Sunday afternoon, we sit outside our house in the car. We’ve just come back from lunch, but we are listening to Fresh Air on NPR. It’s quiet except for the sound of Alain de Botton’s voice, talking about the culture of Americans and their perceptions on success. We fell back last night, and the extra hour has given the day a magical quality, a lengthiness not usually present.
I reach out for my husband’s hand. He takes it, softly, just a few of our fingers touching. It’s the slightest slip of contact, a breeze, a single tone of music, like almost nothing at all.
Twenty-four hours before, we were fighting. The tension in the house made it seem like the walls would buckle. It was the kind of powerful bad that makes one feel like they could be buried alive in it. When he left on an errand, I buried my hands in the freezing water and peeled hard-boiled eggs. Occasionally, I would hold the shells in my hands and squeeze until they broke into tinier, sand-grain-sized pieces. The rain pattered on the window, like it was trying to get in and reach me.
Nobody tells you these things, when you’re considering spending your life with someone. Nobody tells you that there will inevitably come a day when the chemicals of your emotions will create such fierce reactions that it will light the world on fire. They will try to say, “All couples fight” or “You’ll occasionally get on each other’s nerves,” but it’s nothing like the reality of the feeling of that moment.
“We are both moody, passionate people, and this will always happen.” He said it after he came home, and the storm had passed, and we were eating burritos together. We were touching. Our wounds were wrapped, the bleeding stopped, the battle done. Stalemate.
Never let anyone say that they have never fought with the love of their life. What they are actually saying is, we are an atomic bomb in the belly of a ship. We are in a holding pattern. We are still now, but when we fall, we’re going to take the whole world with us.
I look over at him today. On the other side of his smile, I can see the starburst colors of the leaves, the placid backdrop of blue sky. An unfamiliar sight in Pittsburgh autumn.
I smile too.
I understand why some people can’t stay married. It requires a patience unlike any other. It means waiting for the moments between the every day life and the blinding explosions of self-righteousness, anger, stupidity for the touch of warmth, the Sunday afternoon, the magic of the stolen hour. It’s not just “for better or for worse”; it’s all the time in between. It’s the best and the worst. Not so much I do as I will.
I will forgive you. I will hurt you. I will let things go. I will forget. I will remember. I will cry. I will sit with you under a sun that only just touches the cold. I will burn with you when our star explodes. I will stand by your side until another one blinks into existence.
I will try.