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Roommate appreciation day
It takes so much care to take care of each other. Also it took me 10 years but I finished a poem.
I call my husband my friend who I married.
I didn’t always. I started to when we decided to stay married, which was a long and often painful conversation that unfolded over two or maybe five years, and one that we needed to have and keep having, as long as we did and precisely the way that we did, to get where we were going. Which is here. Where I call my husband my friend who I married. It helps, I think, to put the friendship part first, or at least it helps for me.
We have no fewer than two relationships—my friend who I married and me—and each one requires attention. There’s our friendship, the field where we meet to make fun and hear each other out, support each other’s wholeness and independence, make sense of the world of the day. And then there is our marriage, the covenant we created, a kind of third thing, neither he nor I but our mutual rhapsody. In this agreement, we must take care of one another, yes obviously; we must also take care of our marriage. Ask our marriage what it wants and how it wants to feel today. Feed our marriage sweets and nourishment. Take our marriage for a walk.
When we got married, which was a pretty fun situation, Janie asked us if we promised, among other things, to never say something to the other we wouldn’t say to a friend, and even though both of us said yeah sure, it’s a promise we’ve broken many times since then.
We—and by we I mean people, everyone everywhere, maybe, or maybe not—tend to be careless with those we keep closest. The safety we feel in our most intimate bonds makes it easy, sometimes, to take them for granted. Sometimes we say to the person who knows us best, who’s seen us in our lowest days in all our wounds and imperfection, what we might never say to a friend. As though intimacy could survive with less patience. As though love could survive with less care.
When we got up to the cliff’s edge and considered life beyond it, what it would look like to let our marriage go and with it, most likely and in many ways most painfully our friendship, the light shifted over the horizon. In confronting what we had to lose, we saw, finally, what we had: two things. A friendship and a marriage. To hold onto either, they would both require care.
Angel said to me once, years ago, she said: your marriage will go through many seasons. More recently Kris said this too, but different, they said: together you’ll go through many marriages. My friend and I, we’re in our second marriage to each other, a fresh season, a new covenant of care. This time, I’m putting friendship first, and in that field, we’ll build a home big enough for both of us and all our dogs, our books, our friendship and our marriage, which will have the space it needs to breathe and grow into the seasons of our life.
I wrote a poem nine or ten years ago, in the thrall of our early and eager love that found its root in friendship, when I wrote poems about how it felt to be known for the first time in my life, before I quite knew what it meant to be known. I spent a minute with it yesterday, gave it a little more space to breathe, cut what wasn’t quite working and thought, finally, I finished it. It took me a decade, a season of struggle, the wisdom and words of so many good people, to know how to say to my friend: I love you. I wrote you this poem.
Roommate Appreciation Day
There is a funeral always happening, I tell you
as though it will decide on dinner for us.
We go over what we don’t want—meatless gutless
loveless indifference and settle on the long haul.
Between here I am and what do you feel like
we agreed; one of us is messy, the other is a mess.
We keep each other’s secrets, sometimes sane
or on mornings I wake up already talking
still enough to see you exactly as you are.
What you feel like is a body, so heavy and warm
in my hands unlike a word unsaid between us.
I learn to tell you what I want. I watch you rise
to get the door and rise before me every morning
before the sun reveals everything—the dirt I left
in the yard, another unfinished project, the lint in your hair
where I pulled off your sweater, the plate that slipped
through the crack and didn’t break. You return
to me with what will feed us for days or even forever
splendid in your arms, not minding the way you never do
that I’m sometimes morose and other times hungry
but mostly still in love with you who are alive
which is just what I am too.
I like to try anyway, to get closer to right, or at least more loving. I hope whatever you try today, it’s gets you closer to love.