By Betty Underground © 2009
That night he flipped the switch. Threw the cruel reality of light onto the months we had been spiraling out of control. In those moments of clarity it was impossible to imagine my life without him. Without his strength and his fearlessness in the face of the adversity we had buried ourselves in.
Working through our human imperfections was something we made the decision to do in the relationship. A safe place for us to learn, grow, change. The relationship wasn't broken by who we were. It existed because of it. At times in spite of us.
She was slender. Austrian. Wore her pants tucked into her knee high boots. A fashion statement that had played out already, but she was dedicated to it. Every week. The boots made her ridiculously tall. Him barely over 6ft, still dwarfed by her when she greeted us in the empty waiting room. Therapists always had empty waiting rooms. To protect anonymity. Her receptionist was positioned on the other side. In the lobby where patients exited. A separate door. Never seen. The entrance on Olympic Blvd. The exit on Beverly Drive.
We were there to have our characters poked and prodded. To pour Blue No. 1 into our souls, staining the leaks. Barium. Emptying out our pockets and doing a cavity search of our thoughts. To understand how we got off course and find our way back to the place we were at our best.
We never feared honesty. We were probably the easiest patients she had. Even looked forward to us because we quickly identified the areas of opportunity and were willing to set a plan in place. People don't fix themselves overnight but we had been together for so long and good for so long that this hiccup was just that. A hiccup. We committed to work through it together. To get to the other side.
Why did I get so angry? Irish blood? The curse of the redheads? Why did he shut down? The reserved Scotsman? Introverted writer?
All the things that were the triggers for the dysfunction were the reason we were drawn to one another. The reason, for nearly a decade, we loved no one else. We were wired for each other. The battles that had taken place in the last few months were not because of the drugs or weakness of character. We were becoming a product of our environment. Allowing the outside influences into our souls. Living in a space too small to find our own selves in. Too close to the control of his mother. Forcing marriage on two people who never intended to go down that aisle.
We were rubbed raw by the expectations of others. Of living in Santa Monica. Of measuring up to our neighbors and shallow friends. Escaping into lines on a beveled edge mirror. Using it to bind us together against the elements outside. It did. We came together because of it. Because we needed to leave it behind. Together.
It only took a few months. We were back to who were were. The way we were. He stood firm with his mother. Wedding plans halted indefinitely. We decided to move up. More room to spread out. Space to be individuals. A home. Without fine china.
We packed boxes. Endless boxes of books. So full we couldn't even push them across the Spanish tile floor. We packed as we house hunted. We were ready to flee as soon as we found something we could afford. The options were plenty. One of us always finding something wrong with them but the agent kept trudging along.
It was a Saturday. We sat together at the small table in our kitchen. Built in breakfast nook that I was inspecting to see if I could dismantle it and take it with us. I loved that nook. Our nook. A piece of that place that broke us and us built back up stronger.
He poured coffee and sat across from me. A soft finished wood that had taken a beating over the years. Scared by the love of the people who sat at it over the years. Running his finger in the scratches on the table top, like he ran his finger tip across the lifelines of my palm. He would do that at night when we were quiet with each other. Speaking low about our future dreams. Him on his back. One knee pulled up and out the the side. Me, on the other side. His left side. Curled in the shape of his body. My palm opened on his chest, his fingers dripping from his hand, lightly tracing my lifelines. We often fell asleep. Frozen in that moment.
He looked up from the table and our eyes were locked. After so many years, sometimes there is no need for words. Smiles grew in our mutual satisfaction over what had just been decided. Together, without words. He called our agent. Her job, and commission would double. We needed two homes.
We had grown as far as we could together. Had dug deep into our souls for a decade and experienced the stuff of life and love many only hope for. It was time to take that and share it with others.
My first great love. Not my last.
Betty Underground is a writer from Northern California.