If I were ever held at gunpoint and my captor said he would let me go if I could tell him the key to maintaining a solid marriage, I would totally get away.
“The answer is obvious,” I’d tell him, pursing some Kim Basinger lips.
“It is?” he’d ask, pushing a lump of greasy hair out of his sleep-crusty eyes.
“Easy,” I’d say. “Being apart.”
“That’s very accurate,” the man would say, clipping off my PlastiCuff. “You can go.”
“Excellent,” I’d say, rubbing my wrists.
Then I’d pull some intricate karate move and restrain him until the FBI arrived.
I was thinking of this while I had my eyes closed on the plane last week. I was mid-flight from Detroit to Lexington, and it’s possible, given the absurdity of the idea that I have Kim Basinger lips, that I was partly sleeping. But dream or not, when I opened my eyes, I knew my answer was right and was never so excited to see my husband.
Over the past month, William and I have been apart twice, once when he went away to a conference with his friends, and again when I flew back to Winnipeg at the last minute to be with my ailing best friend Kristin (she’s better now).
For both of these periods of time, I was alone in a way that I haven’t been since I was single. That is to say, alone in the house over night, in Kentucky because Gabrielle was at her mom’s, in Winnipeg because my parents were in Australia so their house was empty.
During both of these periods, I re-experienced what it was like to be my single self. I ate popcorn for dinner after I melted and added extra butter. I didn’t throw away the bag until a few days later. I didn’t wash the dishes. I didn’t make the bed. I watched touchy-feely TV. I slept diagonally. Things were as quiet as the movie “All is Lost,” which I watched, and when I swore like Robert did, the break in silence was startling.
In the meantime, I knew my husband was becoming reacquainted with his single self — at nightclubs and during taxi rides with his friends while away, and by eating fried egg sandwiches while home alone.
Experiencing that part of ourselves pre-marriage, at least for us, is rejuvenating. You get to remember what it was like to be younger. You get to indulge yourself and don’t need to make any apologies. You get to be free of responsibility. And you get to enjoy all of these things in a deep, satisfying way exactly because you know it’s temporary.
The night before either I go away or William is about to leave also has its perks. Always, it is filled with drama. The suitcase alone, gaping with toiletries and sock balls, is a reminder that something is coming to an end and we’re running out of time.
“What am I going to do without you,” I say in my Nikki Newman soap star voice.
Sometimes I’ll put the back of my hand on my forehead for effect. Sometimes I’ll cling to him like a turtleneck. Always, we have a nice dinner, we toast to the trip, we have a good conversation.
Then we are apart, and the countdown until our reunion is on. Isn’t it funny how your relationship with the phone changes then? You charge it up more, you’re more careful not to drop it, you don’t forget it in the bedroom where you can’t hear it. No longer is it an instrument only to communicate that he needs to pick up celery from the grocery. Now it is your lifeline, the one way you can hear your husband’s voice, hear your heart grow fonder.
Shopping is also different. It’s not about cannellini beans or carpet cleaner. It’s about clothes, books, jewelry, shoes. Should you get him something? Should you concoct a surprise? What would he like? Would he wear it? Would he like it?
After a few days, it’s time to come home and before you land at the airport, you realize you’re just minutes from seeing them again. For the first time in a long time, everything is new. You put on lip gloss. Adjust your hair. Think about the fact that you should have ironed your shirt.
The reunion is sweet and invigorating. You don’t wonder if they love you; you know it. You remember how nice it is to miss them. You have so much to catch up on. You can tell them about the meals you ate. What’s going on with your friends, your family. What you thought of and cherished.
So, if I’m ever captured at gunpoint, I’ll know what to say. That’s one. But two? On the day that I celebrate my 10-year anniversary in Kentucky? I remember how nice it is to be home. And to be married to the most wonderful man in the world.