The following short memoir appeared in the literary journal Pank this past winter. To find out more about this cutting-edge magazine, featured in Poets and Writers, go to http://www.pankmagazine.com/.
Couples should never go to bed angry with each other.
There are times I’m so angry I lie in bed next to my husband, my body warped with rage, and think of clever, hurtful things to say. There are times he’s so angry he pushes me away when I try to apologize. This makes me even angrier. I start throwing pillows or I turn the radio on full blast and start dancing on the mattress, novelty dances from the Sixties and Seventies—the Hitchhike, the Monkey, the YMCA.
“You’re going to break the bed,” he yells.
Sometimes he starts laughing and pulls me down by a leg and I know he’s not angry anymore.
Couples should never threaten divorce in the heat of an emotional moment.
“I will divorce you,” I tell my husband when he asks me to turn down the television because he’s on the phone. He starts yelling. I tell him to use the cell. He swears. I run to the phone. “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” I spell into the receiver, especially when I know someone important is on the other line. To his credit, my husband never says he will divorce me, even when he finds crumbs on the bed or unwashed coffee cups lined up on a shelf behind a row of canned tomatoes like soldiers in some guerilla kitchen war.
A shared sense of humor is important to a happy marriage.
I love sophisticated British humor.
My husband prefers puns.
“A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it,” he’ll say. Or, “The best way to communicate with fish is to drop them a line.”
I ignore his puns. I don’t want to encourage him. This makes him angry. “I should at least get a groan. Or a courtesy laugh.”
We argue about the concept of the courtesy laugh.
“You give your friends a courtesy laugh when they tell jokes that aren’t funny,” he claims.
“My friends don’t tell jokes. They’re naturally funny.”
I feel bad when I say things like this. Luckily, I know what makes my husband happy. A game of Scrabble. My husband is a Scrabble genius; give him a seven letter word like PRESENT and he’ll come up with its anagrams in seconds: PENSTER, SERPENT, REPENTS. He comes up with little stories to teach me the anagrams: “Think of the first chapter of the Bible. The snake, or the SERPENT REPENTS because the Old Testament writer, the PENSTER, is there. He’s PRESENT.”
“Except in the Bible the serpent doesn’t repent. In fact, he’s responsible for the downfall of man.”
“Well, maybe if there’d been a better penster present…..”
When we play Scrabble, my husband usually wins. I try to distract him with small talk and, sometimes, puns: “How do you like my rack?” I say, pointing simultaneously to my breasts and my Scrabble tiles. This makes him angry, almost as angry as when I place one of the tiles on the board upside down “accidentally.”
He lugs around a Scrabble board the way some men carry condoms. “You never know when you’ll get lucky,” he says.
Married couples respect each other’s differences.
“You should read more high-quality literature,” I tell my husband.
“I read the newspaper.”
“Newspapers don’t count.”
“You’re a snob,” he says.
“Why won’t you let yourself be moved by the power of the word?”
“I am moved by the power of the word,” he says. “I play Scrabble. And I anagram.”
“Some couples read aloud to each other before going to bed,” I moped one time.
He came to bed that evening with a book from which he read in a slow, dramatic tone:
“With a long wood and playing with water to the right, most players will tend to keep the shot left. Subconsciously they’ll turn on the shot to keep it from going into the water. You have to work against what your subconscious wants to do with the ball.”
He paused, pleased with himself.
“My subconscious,” I answered, “wants to take the ball and squeeze it really really hard.”
Jealousy destroys relationships, signifying insecurity and lack of trust.
I sometimes dream that my husband is with another woman, someone younger and thinner and more athletic. Someone who appreciates his puns. I wake up angry and worried. I nudge my husband from his peaceful sleep.
“What is it?” he asks.
“I dreamt you were cheating on me,” I say. Sometimes I smack him on the shoulder.
“I can’t help what you dream,” he says, annoyed.
I tell him my theory: one person’s state of mind while sleeping—his thoughts and desires–can permeate another’s dreams: “Like a bird flitting from a nest to a favorite tree.”
“You’re crazy,” he says.
I describe the woman, some amalgam of who I think I should be, some nonexistent woman neither of us knows.
“You dream about Paul Konerko,” my husband counters.
In my dreams, the White Sox first baseman tells me he desires as his life’s companion not his young, slim, sane wife, but an overweight, angry, menopausal woman. The dreams always end with his wife busting in on us, shocked not so much that Pauly is in bed with another woman, but that the woman happens to be me.
Couples should not complain about each other’s personal quirks.
“You’re the only woman I know who gets a headache after sex,” my husband says.
“It’s a migraine.”
“Are you a migraine imaginer?”
“It’s an anagram. Migraine. Imaginer. You know, like penster present.”
“Do you anagram when we make love?”
He averts his eyes.
“Tell me,” I say slowly, my voice rising. “Do. You. Anagram. When. We’re. Making. Love.”
He looks down at his feet.
I called him an overidle evildoer and start throwing pillows and dancing on the mattress.
“You’re going to break the bed,” he yells.
He starts laughing and then I start laughing and very soon neither of us is angry anymore.