Just now, as I was turning off the shower, the handle that controls the water pressure came off in my hand. After 30 seconds of awkward struggle, I managed to get the frustrating thing back on, so that I could turn off the shower. And I thought, of course. Not cheerful of course. Not angelic, baby-faced of course. But exhausted, semi- sardonic of course.
Now, if I were married to a doctor, I think I would find it much easier to laugh off falling shower handles. Oh, my husband, the hypothetical me (who is also much thinner in this fantasy) would say, he is so good at other things! And then I would throw back my head full of long, auburn curls, and laugh, some high, carefree laugh, that in real life I am incapable of. A laugh so light, it summons Spring, peonies unfurling at its sound.
But, he is not a doctor, my husband. He blanches at the sight of blood. He goes into shock when our children get hurt, to the point where several hospital staff members have asked if he was also injured. He wasn’t.
He is, however, a plumber. And a good one. No, a great one.
One of the reasons that I ever married him in the first place, was because I watched him take a walk in closet, and turn it into a complete, finished, full bathroom, in less than two days, and less than 15 hours total. I was 21, and so very impressed. I was yearning for a hard working man to take up some of the space that my then-unemployed father, well, didn’t. And, I was in my Damn-the-Man stage, (yes really,) and so wanted to be with someone that did something tangible for a living. Something respectable. Something needed. No paper pushers or promoters for me, thank you very much. No, sir. We were only 2 years out of Y2K, and I remembered that feeling that it could all fall apart, knew that people needed to have real skills to survive. Even though it hadn’t. Even though I didn’t.
I might have worked at the mall through college, but I had ideals. And by ideals, I mean that I watched Empire Records often, and added to my childhood hard opinions on everything, without the life experiences to back them up.
Anyway, it wasn’t the first time that the darn handle came off in my hand, and it probably won’t be the last. And it’s not really about the shower hardware anyway, is it? It’s about another thing that he could do, but didn’t. Another I do, I will, in front of friends and family, that he hasn’t.
It’s been building again. This hurricane of aching miscommunication that my marriage is currently in. And I know, I know, that marriage is filled with ebbs and flow. I know that there is a time to hold on, and a time to let go. I know that I am not always right, that he is not always wrong, that sorrow and darkness last for a while, but that joy and sunlight are often right around the corner, waiting to break forth splendidly, just like the dawn. I know. But the thing is, I still am hurting. I still am wishing that it wasn’t like this. I am tired of fighting. Tired of doing all the cleaning, literally and metaphorically.
I am tired of recycling wrongdoings, and never getting rid of them. Of just turning them into something else. Melted down bottles that still hold 16 oz. of hurt, only now they are an ill-fitting fleece pullover. Too hot for this season, seams bound together with resentment.
I am tired of thinking of pros and cons, of the ins and the outs, and the what ifs of coming apart. We are a door, falling off of its hinges. One always open, one always closed, posing a hazard to those passing through. We weave, and we wobble, we try to right ourselves. And for a day or two, things look promising. Then words or looks are taken personally, and scabs are ripped off, and we are, again, two separate hurts.
What makes it so bad, is that it doesn’t have to be this way. We are like that old nursery rhyme about the girl, who when she was good, she was very, very, good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.
Maybe, that’s worse.
If we were incapable of reaching such great heights, maybe I wouldn’t expect it. If we hadn’t summited Everest, would I be content to stand on speed bumps and hilltops? Maybe I would settle down, bunker mundanely into compromising contentment. I wouldn’t know how amazing the world seemed when my husband and I are in total harmony, so I wouldn’t ache for it. Like people who have never tried crème brulee or cannoli with mascarpone. They just go on their less cellulited way, never knowing what they are missing.
It would, right? Hurt less, I mean.
But no, it doesn’t, not for me. The sting is there, such an old wound. I apologize if I have said this before, but it makes me think of first grade. My private school’s back door led out onto a metal grated landing, then down the same metal stairs, to where we played. All year, I tripped going over the doorway, both on the way outside, and on the top lip of the uppermost step on the way back in.
I tripped so often, that all year, my knees remained constantly bruised. I still remember the look of them, black and blue orbs, peaking out from underneath my skirt. Never healing, never looking like I imagined them. They stung more with each time that I fell, the metal biting into my young flesh, unapologetically. Then, maybe I would watch my step even more carefully, but just as my knees turned green with relief, I would trip again.
That is how my marriage feels just now.
And no, that doesn’t mean that it is the end. I don’t have all the answers for us, but I trust that small kindnesses, like overlooking handles coming off in my hand, will lead to a place where we can start again.