their world in rubble if I did not enable annullment. Luba and I, in the light of day, saw our position as impossible with their opposition. We abjured, annihilated.”
Another pause followed. After a suitable wait, I asked, “Do you remain in touch?”
“In touch? No, alas. (Did I mention her nubility?) No further touching could be possible. But we have remained in word. We exchange letters every so often.” He held up his French cuffs to display links, Scrabble tiles: L and M. “She sent me these for my birthday.”
I have never seen the word obnubilate so ennobled. Thanks for the wonderful story!
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