When our monsters are fast asleep, our conversation makes me wish I was too
"So come on, tell me."
"Have you noticed any of these good changes the doctor mentioned might be springing up in Phil?"
Okay, so I realize this doesn’t paint me in the greatest light, but it’s a true moment of my life. When people ask me how Phil’s feeling, I’m quick to joke, "He’s back to being a big pain in the ass; arguing about everything, so he’s good, back to being Phil." Except I’m not joking. It’s the way we live.
We’re the same couple that argues over shit that doesn’t matter, with "It’s just the principle" ringing louder than ever. I’m frustrated, irritated, want to throw something at his smug face… some of the time. I also know this feeling will pass, as it always does.
I can’t say that our lows are low and our highs are high. That’s not really us. It’s more that I call it an argument and he sees it more as a discussion. Call it what you’d like, but sometimes, one of us will fold our hands in our lap and say, quite simply, "I’m not fighting with you." Which sometimes amounts to fightin’ words because the other of us had no intention of fighting… it puts us into defensive mode. I honestly ought to make return envelope stamps at that address.
Phil’s parents just left yesterday. Their stay couldn’t have gone smoother. I love having people in the house, planning what we’ll watch on TV, a movie we all haven’t seen? What we’ll have or where we’ll go for dinner. It’s a small vacation from fighting. Except, that is, when we go at it, full speed ahead, in front of his mother. Which we have. Phil got in my face and said, "I hope you get a heart condition one day, so you know exactly how you make me feel. I hope you get sick and have to have surgery. You can’t last two days without asking me to do something, or making me feel like shit about something, can you?" At which point, I flipped him the bird and told him to get out of my face. Then I stormed out, went upstairs for the night.
When he came upstairs to go to sleep, looking for his pillow, I wouldn’t speak to him. I simply raised a pointer finger in the air. Finally, I said, "One word. I’m not speaking to you until I hear you say ONE word."
"But I can’t sleep without my pillow." Tough shit, pal.
"I’m not saying sorry. I didn’t do anything wrong. Now can I have my pillow." Oh, I’ll let you have your pillow you fucker. I didn’t say anything. I finally gave him his pillow. We were both laughing at this point. But I was still annoyed. What lead up to his wish that I one day get sick?
I’d finally sat down, after a very long day of cleaning and kid care. And there Phil was, complaining that I wasn’t keeping the kitchen orderly enough. "I don’t want to spend money redecorating this place, if you’re just going to let the place look like this." This was a broken sponge (the Magic Eraser broke into two). It was a vase brush and too many empty sippy cups along the sink edge, instead of being in the actual sink. Earlier, I’d moved all the kiddy items that had been placed here and there, to a designated proper shelf. I’d cleared out space, then reorganized all the spoons, forks, plates, bowls, so the sprout-ware would be easier to manage. Then in the car, I’d noticed a few stray cups had found homes lodged under a seat. So I cleaned out the car, bringing in all the cups to be cleaned, then arranged in their new cabinet.
With the kids finally asleep, after unloading the dishwasher, all I wanted to do was relax, and I said so, evenly. "What would you like to watch?" Phil asked. And I said, "Anything at all, as long as it doesn’t involve my having to move. I just want to sit." And that’s when he started in with picking on the mess of cups and broken magic eraser.
"If it bothers you so much," I said without looking up, "you can put them in the dishwasher." And THAT is what prompted him to get in my face and tell me he hoped I got sick. "I just thought you’d be able to transcend. That you’d be able to move beyond YOU, Stephanie. Transcend and think of another person."
This is the point in the story where I want to say, "He’s impossible." And where he, in turn, would laugh, and say, "Na uh. It’s you." It’s not lost on me that he was taking his shit out on me, that he too feels frustrated. That it’s unfair that he’s sick. I just wish he could be big enough to admit it, even after the fact, instead of digging in his heels and insisting that it’s my issue. Saying shit like, "You couldn’t even last two days without asking me to do something," seems so unfair. He was the one complaining. And he certainly could have moved the cups to the sink or dishwasher. "No, moving them, isn’t the point. The point is, we spend money on redecorating, but you can’t keep this place clean, and that mess was okay with you, which means we shouldn’t spend the money redecorating." So the answer to "Good changes?" is still "Fuck, no." We need a new couples therapist. Seriously. But in loverly news, Phil chose the bed, and I got to choose the bedding. And our new sofas arrive today. First one to scream, "band-aid" wins the cliche award!
A YEAR AGO: Phone Tag Hags & H to the Amps For the Bach
2 YEARS AGO: Thank God for Small Miracles
5 YEARS AGO: Atheists & Manhattan Beach & Zoom