I always wondered about the people who lived together for years and never showed their cards to outsiders. Everyone must fight or get annoyed with one another. Or, if not, maybe each of them makes a separate peace and lets the days flow by without remarking on their feelings, ever. But doesn’t that mean they aren’t really living at all?
I recall arriving at a friend’s house one afternoon and realizing his wife was nowhere in sight. I asked where she was.
“That no good bitch never got out of bed this morning.”
I’d never heard him speak that way before, but knowing her, I knew what he meant. She’d stayed out all night and come home drunk in the wee hours. I wondered where she’d been and whether she’d had a good time. The library, stores, and bars would have closed long before her car showed back up in front of their house. I wondered if he waited up for her but didn’t ask. Would there be a lot screaming when she finally got up, or would he let it go by without a remark? I wondered when she began staying out like that—how long had it taken? Had she kept it under control or hidden it for the first couple of years of marriage or had she come out of the blocks like that? Then again, maybe he deserved it. I doubted it, but he might have knocked her around on a regular basis. I wondered if this could be fixed—if the wrongs could be forgotten and the cart could be pulled out of the ruts, repaired, and brought back on some road to recovery. I tended to think not. My friend was not enough of a doormat for that and his wife must have already begun planning her next move.
Everyone has a different story, a different set of rules they play by. Many things enter the risk/benefit equation that keeps people together through the tough times—kids, money and standard of living, fear of starting over alone, and even love. I’d like to think some of us are basically optimists; you know, that we believe that around the next bend the bad times will recede into the past and that things will change for the better—maybe better than ever before.