It’s not so much that I thought she was cheating. Even though, okay, I guess I kind of thought that. But I do realize that I didn’t know it in that way where you feel sure enough to just come out and ask someone. Even though sometimes, when it’s that moment where you’re about to ask, and you can feel them willing you not to ask, you can feel in that space between you, the silent pushing back of the question, doesn’t that usually tell you something?
But it wasn’t that so much, because that on its own we could have overcome. No, it was the knowing that even if she hadn’t actually cheated, even if she hadn’t, there was this whole universe of not going on beside me. And would be for eternity, and it drove me insane. It’s not fair. It’s like a game the whole world is playing on me and I will not have it. I just won’t. So there.
You might think that’s petulance, contrariness, but it was the rawest of pain. I felt so alone, dropped on this earth a loner instead of point man in a family, a team, a cluster. I’m jealous of sisters who cuddle on the couch, or friends who cuddle like sisters, easy with each other in the way of puppies. I’m jealous of easy loves and sloppy families ambling down the street from the 7-Eleven, sucking Big Gulps and passing a bag of Cheetos back and forth. Unhealthy yes, but together in their orange fingers and idle crunching.
I did it because of the fingers. I did it because of the space.
Maybe one of the reasons I keep feeling that I’m fighting the same battles is that I do things at the same time of day. I write in the morning, even when I’d rather be doing yoga or meditating or getting out with the dog, but I seem to have worked this habit into my bones. Even when I don’t feel much like writing, which is lately, I grab the pen and begin.
Every year at this time, we have a blow-up about taxes. It’s similar to a vacation blow-up, where there’s some funny little thing you joke tentatively about for a few days—his inability to say where he wants to eat, her unfortunate tendency to navigate from a map of the wrong town—and then, by the third day, maybe about four o’clock, when you’re hungry and tired and hot and thirsty and have had to pee for ever, someone says something that might have gotten a laugh a few hours ago but suddenly is grounds for divorce.
“It’s such a beautiful night, let’s work on taxes!” is the non-vacation version. By the twentieth time I say it, we’re usually days away from when we have to get our completed worksheet into our accountant, the beautiful David Turrentine. I generally start my casual references in February, saying things like, “If we just do a few hours a week, we’ll be done before we know it!” or “I worked on mine for a few hours today and I feel great!” To me, this sounds encouraging and helpful, just like it sounds to Dave when he says, “If you just concentrate on the map you won’t feel so carsick.”
“How am I supposed to look at a map when we’re about to topple into the Irish Sea?” is the equivalent of “You don’t understand how much I hate taxes.”
“Everyone hates taxes” and “People drive this road every day.”
“It’s really just a matter of doing what needs to be done.”
“But why do they plant hedges right where you need to see what’s coming? It’s like they want to make it as difficult as possible.”
“I’m sorry, that’s just how it is here.”
“I’m not blaming you, it’s just…you have all these expectations.”
“I know you’re doing your best.”
“I really am trying.”
“I know. For God’s sake watchout!”
“I see it.”
“Then why are you driving straight into it?”
“It’s a parking lot. Come on, let’s get some lunch.”
“Don’t forget to save the receipt. Technically, this is research.”
“Don’t start on next year already.”
“But if we start now…”
But this year, we seem to have sidestepped the blow-up. Even though I started earlier than usual this year, with my first “Feel like starting on taxes?” in January instead of February. Even though I danced around the kitchen last night singing “I’m done I’m done I’m done” with my printed report in hand, when Dave had only set up his card table a few hours before. Even though we have to have our stuff to David T. by tomorrow, not Monday as I originally thought. Dave is deep in now, and I think the danger has passed.
Which is good. I’m grateful for the win, but it feels weird. It’s like when I look at the new kitchen and see why we’re not going on any fancy vacations any time soon. It’s totally worth it. It means progress. It means change. But I have to remind myself that change is good. Change is what winners do. And anyway, there’s always next year.