S. left yesterday for several days in the Northern Woods, first by himself and later to be accompanied by my brother and dad, before our family reunion this coming weekend. We both appreciate time by ourselves, a break from the constant companionship that makes up a marriage. Even when you aren’t together together, there is that whole other person to think about – what time is he coming home? what would he like for dinner? I wonder if he remembered to get the car’s oil changed? Etc. S. said, “I am going to eat processed meats like sausage and bacon that you don’t like, and drink beer, and fish. What will you do while I’m gone?” And I said, “I am going to work, and go to the gym, and have dinner with friends, and write.” Because he is the one physically leaving town, there’s a bit more play in his days. But my regular schedule, my writing and my time at the gym and my job, take on a certain shimmering quality when he’s not around – an extra fifteen minutes at the gym, and to heck with eating dinner at all! Late nights writing, with no one waiting for me in bed, delicious. Maybe one of the best facets of marriage is its civilizing factor – it forces you to have minimal good manners, to go to bed a little earlier, eat your veggies, savor another person instead of remaining steeped in work…well, in good marriages, at any rate. I don’t know what I’d do if S. stayed up all night playing video games or, I don’t know, drinking himself into the ground or something. For us crazy is an extra chapter of a novel on a weeknight before turning out the lights.I think probably my enjoyment from being alone is possible only because I am married, because it isn’t my current state all of the time. At least, that’s what my single friends assure me. S. and I, we constantly gauge each other – “How did you sleep,” “What are you reading,” “How is your day, so far?”, how are you, how are you, how are you. How are you doing, where are you going, when will you be home, do you want steak or salmon for dinner, can you pick up some wine, some beer, some cheese, some pencils, some clog drainer, oh, we’re having dinner tonight, with Anne and Bob and Meredith and Martyn, don’t forget the dry cleaning, I love you, how was work, what does your week look like, do you think we need a new television, have you sent out that wedding gift yet, please, no more pork chops for at least a month, I love you, saran wrap, why didn’t you replace the saran wrap? And should we hike on sunday morning, or stay in and read the paper? How are you? I love you. Call your mother. I love you. Amen.
Tonight after I go to the gym I will return to our home. I will pour a glass of shiraz and put on old clothes and take our plants outside and transplant them into new pots, something that seems like an alone kind of thing. For dinner I will stir fry chicken and vegetables and then I’ll watch some bad television and then I’ll go to bed (again) with the Henry family and travel to
California and the middle of the Pacific. Tomorrow I will work and sneak out early for dinner with friends, and pack, and the following day I will make the long drive to the northern woods myself, to begin a weekend with family. But first I will stop by our little cabin in the woods to pick up S., and we will speak the speak of the briefly separated – I missed you, How are you, did you catch any fish, did you sent out your manuscript, what do you want to eat/drink/do this afternoon, I love you, I missed you, I forgot your sunscreen, the bug dope, the paper plates – I transplanted plants, I finished a chapter, I caught a fish THIS big, I saw three deer, I spent all this time alone – it was weird. It was nice. It was lonely. Your father is crazy, your brother an ass – it sure is nice to be back.