My wife does certain things, certain annoying things. I’m sure this is not uncommon. Many wives, I hear, do certain annoying things. I’m sure, too, that husbands do certain annoying things. What things? I’m not sure. The things I am sure about are wife-specific.
I’ve lived with my wife six years. We’ve been married five years. Marriage has not changed us entirely. Marriage accentuated what was already there. Our arguments now seem more berserk and unpredictable; our tender moments, more simple and soothing.
I have noticed: my wife is evolving in her quirkiness. What was once a set of charming little idiosyncrasies have become odd symptoms. She has a disease. Maybe the disease is marriage.
People ask my wife: How do you deal with this?
This, being me.
People, though, don’t see the entire picture. In public, I’m bombastic and rude; my wife is composed and elegant. At home, I see another side. I see my wife confront a centipede with a horror-movie shriek. I see my wife’s appalled and unforgiving expression after I’ve woken her from a three hour nap.
I adore my wife. I adore her in public and private. For better or worse, she has determined the man I am today: the foolish, but sincere husband; the aloof, but giving friend; the hard-working, fun-loving writer. My wife gives good things: affection, support. She also takes away bad things: fear, doubt. These things are large. I understand and cherish these things.
My wife also gives and takes small things—small, ant-like things. The sum of this give and take mystifies me. Like ants, the give and take also annoys me. It’s the essential cloying mystery of my day to day life: the small things my wife gives and the small things she takes away.
We live in a two bedroom apartment in Ambler. Day to day, new, useless things appear in this place. Day to day, new useful things disappear.
My wife, I suspect, has something to do with this.
The Small Things My Wife Gives
I wonder if my wife has a side-business in small, black, rubber-band-like things. These things, I’m told, are hair-ties. I rarely see these hair-ties in my wife’s hair. I do see them, though, lonely and unattached to my wife’s head, sporting strands of honey-brown hair. These things just appear, everywhere, often in odd places: my jean pockets; or, tortuously, in the garbage disposal; or in my desk drawer, wrapped around a stack of defunct credit cards, expired licenses, old high-school IDs. I also find them on the living room floor, under the sofa, or, sometimes, in the corner of the shower, wet and tangled.
Fabric softener sheets are meant to be used in the dryer, right? Why, then, do I continue to discover one random, used fabric softener sheet under the passenger seat in our dinky Saturn? I take one sheet away, sure enough one more shows up. Laundry never enters the car. Why, then, do I continue to discover one random fabric softener sheet under the seat?
Incidentally, how many different bottles of lotion does one bathroom really need? How does one acquire all these lotions? Are they gifts? A lotion fairy?
There’s a sole apple sitting in my fruit bowl. It’s been there for about a week. Looking at the apple, I think about my wife, her adorable sense of ambition. When we first dated, nearly thirteen years ago, she told me she’d be a lawyer. I told her I’d be a writer. She’s managed to accomplish her ambition, even as she advocates mine. This is a large thing. The apple is small. Still, it’s there, sitting in the fruit bowl, this organic Fuji apple. Will someone eat this apple? I doubt it.
How does this happen?
I see my wife, at Whole Foods, excited by her sudden resolve: I will eat more fruit!
She buys an apple. She comes home, places the apple in the fruit bowl. Then it sits there, like a sock in a corner, subtly annoying me each time I pass. Soon, it’s too soft to eat. And yet, no one seems willing to throw it out. It’d be like tossing $2.00 into the trash.
It is a useless thing, this apple; it just suddenly appeared one day. It reminds me of a newspaper and its half-finished crossword, jammed into the sofa. It reminds me of a cool cup of Starbucks coffee, merely sipped, abandoned in the car’s cup-holder.
The Small Things My Wife Takes Away
My wife and I share a chaotic social life. Friends and family come over three, four, five nights a week. There’s wine, laughter, arguments. People come and go. In the chaos, things go missing: wine bottles, wine glasses, random dishes. I look at this as a sort of friendship tax: enough people come over, glasses, even plates and bowls, are bound to be broken or lost.
The other night I walked into my wife’s garden. The garden is my wife’s secret spot. She’s growing gorgeous cucumbers, Swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelons, eggplants, peppers, a bounty of herbs. The garden, though, seems incidental. It’s the secret she loves. In the garden, she calls Barb and Lis and Traci and Vitola. In the garden, I suspect, she smokes cigarettes and drinks wine.
When I walked into her secret spot the other night, I was shocked, even scared, when I discovered a scattered assortment of mugs and dishes. It felt similar to the moment when, as a child, I came upon my father’s secret stash: I was excited and frightened and confused.
I had been looking for those mugs! I had been asking about those dishes! I picked up one of the mugs; it was, weirdly, covered in plastic wrap. I opened the plastic and sniffed: rancid wine.
Oh, my wife’s ambition! I imagine my wife, at home, excited by her sudden resolve: I will sip this last bit of wine, in private, in the garden, with a smoke! What mystifies me is the plastic wrap. It’s almost as if my wife knows she’s not going to drink the wine.
I’ve bought four pairs of nail-clippers since January. I use one. I put it back in a specific, little basket. And yet, I look in the basket, no nail clippers. Where have all the nail-clippers gone?
Where is my tank-top? Where is my special Burt’s Bee’s comb, the only comb that seems to work with my hair? I heard my wife took it to the beach. I haven’t seen it since.
"Where are the Pyrex?" I recently asked.
"I don’t know," she said.
"You don’t know?"
"I haven’t seen any Pyrex."
"Are you sure? Because I need the Pyrex for work. I bring the Pyrex home. I clean it. I use it again the next day. Are you sure you haven’t seen any?"
"Maybe you left the Pyrex at work," she said.
"Maybe you did," I said.
"No," she said. "Impossible."
I suppose I felt vindicated, then, when I received this text-message from my wife the next day: “Guilty as charged.” There was also a picture:
My wife and I share a small, strange life. There’s mystery. There’s secrets. There are accusations. And there’s absolution. We both have quirks. Coupled with the annoyance, I should say, there’s also a lot of fun and side-splitting laughter. There’s impromptu caresses and bottles of wine and festive chicken dinners. I walk around inspired and fulfilled, not just by the laughter, but the annoyance too.