My wife and I used to share mainly lust. Now, we share work and arguments. Maybe we need a vacation. The disagreements usually come on Sunday, when we’re reading the paper, and I complain about the country.
My wife’s more liberal than I.
“They (immigrants) probably have as much right to be here as you,” she says. “Your grandfather was an immigrant.”
“He didn’t pay for roads and schools for immigrants like I pay,” I say angrily.
“Could we drop it? This is all we ever talk about.”
“I have a right to an opinion.”
My father had a coiffured Donna Reed-style wife of the 1950s waiting at the door in a silk gown with a spatula in her hand, my mother. She never disagreed with him. How come my dad had low housing prices and a respectful wife, but not me?
“I’m sick of whining and complaining.”
“What did you say?”
“Are you calling me a whiner?”
“That’s not what I said.”
“Yes it is.”
“That’s what you thought I said,” she replies.
“No! No!” I wag a finger. “Deal straight, like a man, yes or no, did you just call me a whiner?”
“We can’t communicate.” She evaded my direct question, expertly, like a politician, a feminine ploy.
“You called me a whiner.”
“That’s what you heard, not what I said.”
“I don’t have to take this. I’ll pack my suitcase.”
This is the wrong response. She’s supposed to cry, beg me not to go, like my mom would of with my dad. I’m embittered more. I go into the bathroom and curse her. “I got to get out of here.” I say it loud enough for her to hear. “I’m a prisoner. I’ll move to the Marquesas Islands.”
I have no intention of acting on that threat. But pride needs female submission. I decide to risk a physical display of force. I come out and kick a closet door. “I don’t have to take this,” I shout.
“Neither do I,” she yells back. In a rare display of anger, she throws a chair.
I head for the front door. I hear her scream in the kitchen. A pot I washed and was drying by putting it on a heated grill has been left on too long. She reached to put the pot away, and red hot, it burned her hand.
My heart breaks. Horrified, I run to help stick her hand under a pouring faucet. “Are you okay?”
“Why’d you do that?”
A silent minute passes between us.
I realize, I wouldn’t last a week alone on that tropical island.
A wife can’t be a mother confessor, or a shoulder to cry on. She’s a kindly stranger you decided to live with, and somehow, God help you, you’ve learned to love.