I don’t think I know who I married, even though we celebrated our fourth anniversary in August. We’ve been through some really dark times (PTSD) and some really great times (our son). But yesterday I spent three hours on the couch in a huff because I got so mad at this husband of mine that I apparently don’t know.
Granted, four years isn’t very long, and the human soul is infinite, but I’d like to publicly admit that I have a good marriage, a deep in the soul, sometimes we fight and get through it and still want to make out, good marriage? That makes me think I know a guy. But I just saw a side of husband’s heart that I have never seen before.
It started eight months ago when I was dreaming of Augustine’s first birthday party (April weather in NY meant we ended up having it it in a bar with a playpen and champagne at 1p). I wanted to give Augustine a betta fish for his birthday, but Ted was set against it for humanitarian reasons I laughed at. “I don’t want to be responsible for another life.” He said. Simple, yet profoundly beyond me. I had a party to plan and a first birthday present to buy, so I let it be.
Enter me last Friday night, asleep next to my snoring beloved. I dreamt that I bought Augustine a betta fish to live in a bowl on our library shelf, and Augustine was happier than he’d ever been. I woke up with happy tears in my eyes (not hyperbole) and told Ted about my dream over breakfast. His responce: “I dreamt that we had sex.” Ever the clever, I asked him if we could make both our dreams come true with a trip to the pet store in the morning and then sex during Augustine’s nap in the afternoon. Win-win, eh? He hesistantly agreed and only when I said I’d buy him coffee on the way to the train.
It was more humid and sneaky-hot than it should be for the end of September. But we made it to PetLand in Greenpoint where Augustine promptly lost his mind playing with the cat toys and waving at the kitties. And then he saw the fish. I thought my mama heart would burst (not hyperbole) as he literally burst (hyperbole) watching the gold fish swim.
Let’s skip describing the scene in Petland where Ted held firmly to his belief that all life is precious, and because somedays I can still hardly feed myself, he refused to bring another life into our apartment. I wasn’t pretty. I stomped all the home (not hyperbole) carrying the twenty-cent gold fish I bought against his wishes “for Smoochie” (our landlady’s turtle). Gus loved the fish in the bag, and adored “Albert” all weekend as he swam in his bag on the table (because our landlady was out of town). It’s Saturday after PetLand that I spent three hours “napping” on the couch with Augustine’s ginomrous pink stuffed dog because I refused to be in the same room with my ginormous heart of a husband.
Our neighbors and their toddler came to see Albert on Sunday. Four toddler hands waved and giggled for twenty minutes as I stood smug and Ted hurt.
Monday I woke up to a text from our Landlady kindly refusing the offer of a feeder goldfish. Smoochie, apparently, was a vegetarian. “I’m sorry! I just don’t kill anything.
Monday afternoon I had a bad trigger. The house was a mess, and dinner wasn’t a thought on my mind when Ted came home from work at 7p. I’d managed to move Albert into a vase with clean water and a piece of lettuce, and to keep Augustine happy with cold leftovers for dinner and Daniel Tiger at the table, but I was dissassociated and panicky waiting for my clonopin to restore my body to me. Ted dismissed me to self care (into bed I climbed and wiggled under the blankets to count deep breaths and bring my body back to present) while Ted made dinner and put Augustine to bed without complaint after his 12 hour Monday at Morgan Stanley.
My husband is far from perfect. To my great shame, Type A me is often the first to point that out about my Type B man. But Ted knows how to value life in a way I don’t. He knows how to go slow and eat well and listen closely. I don’t. I know that I wanted a betta fish, and Ted wanted to make sure that we could offer that helpless fish a good life.
Ted struggles with the fact that he is a white man of privilege because he knows that so many other white men of privilege don’t respect other lives. So he’s careful, aware, and constantly seeking to serve and share his privilege. And, I realized, his goodwill to all men extends to betta fish.
I finished my self care routine and sat down to dinner with Ted, slowly, finally coming to terms with the animal rights activist across from me.
“Will you become a vegatrian?” I asked him.
“No, I just don’t think about them as cows.” Ted said.
“Do you really hurt when I name the lobsters we eat fresh with your parents?”
“I’m sorry, Ted.” I said two days too late.
My husband, a man strong enough to be tender.