Tuesday Evening: Married?

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I could smell curry from the hallway. I slipped through the door, and in the moment before he noticed me, I watched Chris concentrating on the workings of his own mind. He seemed at home in a way he never did with me. I briefly wished he found me as fascinating as his theories, then immediately knew that to be unfair.

I worried Chris would be angry that I was so late, but he looked up with an open, welcoming smile, as though I’d woken him from a daze. Beside him, several papers were strewn about, bearing scrawled notes and computations. I was already learning to tread carefully when I came upon him in this fragile state between the theoretical and real worlds. I walked across the room quietly to stand behind him. I rubbed my hands together. then held them above his head before gently laying my palms above where his left and right hemispheres churned below. He leaned back into me with a sigh.

Humming softly to myself, I slowly massaged his temples, adding slight pressure behind his cranium with my thumbs. I loosened the muscles between his skull and neck, behind his ears, and lightly held the pressure points at the base of his skull. I circled my fingers around his forehead, stroking down his nose, then lightly cupped his eyeballs and cheekbones with the palms of my hands. His breath was slow and deep. I felt him further release his weight back into the chair, into me.

I softly rubbed the skin of his face and jaw before leaning my chin atop his head. He reached with his hand to squeeze my leg, and shook himself a little to come back into the world.

“That was nice. I’m glad you’re home.”

“Me, too. It’s been a long day.”

“Were they hard on you again?”

“A little, but the worst is thinking I deserve it.”

“It’s not about deserving, you know.”

“I know.”

I sunk into my chair. The food had been sitting awhile – Chris was already finished.

“I can heat that up for you.”

“Nah, I don’t mind.” I started to eat mechanically. The tepid food tasted good, but I didn’t pay much attention. Shovel, chew, swallow. Shovel, chew, swallow.

“So, I got some news today. A field opening. In New Zealand, not even a third world country.”

I jumped up and threw myself into his arms, knocking my chair over. He wasn’t quite expecting it, and we both fell off-balance. Ethan had often observed that I liked to throw myself like a grenade, and Chris wasn’t used to this exuberance. I resolved to tone it down a bit.

“That’s wonderful! When?”

“It will take about twelve months for all the arrangements, assuming we get the grant. Which seems pretty likely now.”

“A year? A year is a million miles away.”

“It’s not very long. It gives us time to plan and save, get married…”

“Whoa! Married?”

Where did that come from? I tried to make a joke of it.

“Aren’t you supposed to get down on one knee, tell me how I light up your life, give me a ring with a big fat diamond in front of a room full of people? Isn’t it supposed to be romantic?”

“I guess I thought it was understood. I think THAT’s romantic – to be so in synch that we don’t have to put up pretences of shallow ritual.”

“Well, when you put it like that…but you’re so certain. Like you know I’ll say yes.”

“Why wouldn’t you? You came here. We’re not kids anymore, Christine. We need to decide and get on with it. I think we want the same thing, to partner up on life as an adventure together. Don’t you want that?”

“Well, yes, but I can’t get married! Married? Unless it’s like a practical joke, co-opting the norm for sport, like Trix and Bash.”

“You point to Trix and Bash as an example of a good marriage?”

“No, just one that shows marriage up for what it is – a social convention that limits and excludes.”

“Or a personal commitment that welcomes and includes, one special person, for life?”

It sounded like a Hallmark card. How could I answer that?

“Is that how you feel about me?”

He smiled.

“You know how I feel about you.”

I shook my head. He was confusing me. I was just so surprised by the nature of this conversation. I hadn’t expected it. I tried again for levity.

“But Chris, married? That’s what parents do.”

“Don’t you want to be a parent?”

I was stunned. Silent. I had honestly never thought about it. I mean, I guess I’d always assumed that, one day, I’d have children like everyone does. But I’d never given it any actual thought. I certainly did not want to be a parent right then.

“I don’t know. Maybe…someday. Sure.”

Did he assume I was spending all my time dreaming of white weddings and cooing babies? For me, right now, it was more about sex and the city. Did he want to build a picket fence around me, too?

I could see he was hurt that I hadn’t thought about marrying him, having his babies. I felt a little bad, but before I could say anything, I saw his face harden. He was nursing a grudge or suspicion, and it didn’t take long to join the conversation.

“Are you sleeping with her?” he shot at me, right out of left field.

“What?”

“Well, you tell me. You walk in here every night just in time to sleep. Your clothes reek of her. And now you’re all…stammering ambivalence when I talk about marriage.”

“What?” I felt like there was sludge in my brain while he sprinted three steps ahead. Had he really gone from quasi-proposing to accusing me of cheating in the space of a minute? I couldn’t muster a response.

“You came here to be with me. With me! And you’re not here a week before you’re spending every waking moment with her. She may remind you of your dad, but she’s not offering anything that looks like a future.”

“What?” I had to find something else to say.

His voice shook. I felt as though he’d been thinking these thoughts a lot longer than he’d been speaking them, and somehow they’d become jumbled along the way. He didn’t seem able to stop himself, now he’d started. He laughed without humour.

“Don’t fool yourself. Bi-curious does not a lesbian make, Christine. You like dick too much to be satisfied with her.”

“Oh my god, just stop, already!”

“So deny it! But then, how could I believe you, anyway? I saw you lie to Ethan so sweetly, that first night, when he called. You played us both to make sure you had what you wanted.”

“You’re an asshole.” My voice barely croaked it out ahead of the torrent of emotion.

I felt shattered. Is that how he saw me? Did our romantic encounter and subsequent story boil down to me being a manipulative slut? I couldn’t even be in the room. I could see on his face he knew he’d gone too far. He reached for my arm, and I shook him off angrily.

“No. Fuck you.”

I started throwing my things in a duffle bag without looking at them too closely. When it was full, I zipped it, felt for my phone, ripped the charger from the wall, and started towards the door.

“Christine.”

“I can’t talk with you right now. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe Thursday. Maybe never. I need to be away from you.”

“Where are you going?”

“Timeless. I’ll stay at Timeless.”

“That’s not a good idea.”

“You don’t get to tell me what’s a good idea right now. You don’t get to be in this conversation anymore.”

I picked up my guitar case, and left. It was all I could do not to slam the door with my full force of energy – I felt that if I did, I would shake the whole house to rubble.

I stood on the front step and hoped he wouldn’t follow. I called Trix. She didn’t pick up. I called again immediately, and she picked up on the first ring.

“What?”

“Trix? It’s Christine.” I could hear loud music on her end, and she kept cutting out.

“Mouse? I can barely hear you.”

“Trix, can I stay at Timeless tonight?”

“What? Hold on, I gotta go somewhere quiet.” I heard a lot of shuffling, indecipherable bits of other people’s conversations, a scratch as the phone brushed against material. Finally, a door closing. The sound of the music cut in half.

“Mouse? You need a place to sleep? What happened?”

“I had a fight with Chris.”

“Oh, sweetheart, go and patch it up like a good girl. Unless he hit you. Did he hit you?”

“No.”

“Okay, then, breathe for awhile and go back and talk about what it’s really about.”

“I don’t think I can do that. He called me a slut. He doesn’t trust me. I can’t be with him.”

Trix didn’t respond. I wondered if we’d cut out, but I could still hear the music and some shuffling.

“Mouse, are you sure? Really? Like, if I treck out there, are you going to be standing in the doorway necking with him and say, sorry, never mind, we made up?”

“No way, Trix.”

She sighed.

“Go talk to him.”

“Not tonight. No.”

“Fine. Sit tight.” She hung up.

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