A nearby clown blew up a balloon animal, a man bought a rose, a child licked an ice cream cone, and a genuine tradition was born, one I’d never forget: Amy always going overboard, me never, ever worthy of the effort. Happy anniversary, asshole.
No, Amy and Go were never going to be friends. They were each too territorial. Go was used to being the alpha girl in my life, Amy was used to being the alpha girl in everyone’s life. For two people who lived in the same city – the same city twice: first New York, now here – they barely knew each other. They flitted in and out of my life like well-timed stage actors, one going out the door as the other came in, and on the rare occasions when they both inhabited the same room, they seemed somewhat bemused at the situation.
I didn’t break my stride, just turned to him and said: a) ‘Do I know you?’ (manipulative, challenging) b) ‘Oh, wow, I’m so happy to see you!’ (eager, doormatlike) c) ‘Go fuck yourself.’ (aggressive, bitter) d) ‘Well, you certainly take your time about it, don’t you, Nick?’ (light, playful, laid-back) Answer: D
(‘I, for one, don’t think women should marry before thirty-five,’ said my mom, who married my dad at twenty-three.)
People say children from broken homes have it hard, but the children of charmed marriages have their own particular challenges.
He’s doing what you tell him to do because he doesn’t care enough to argue, I think. Your petty demands simply make him feel superior, or resentful, and someday he will fuck his pretty, young coworker who asks nothing of him, and you will actually be shocked. Give me a man with a little fight in him, a man who calls me on my bullshit. (But who also kind of likes my bullshit.) And yet: Don’t land me in one of those relationships where we’re always pecking at each other, disguising insults as jokes, rolling our eyes and ‘playfully’ scrapping in front of our friends, hoping to lure them to our side of an argument they could not care less about. Those awful if only relationships: This marriage would be great if only … and you sense the if only list is a lot longer than either of them realizes.
Because isn’t that the point of every relationship: to be known by someone else, to be understood? He gets me. She gets me. Isn’t that the simple magic phrase?
So you suffer through the night with the perfect-on-paper man – the stutter of jokes misunderstood, the witty remarks lobbed and missed. Or maybe he understands that you’ve made a witty remark but, unsure of what to do with it, he holds it in his hand like some bit of conversational phlegm he will wipe away later. You spend another hour trying to find each other, to recognise each other, and you drink a little too much and try a little too hard. And you go home to a cold bed and think, That was fine. And your life is a long line of fine. And then you run into Nick Dunne on Seventh Avenue as you’re buying diced cantaloupe, and pow, you are known, you are recognised, the both of you. You both find the exact same things worth remembering. (Just one olive, though). You have the same rhythm. Click. You just know each other. All of a sudden you see reading in bed and waffles on Sunday and laughing at nothing and his mouth on yours. And it’s so far beyond fine that you know you can never go back to fine. That fast. You think: Oh, here is the rest of my life. It’s finally arrived.
long dark braid, and a black guy with a marine’s
I often don’t say things out loud, even when I should. I contain and I compartmentalize to a disturbing degree: In my belly-basement are hundreds of bottles of rage, despair, fear, but you’d never guess from looking at me.
spoiled-rich-girl vibe where I can. Lots of DIY.
Amy was once a woman who did a little of everything, all the time. When we moved in together, she’d made an intense study of French cooking, displaying hyper-quick knife skills and an inspired boeuf bourguignon. For her thirty-fourth birthday, we flew to Barcelona, and she stunned me by rolling off trills of conversational Spanish, learned in months of secret lessons. My wife had a brilliant, popping brain, a greedy curiosity. But her obsessions tended to be fueled by competition: She needed to dazzle men and jealous-ify women: Of course Amy can cook French cuisine and speak fluent Spanish and garden and knit and run marathons and day-trade stocks and fly a plane and look like a runway model doing it. She needed to be Amazing Amy, all the time. Here in Missouri, the women shop at Target, they make diligent, comforting meals, they laugh about how little high school Spanish they remember. Competition doesn’t interest them. Amy’s relentless achieving is greeted with open-palmed acceptance and maybe a bit of pity. It was about the worst outcome possible for my competitive wife: A town of contented also-rans.
been back home for a year, I’d asked her faux
This was my eleventh lie. The Amy of today was abrasive enough to want to hurt, sometimes. I speak specifically of the Amy of today, who was only remotely like the woman I fell in love with. It had been an awful fairy-tale reverse transformation. Over just a few years, the old Amy, the girl of the big laugh and the easy ways, literally shed herself, a pile of skin and soul on the floor, and out stepped this new, brittle, bitter Amy. My wife was no longer my wife but a razor-wire knot daring me to unloop her, and I was not up to the job with my thick, numb, nervous fingers. Country fingers. Flyover fingers untrained in the intricate, dangerous work of solving Amy. When I’d hold up the bloody stumps, she’d sigh and turn to her secret mental notebook on which she tallied all my deficiencies, forever noting disappointments, frailties, shortcomings. My old Amy, damn, she was fun. She was funny. She made me laugh. I’d forgotten that. And she laughed. From the bottom of her throat, from right behind that small finger-shaped hollow, which is the best place to laugh from. She released her grievances like handfuls of birdseed: They are there, and they are gone.
bites that are as decorative and unsubstantial
seriously, empty your head, do it now, swig.