There were two levels of acrimony in our home – one was loud and clear as we fought about the pressing issues of doing the dishes or running late for an event. The other attack was much more stealth but no less destructive. It was also frighteningly familiar. We drifted further apart in our day-to-day taste of objects, film and television. No matter what I suggested, Billy had a better one. Vice versa. There was constant negotiation for the simplest thing to be accomplished.
It was really forum to air the larger differences camouflaged in more inconsequential terms. For example, Billy found a sweet little, bright red enameled ceramic airplane. Some of the paint was chipped and when he proudly put it on the top right of our Sattlers and Gaffer vintage stove, I crinkled my nose.
“It’s all chipped up,” was my immediate response.
“I think it looks good there,” he defended.
“We have all these cool little things on the shelf of the stove and then that?!”
“I like it,” and he was clearly hurt. I begrudgingly left it there. I now look at it with affection and true aesthetic appreciation, something that had eluded me. It’s not the haze of nostalgia that drives me to admire it every time I pass by. I genuinely like it there. Now.
The irony that hooked me last night was the exact same scene played out between Russell and me years earlier. I had brought home an eggcup in the shape of Princess Diana’s face from a London trip. I put it on top of our stove only to find it hidden the next day in a drawer. It grew into a divisive argument and Russell won. The eggcup didn’t see the light until the day I moved into my own place. It represented my freedom and I still look at it as it sits next to Billy’s red airplane and dumbly shake my head at the silliness of Russell’s reticence.
There were a thousand of those moments in my marriage to Billy, each one chipping a little piece away of our foundation. The rhythm of bickering is intoxicating in a relationship and it is difficult to parse the meaningful from the stupid. Whether it was about which restaurant to frequent or what kind of bread to buy, the gravity of each situation grew into an underlying feeling of mistrust of the others’ motivations. And it’s a shame. A dirty rotten shame.
So guess what will be carefully coddled in bubble wrap and placed proudly on top of my new stove in DC?