“There are several things we need in order to survive: food, water, and air to name a few. Nothing hurts quite like a failing marriage, and there is no loneliness as intense as living with a stranger, especially one that used to be your best friend. Just like we need these essentials to survive physically, marriages need certain things to survive emotionally. Marriages need love, trust, truth, patience, kindness, and understanding. When a marriage is deprived of such things, it can slowly begin to die.”
I sat at an outdoor café with an old friend I hadn’t seen in nearly a year. It was spring. The pond was beginning to thaw. The daffodils were in bloom. Triangles and rectangles of pale yellows lay patchwork style around the trees. A teenage girl with a series of pierces in her earlobe tucked her hand into her boyfriend’s back pocket as they waited for a table, and I remembered the boy who had slipped his hands into the pockets of my hiphuggers and asked, “Do you want to?” before we lay down in the grass. At the table next to us, a couple hovered over their cappuccinos in intense conversation. I noticed the woman had taken off her slingback sandal and was rubbing her bare foot against the calf of the man across from her. My friend and I conversed nonstop. We moaned about how tired we were, between cupcakes to make for the class picnic, expense reports to finish, a novel that needed to be turned in. The long, lavish lunch was a brief intermission in our lives. We gossiped about mutual friends and fantasized about trips to Italy and France. During dips in our conversation, I found myself looking at the teenage couple now seated at a table, their chairs side by side. They kissed. The boy with the lean body underneath a V-neck sweater put his hand under the back of his girlfriend’s shirt. Our conversation moved to our children, kindergartens, tantrums, bed-wets. We talked about our mothers and sisters. At the end of the lunch, my friend looked into my eyes as if she were peering into the farthest reaches of my soul and asked me about my marriage. “Are you guys having sex?” she asked bluntly. And this image blossomed in my head of D.’s face covered in pox marks as he lay on our couch, miserable and not talking, quarantined in our house like a leper, having caught chicken pox from our son. I wanted to burst out laughing.