Sometimes It’s Easier to Approach Life in the Third-Person

Her husband had returned to his place among the stars. He was always happiest, it seemed, when neatly isolated at the mountain’s summit — surrounded by cold and calculating machinery that he intimately understood. His job at the telescope provided different kinds of problems than the ones he faced at home. At work, he was ever able to solve the issues that arose. At home, he was ill-equipped.

She hated to admit it, but she was also happiest when Mitch was away. Comfortable in the home she had created, surrounded by things that reminded her of times gone by. Moments filled with love, instead of the terrible loneliness ever-present at her husband’s side.

Just days before, she had been forced to put her foot down, to raise her voice in his time of deepest grief and demand that he get off the broken futon in the back bedroom — the one he reserved for self-pity parties and tantrums. To vehemently exclaim that he was not the only one grieving the very recent loss of his father, and to shout, “Get up! Your mother needs us, and you will not sit here being a selfish motherfucker, pushing everyone away. I am going to be sitting in the car, and goddam it, you better join me in short order!” It had worked, but she didn’t feel any better about having yelled at him, necessary though it had been.

She had broken into tears once they were on the road, and Mitchell had turned to her and said, “What the hell do you have to cry about?” It wasn’t his fault. He had never been able to understand the emotions of others. He always felt that he was somehow at fault for her sadness; when often, it had very little to do with him.

She had taken a moment to allow the sting of his hurtful inquiry to pass, took a deep breath, and answered with all of the kindness she could muster, “I haven’t been allowed to cry over Pete. I lost him too, you know. He was my most treasured smoking buddy, and I will miss him terribly. My baby brother is leaving, and I have only just gotten him back. We cannot afford to visit my family, and it saddens me that my mother did not experience the same extended family support when Nicholas died. Our son is doing well in school, but he wishes to move away when he’s finished; and as much as that hurts, I will support any decision he makes. I just feel terribly alone.”

Mitch had choked on frustration, and responded with, “I’m sorry your life is so terrible. I’m sorry that being with me makes you so damn miserable. I release you. Find someone that makes you happy.”

It would be easy for her to reason that his grief had colored his judgement, but she knew it ran deeper than that. He wasn’t capable of seeing the world through any other perspective than his own. In his mind, it was always about him. So she tried in vain — for the millionth time — to assure him that she was only explaining the reason for her tears, and did not blame him. He, in turn, repeated that she should start looking for someone else to spend her life with.

Hours of silence filled the rest of their journey, and when they arrived at her mother-in-law’s house, Mitch had said, “You still seem upset. What’s going on?” The hurt had turned into a ball of anger deep in her chest, and she had spit back, “I told my husband that I loved him. That losing him would tear my world to pieces, and he told me to see other people.” Mitch said nothing to that, and they spent the rest of the evening pretending to be something they were not — a couple united in love for one another.

After Mitch had packed his things the day before, he had sat down next to her on the couch and said, “You know I love you, right?” And for the first time in decades, she had answered him honestly, “No. No, I don’t know that.”

“Even though I tell you all the time?”

“Those are just words,” she said in calm reply. “Your actions haven’t conveyed that in a very, very long time.”

“What do you want from me?”

“I want you to find your happiness — to fight for it. If this job is the one you really want, then tell Grant that. Remember while you are away that I am here waiting for you, and decide if that’s worth something. If you cherish our marriage, then learn to treat it that way. If we’re both fighting — whether it’s good or bad — it means that we’re still trying. I need you to fight for yourself, and in doing so, to fight for us.”

Her husband’s eyes had filled with tears, but neither of them had said anything more.

She had dropped him off and then quietly returned to a place of serenity and solitude — alone in her love for him — and she wondered once more, could Mitchell, the immovable fence post she had tied the string of her fanciful kite to, truly love anyone but himself? It was a question she had been desperately seeking the answer to for more than twenty years.

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