At least once a day our marriage needs solving, if we stop working on it for a moment it devolves into something insoluble that can make us choke and die, in the relationship sense.
So today we hit one of those sticking points which, as I said, pretty much comes up if we are awake. The air around us got heavy with disappointment and hot with irritation because the glib phrase opposites attract should be a longer one that includes the word ‘sometimes’, and these ones too, ‘but mainly they repel’. And that is not swinging nonchalantly down rock faces with an ‘a’.
So we have chosen, and we appear to choose again and again, to have the impossible love affair, across a world of differences from personality to temperament, even down to insulting physical juxtapositions where our shared hedonism makes his perpetual thin make my reasonable outline look fat.
We are these two iconic opposites it’s fun to read about but not so much fun to be. Like The War of the Roses we are fast trying to hang with slow, hot with cold, work with play. We have to be convinced and then daily re-convinced to execute the exhausting moves that make such an unlikely partnership murder-free.
So today, or at least this morning, because the day looms long and full of further challenging sticking points, we were dogs. And this was a first. M had just said something completely gratuitous in my opinion and obnoxious as well, so typical of his personality type. It was appropos of nothing again characteristic of this particular brand of suffering. And I could feel my overly sensitive self grimacing ‘why’ at him. Divorce and murder danced in the air, in a way that wreaked of entitlement.
We were locked into another archetypal face off, like two Crowley Tarot cards, like good vs evil, like life vs death, when he smacked his hand down twice on the arm rest, started moving his shoulders in a higgledy, piggledy way and snorting through his nose like a boerbul cross Rhodesian Ridgeback, it was how you would translate rambunctious into a dog, if there was ever a situation that required this kind of solution.
I’m Amber, he said, reminding me of our beloved sturdy dog of that color, that bristled with personality too big to fit into his skin, who always had to have the last bark.
We both laughed, an extra gleeful laugh, the kind of gallows laugh when you don’t have to go to the gallows, the kind of laugh that meant we wouldn’t have to kill each other.
I immediately responded by wiggling around like a Maltese poodle, sniffing the air delicately.
I’m Bonnie I said, to his Amber.
You’re Milo he said, disagreeable to the last, and referring to our blonde Labrador we had left in a ‘good home’ in South Africa when we moved to the States.
Irritatingly not what I would have said, it was still an offer I should have taken. Labradors are indulgent, delightful, uncomplicated and full of love and joy, but I was so excited about the avoidance of death that I was prepared to offer myself as that most potentially unkind dog version of myself, the snappy, also delightful but very princessy Maltese, known for it’s piercing and persistent bark and being famously ‘over sensitive’. This was me confessing, this was me being self aware. Would that I could be as simple and straight forward as a Labrador.
But I was also just happy we were two eccentric dog types we could both love. This was couple therapy for us who have spent an excruciating forty years walking together hand in hand even when the ground regularly breaks open and an abyss yawns between us so that we must navigate almost impossible territory to be reunited again.
Dogs, kangaroos, orangutans. Whatever it takes, until death do us part, hopefully by natural causes.
M has just come in smiling benignly at my Maltese poodle self hunched over the completely unnecessary world of silly columns made up of too many words and feelings. I just got up promptly and pertly and got folded into a big hound hug.
He was laughing sneerily as he walked out and I wasn’t going to let that one go.
What you laughing at? I shouted oversensitively.
He said nothing, just carried on with the suspicious laughter, so I asked again. Poodles are persistent and readily injured.
‘You’re so bendy’ He said, and waved.
Gail Walter is www.hereforwonder.com