You, sitting on the opposite ends of your cold, cavernous house, letting the space between you become so much more than just the beige walls and Pier 1 furniture that fill it. You, the ones who make visitors uncomfortable with the palpable anger and dissatisfaction that simmers and lingers in everything you do. You, sitting across a table in a restaurant staring coldly out the widow or towards the kitchen, anywhere but in the eyes of the other. You, who allow your disappointment to become a grave complacency, watching two separate televisions on low volume until you fall asleep next to your overfull glasses of wine, night after night after night.
Who are you?
I know who you are technically–you are the members of the PTA, the coaches, the suit-wearing number crunchers, the lovers of all things monogrammed. You are the perfect slice of suburban involvement, but equally so of middle-class ennui, the walking embodiment of first world problems. I know you because I’ve seen you, I’ve had sleepovers with your daughters in your drab McMansions and ridden to play practice in the back of your SUVs. But there must have been a you before this you that exists now, there must have been a part of you somewhere that danced, that smiled, that lived in some way aside from vicariously through your children and the people on your TV.
Even those of you who’ve let it slip, who’ve vocalized it after a few too many drinks, who’ve said to me that life is disappointing and marriage is a soul-sucking trap, you must have been in love once. That, or the photos of your youth where you are smiling, kissing, and hopelessly optimistic were extremely well-choreographed. There had to have been a moment where you turned some invisible corner, where your life went from fun and open to a trap from which you know the only escape is death. You can’t always have looked at your spouse with the unambiguous disdain that you do now, could you?
But when was it? When did you think that you made such a grave mistake? When did you know? And when did you decide that, regardless of how much of a symphony of small disappointments your life has become, you were going to stick to it for the long haul?
What makes you stay? Is it for the kids, even for the grown ones? Is there a desire not to disappoint those you have created, a fear that the implication would be that their very birth was further evidence of the mistake you have made? But I know your children, even the ones who knew at 8 years old that Mommy and Daddy slept in different beds and yelled at each other a lot. I know, too, the children who can’t recall a fight, but who can’t recall a laugh. No, they’ve been witness to the kind of silence that screams at you from across every air-conditioned room. And I can assure you, they’ve told me they know. They know you hate each other, that you hate each other in the way that cannot be fixed.
What does make you happy? Escaping each other, if even temporarily? Drinking? Watching TV shows the other person hates? Touching yourself in darkened rooms with an empty browser tab at the ready to switch over to, should someone walk in?
Do you think it was it just monogamy, or marriage itself, that wasn’t made for you? What would you do with your life if you could go back and do it again? Would you still have had children, were they more than just the symptoms of the illness that you can occasionally make them feel like?
And though I may not want to hear the answer, do you still believe in love?