My second husband is the forgetful sort. He leaves his wet towel on the bed in the morning. My side of the bed, of course. And it drives me crazy. He often forgets his wallet, he loses his keys. He nonchalantly discards a long-lingering trail of himself at all the places we visit in the evening, like breadcrumbs. We weave our way back again to retrieve them. A credit card at the restaurant. His hat at the bar. My patience at the door.
He leans in over my shoulder, runs his kisses up my neck while I’m standing at the sink and that drives me crazy, too. The hair on my arms stands up straight, my hands are buried in dishes. Stop, stop I tell him, Can’t you see I’m busy now and I shrug him away. But what I really mean is never stop. And, thankfully, he never does.
I am an arguer, it’s s an awful trait. I find fault in the smallest details. I take what he says sometimes and repackage it, hurling it back to him again.
“So what you’re saying is…” I begin an argument, with my hand on my hip, as he looks at me confused.
Of course, that was not what he was saying at all.
And after awhile neither of us knows what the conversation is about anymore. And we look at each other with wide open eyes, laughing. The laughing is always better. At least there is always laughing.
We bring up the spouses that came before, in ways that would surely make a marriage therapist cringe. Did you talk to her like this? Were you this frustrating with him?
Maybe THIS is why you got a divorce.
It certainly must make our relationship worse. And other times, it’s an opportunity for reflection. Yes, this was a mistake that I made before and one I don’t want to make. And also: oh man, I am doing it again.
Life is a stop-start pattern of feast and famine in a second marriage, when you share no children together. All the kids one weekend and no kids the next. Living with teenagers one Saturday and living like them the next. Out on cold evenings with friends a full decade younger, ordering up the dollar shots at the dive bar. One more round for the table, please.
Our co-workers and college classmates are sound asleep in their bedrooms and we are hoarse-throat singing karaoke until 2 am, when the bar closes. We are sharing a borrowed cigarette in the wet parking lot, except we don’t smoke, we don’t smoke, we don’t.
But we do so many things we didn’t do before.
We are shuffling into the backseat of a car of some strange man, whose face seems vaguely familiar but I can’t quite place. Because of four Coronas and two Apple Pie shots.
And then I realize he’s my high school science teacher.
I am drunk and someone’s mom and riding in an Uber car with a man who gave me a C- in Chemistry.
And isn’t that something?
I fall asleep on even the shortest car rides. First my head resting on the humid window, then against the back of the seat. Until I am leaning on his shoulder. He whispers into my ear all the electric things that we’re going to do when we are home, when we are back upstairs in our marriage bed, in a four bedroom colonial where we raise our children. The house in the cul-de-sac where we play grown-up pretend.
In the car, his voice crawls into my consciousness and nestles in with the misplaced images of early sleep—my open computer screen and my children riding their bicycles down the neighborhood streets. I am liminal, caught between two worlds. Sleep and awakenedness. Passion and obligation. Mother and lover. Not-quite-old and not-quite-young.
“Yes, yes, I can’t wait til we’re home.” I breathe into his soft shirt and rest my hand on his thigh.
Maybe when we’re home, maybe we’re… home. I am in and out and in between, this is the cadence of my beautiful life now.
I am half-asleep, until he wakes me, shakes me on the shoulder.
Baby we’re home.
And on to the couches we fall: contented, exhausted, evolving. Two people with everything to lose, riding home together through the darkness.
Grateful for one last shot at infinity.