I hate being asked ‘why’ or ‘how.’ Answers are never simple.
Relationships are hard. Everyone always says that. And I get why. Mostly, it’s because they’re right. It’s true. Starting out, it’s impossible to see the trees through the forest of head-spinny fireworks; sappy, serenading string sections; and stupid little cherubic snipers, sinking their tiny little arrows in your heart. That stuff’s pretty distracting. The word ‘onslaught’ comes to mind. I mean, stabs of emotion that steal your breath away?
Wow. It’s totally nice. Totally nicer than the hackneyed bunch of crusty metaphors that I just dropped make it sound, but—
‘Happiness is a china shop; love is the bull.’
It’s no wonder people miss the Hitchcockian murder of crows that are being plated up as canapés. The Jane Austen novel’s worth of pain that will be suffered for the fun. Oh, and there’s never a shortage of the Fight Clubesque sort of pain either. Not with me around.
Even just the little stuff—the stuff like ‘it’s fine for you to borrow my insert insignificant, yet inconvenient if misplaced object here just don’t take it with you when you go because that’s more appropriating than borrowing. Oh, and try to remember to drop it off somewhere obvious in the vicinity of where you abducted it from when you’re done.’ That stuff. Stuff like nail clippers and emery boards. Those are the worst. They’re totally meaningless things, until you break a nail. It’s annoying.
What’s worse: the suspect pool grows when you have kids. Which, as counterintuitive as it sounds, is kind of the goal—the whole ‘family’ thing—a group of people who mean more to you than—
Well, more than anything. No matter how much you might want to kill them at any given moment. It isn’t all that traumatic for those of us with siblings, but Willow’s needed some time to adjust.
For all that, relationships are easy. All you have to do—both of you—is decide that, more than anything else, you want to be together. It has to be mutual and you have to be willing to do whatever it takes, forgive whatever….
Either that, or you have to be a total masochist, or totally into learning the role, and your partner has to be an obsessive, possessive egomaniac who’s really, really hung up on maintaining the status quo. I mean, arranged marriages worked for centuries, right? Not that they’re right. They’re more like one of those things that, under the circumstances, no one dared to question.
I know it’s not all bad. Some of those relationships actually ended in love, but—
I’m glad I had a choice.
Choices are easier…and harder. Having a choice, falling in love—that’s mostly totally easy. Choosing to honor your choice—to stick it out through thick and thin—that part’s hard.
But so, so worth it.
And that pretty much covers the analytical part of my brain—the part that counts and accounts the number of baddies, files away their behaviors and projects how big a mark the latest ‘whatever’ will leave. I hate that part.
The sun’s a little too much. So much, the heat feels heavy. I need to turn over before I roast. I squint and lift myself up. My eyes snap closed against the brightness way before I end up upright. The towel sticks. I have to pull it free. And of course, the sand is set to ‘well done.’ It takes me a while, but I finally manage to get settled on my tummy without blinding or cooking myself, or wearing half the beach—with the sweaty and the sandy. They don’t go well together.
Will might have a point. She’s still under her umbrella on her lounge chair with her book and her fruity drink and her bucket of sunscreen. She smirks, amused, like she knows something I don’t.
What else is new?
I just never thought I’d end up the backward one. Somehow I did. Will’s totally forward. She went from pretty, but so self-conscious she was geeky and awkward; to kind of cute and still awkward around the edges; to totally over it. She grew up and got gorgeous. And she just keeps getting….
I should’ve thought she was gorgeous when I first met her. And I did. Sort of. But not like that. I thought she was a beautiful person. Too pretty to be so introverted.
I was pretty well adjusted then. I mean, I wasn’t thrilled with my job, but who is? Then things got crazy. So crazy I died. Tasting my own mortality did nothing for my attitude. In time, I got over it. Or mostly. I don’t think anyone ever really gets over being told that they’re expendable, especially when there are so many things willing to reiterate the point. I managed to find a little peace before I died again.
And none of that has anything to do with this, except where it does. While Will was getting comfortable with herself, figuring out who she was and how she related to the world, I was headed the other way, struggling, tacking neuroses onto my psych profile like a kid collecting Pokémon cards. Not that things were perfect for her. She had plenty of ups and downs. They were just different.
Most of the time, I’m so turned around, ‘forward’ feels like a mirage. She was always there when I wanted answers or needed a guide.
There’s another thing they say that’s totally true: you kind of get what life gives you. In the end, you’re left with whoever’s willing to stand by you.
More like, whoever’s willing to put up with you in my case.
I’m not even sure when things started to change. It was gradual. I loved her for years before I figured it out. I s’pose that doesn’t matter, but it does. It makes ‘us’ different. I knew her so well before, that after is just different. We loved each other, hated each other and everything in between before.
True to form, it was backward. I drew her into my backwardness. And in spite of every trepidation—every supposedly-reasonable projection—it was actually kind of beautiful. It worked.
We work. That’s why…and how and whatever else.
Or maybe I’m reading too much in. It could just be like Will said.