Marriages are funny things. Not that I’m married, of course. It’s just that to start this little segment with defacto relationships are funny things, well, it’s just a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? Makes folks think that the reason they are funny is because they are not marriages. Confusing, I know. But I’ll just put it out there, they are funny too, those defactos. Quite absurdly funny.
It is not uncommon, at breakfast, to feel as though the bottom will fall completely out of my defacto marriage. I can stare at this man before me, unsure as to whether I should throttle him or cry, and wonder how it is that we will ever make it to the finish line unscathed. I study him and wonder if he knows me at all, and then I catch myself checking if I have ever stepped outside of my own self long enough to really know him. To really, really know him. It’s a mixed up world, this marriage business, and sometimes I feel like Alice in Wonderland going deep, deep down the rabbit hole asking a disappearing cat with big teeth which way I ought to go while a hyped up old rabbit jumps up and down next to me yelping Don’t worry, we’re all mad here! We’re all mad here!
By the afternoon, though, I can feel as though no two people in the entire world are as close as we are, and know each other like we do. I can feel like I’m in the centre of something so solid it’s wearable, like a warm woolen cardigan I slide my arms into and button all the way to the top so the wind can’t get in.
Yesterday was a day like that. I started the day thinking That’s it. No more. This egg is COOKED. I wondered how it would fizzle out, this fight, and even though they always had in the past, it felt impossible this time, like we were standing on opposite poles of the earth, both cold, both looking at the huge expanse of the entire world between us, both too tired to even attempt to make it back.
It fizzled though, like it always does, and we made it back to middle ground more quickly than I had anticipated. We’re getting better at it, our resolutions. What once would take three days of silence, sulking and stubbornness to finally address, we are now quicker to admit fault and apologize. It’s hard to do isn’t it, to apologize first? And to really mean it; to not have a hidden agenda to weasel out a reciprocal apology too. To resist the urge to highlight all of their flaws. To simply take responsibility for your own.
Yesterday afternoon, I took a step back and watched Joel as he took care of Ella. I lay in bed reading and overheard snippets of conversations they were having. I thought that I really ought to do less more often.
Joel: You know, when I was in Indonesia, I was hanging out with some people and they thought rice was a root vegetable! How funny is that!
Ella: Bangs hands on table. Eeeeee. Eeeeeeeee!
Joel: And did you know, that when you cook rice there’s lots of magnesium in the rice water? Actually, I think that’s only with brown rice. Yeah, I think it’s only brown. Not this white rice you’re eating.
Ella: Ahhhhh! Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma.
I couldn’t help but smile to myself. I couldn’t help but love Joel so much.
The good vibe we had going on between us carried through to the night, so after Ella had gone to bed, we ordered Indian takeaway and sat on the couch together eating. It felt like we were back at the beginning. It felt as though we were just a couple of wide-eyed youths with no real plans in life, high on sexual attraction and wondering which country we should visit next. It was lovely.
Then, this morning, I woke up at 7am with a fright. Usually, I wake at 4. Usually, I am in Ella’s room, cursing every strand of hair on her head that she has such an inconsiderate body clock. Usually, I am in there trying to get her back to sleep and convincing myself that I’m not cut out for this in the slightest and that I will never have another baby ever again.
However, this morning, Joel had whisked Ella down to the park to let me have a sleep in. He had done the dishes and tidied the house and washed the nappies and brought me a coffee. I looked around, alarmed and frightened. Something was wrong, I thought. He’s having an affair. He has to be. He saw the look on my face and laughed.
Rach, I’ve been telling you all along, he said. You make the effort to talk in my language and I make the effort to talk in yours.
I stared back at him, still in shock that he had ACTUALLY picked up a dishcloth and used it to CLEAN stuff.
Well, I thought. It’s really that simple, isn’t it?
I must remember that, she said to herself for the billionth, millionth time.