My husband’s making me nuts.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m making him nuts, too. But since I’m the one writing this essay, I get to do the talking. And I say I want him to disappear. Not forever, just for a week or so. Ten days, maybe. Two weeks?
See, every winter since before Johnny and I met, I’ve visited a friend in California (or Georgia, Florida, Arizona – wherever she happens to be living at the time). And every fall, Johnny’s gone to Ireland to see his mum. But Johnny’s mum died last year, and my friend is in the throes of finishing her PhD. Neither Johnny nor I have anyone to visit and, as he would say, we’ve been living in each other’s ear holes far too long…
Is there a reason he can’t shut off a light behind him? Close a door? Or turn on the damn exhaust fan when he takes a shower? Why does he keep asking me what I want for dinner when I haven’t eaten breakfast yet – have I ever one time had an answer? And, speaking of which, if I so much as smell another plate of chicken curry I swear to god I’ll—
Look, I love him, but one of us has got to go.
I’ve never understood these couples that claim to miss each other when they’re separated for a single night. (You see? “Claim.” I can’t even bring myself to believe them.) They’re always checking in, reporting their activities, counting the hours till they’re back in one another’s arms. Gag me, I don’t get it. Johnny and I need our time apart. If I try to check in with him when I’m away, he doesn’t answer because he’s out with the boys. If he calls me from the road I’ve got the stereo cranked to eleven, enjoying my empty house too much to listen for the phone.
When we’ve spent too many nights together in a row, I’ve been known to retire at 6:00 just to get some time away; he’ll fall asleep watching TV in the living room and stay there. We just aren’t hip-attachment kind of people. Putting a little space between us once in a while is how we manage to maintain civility for the better part of our domestic lives.
A couple thousand miles every six months or so seems to do the trick. But we’re going on a year. I’d actually started weighing the pros and cons of handing Johnny a packed bag and a credit card and dropping him off at the airport like an abandoned puppy (except for, you know, what would a puppy do with a credit card?) – when I remembered about Mick.
Mickey, a friend of Johnny’s from back home in Dublin, got transferred to Canada a couple months ago and insisted Johnny visit as soon as they were settled in. Assuming they are settled in enough by now to have a visitor – and they must be by now, how long could it take? – then Johnny could be off as soon as I can book a flight!
Phew, now maybe I can finally stop this twitching…
Except I just emailed Mick to ask if I could ship my husband to him for a week or so (or maybe longer) in a month or so (or maybe sooner), and Mick wrote back to say don’t book the ticket. The move isn’t working out. His wife is staying in Alberta but Mickey’s going home to Dublin right away. He didn’t say it in so many words, but it sounds like they’ll be getting a divorce.
Oh. Well. Gosh. It’s none of my business, but… how? This is a couple that’s been together for thirty years. They were in their teens when they got married, they had children very young, but they made it through all that. The kids are grown now. They’re comfortable, financially. If they survived three decades of tribulation back in Dublin, what could possibly have happened (in Canada, no less) to tear them from one another now?
I couldn’t bring myself to ask, of course, but Mickey (who always has been generous with his emotions) volunteered. It’s been coming for a while, he writes. Being alone together in a new place simply forced the issue. Neither of them ever had anywhere to go. They’d been living in each other’s ear holes, driving one another nuts. Putting an ocean between them had become the only way to maintain a semblance of civility for the remainder of their respective lives. You know how it is, he wrote. You know?
Yes. Well, no. I mean, I do, but—
That’s not what I meant when I said one of us had got to go.
Johnny and I are lucky, I suppose, that we know this about our relationship. That I can go to bed at six o’clock, he can pass out on the couch, and we can wake up still loving each other in the morning. Still, though, it’s true I’ve been a little touchy lately. Just because he asks me the same question five times in a row doesn’t mean I have to shout the answer at him. And I could let him watch the SciFi channel sometimes; I don’t have to carp over it every single night.
When he gets home tonight I’ll have to tell him about Mick, but first I want him to know how much I love him, how glad I am to see him, how proud I am that he’s part of my life. I’ll tell him I missed and thought about him while he was at work, that I was counting down the hours until—
Nope, I’m gagging. Can’t do it. He’s making me nuts.
Think Mickey’ll be ready for a visitor back home in two months? How ’bout three? Seriously, how long could it take?
Erin G. Ellia has been writing professionally since 1993, first as Editorial Director for Hear Music (now the “Sound of Starbucks”) and later as a freelancer and ghostwriter. She has recently guest-blogged at shakesville.com. Erin’s own blog can be found at www.thehouseandi.com.