I don’t think that the Man I Married and I are the only folks in long-term relationships who often misinterpret what the other one is saying. We have 25 years of conversations and assumptions running beneath whatever we’re saying, rather like the current that continues to trickle along the bottom of a frozen stream.
Like the other day.
I came downstairs to find one of those huge collapsing ladders sitting in our entryway hall. It had been sitting on our porch for months, so I’d gotten used to sweeping leaves around it all autumn and learning not to see it despite it blocking my view outside every morning, the way we ignore telephone wires and airplane noise. Oddly enough, I had not mentioned the ladder on the porch even once, a highly unusual tactic on my part, since any comment just might be the Breakthrough Moment When He Actually Gets It, preventing all future strife and disharmony, so why risk blowing that opportunity? Take the cow horn in my dish rack, for instance. Yes, cow horn: dish rack. That is one of those ratio or whatever they are word problems that will never compute.
Do you think I kept mum about the moo? But my comments have been a moot point, because there the cow horn remains. MIM and the Little Monster see only the positive side, since they both noted triumphantly, “Hey, it doesn’t smell so animal-y, anymore!”
Though I’d ignored the ladder on the porch, now the big ladder: small entryway was hard to miss.
I asked the Man I Married, “Are you taking this up to the pear orchard today?” He goes up to a friend’s acreage every weekend, and I knew he would be leaving shortly.
What he heard me ask was, “How long is this ladder going to be sitting in the hall? I don’t like it in the hall, it’s irritating me, and I’m hoping you’re removing it pronto.”
What I meant was, “I hope that you are not taking the ladder with you to the pear orchard, where you will climb it all alone in the middle of a bunch of trees where no one can see you, without having told anyone that you’re climbing a ladder, and you will fall, hurt yourself, and slowly die in agony, and you won’t be found for hours, until the Little Monster gets hungry and comes looking for you, and then he will be even further traumatized than he already is, and I can’t handle a re-traumatized nine-year-old if you are dead and not able to help me raise him.”
What he said was, with a note of irritation in his voice that I was (in his mind) pestering him about moving the ladder, “It’s not staying here for long. I don’t have time to move it now, but I’ll move it when I get home. Don’t worry.”
What I said was, “What I’m worried about is you climbing it today without telling anybody, like you just did upstairs.” I didn’t remind him that he’d climbed it halfway before realizing that he hadn’t properly locked it open, and I’d come running upstairs at the big thumping sound of a body falling off of a ladder. I did say, “Don’t get irritated. I don’t care if you leave it in the hall for awhile.” Just please don’t die, I didn’t add.
To which he said, “I’m not irritated.”
Long-term marriage is streamlined and efficient. You can have a 2000-word discussion in only 20 words, then you can get irritated about things that your partner hasn’t said, and then you can argue about a tone your partner hasn’t used, and then you can get a lot done because you and your partner are no longer speaking and you have a lot of misplaced energy. For instance, you can now sweep the clear porch, whisking away the leaves that cluster around the ladder-shaped outline in the mold. Then you can scrub the deck chair, sit back with a nice martini, and enjoy the miraculous view.
And when he comes out to join you, you can hold hands and say nothing, absolutely nothing at all, and know in this moment that you both understand each other perfectly.
The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition Now $0.99 at Amazon
12 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.