My husband, Gregory, is my best friend in the world. In fact, he is the best friend I have EVER had — and, without question, the most noble, devoted, compassionate, brilliant person I have ever known. I would not have married him if he were not. He is, without question, The Best Sailor (Sorry. Annoying inside joke of the sort that only annoying lovers can make. My humble apologies).
Of course, like every other marriage, no one else knows the private dynamics of Gregory and I. No one else knows what goes on when we are all alone…walking side-by-side through the camellia forest at Descanso Gardens, inhaling deeply of the heady blossoms and discussing constipation, probiotics, and the perils and thrills of aging; flying down the 210 listening to NPR and ruthlessly motherfucking Garrison Keillor and his cornball bullshit with all of the loathing, condescension, and might we can muster (which, trust me, is A LOT); buying tofu, tahini, and turnips at Trader Joe’s, dragging each other past the sweets and treats of which we are both so fond and which are slowly murdering my already treasonous body; silently holding hands in a cold hospital room, passing courage back and forth through our intertwined fingers and the varying greens of our eyes; cooking a yummy Korean dinner together in our BOSS new kitchen, sometimes not knowing what the hell we’re doing, but doing it anyway because we’re forever CHASING THAT TASTE; braving the fierce, howling, raging winds together at the very top of a steep, rocky, Medieval stronghold in the south of France that my history-obsessed fatass just HAD to fucking see, no matter the cost, which was very nearly HIS GODDAMNED LIFE; scooching our bodies closer together in our Doom Buggy at The Haunted Mansion, both loving the part when you fly backwards out the attic window, descend down into the graveyard, and you get to lie flat on your back staring up at the black “sky” for just a moment, but OH, what a moment that is; lying next to each other in our cozy bed in the dark…feet touching, chihuahuas tucked everywhere, laughing and talking until late in the night, making plans, sharing our dreams, our wishes, our fears, and our memories.
Those small moments belong to US — no one else in all the world will ever know of their existence. Many years from now when we both leave this place and this life…he and I will take those moments with us. They are ours alone.
In my earlier years, I read EVERY book ever written by or about Sylvia Plath and her husband, Ted Hughes…and I would inhale every word, every page, desiring to actually climb inside of their heads, inside of their works, their lives, their homes, their torment, their marriage. And, after I came out the other side — a high school dropout who was damn near a professional Plath/Hughes scholar as a result — I realized something very profound. That even with all I had learned about their marriage in all of those dozens of meticulously researched biographies and research papers — I still knew NOTHING about their actual private moments spent together. I knew the big, tragic, EPIC picture, yes — but I never actually experienced or witnessed even a single small gesture of affection that transpired between them. Even with all I had read, in the end, I still really knew nothing at all. And so it is with ALL marriages.
But, for those of you who might be interested in a small glimpse inside of my own marriage, this will perhaps provide you with some insight.
People often think they know who I am.
People often think they know who my husband is.
But they would probably be wrong — VERY wrong — and perhaps even a little surprised.
To those who believe they might know what my marriage to Gregory is truly like, I would say this:
I have always been obsessed with the concept of distilling knowledge, information, and language into the smallest possible lozenge of my truth. I have daydreams of palming another person a simple medallion, on which exists all that I wish them to know, immediately, so that they might better understand what I am trying to tell them, right now. Perhaps it is the poet in me, perhaps it is the editor in me — but to capture an entire epic in one small, quickly digestible bit that I can then carefully place on another person’s tongue, like a communion wafer, of sorts…which they can then take into their own body and consciousness…has always been my dream…quite literally my dream, as I do dream of it often.
And so, since words and language sometimes tend to lay heavy and go down hard and bring about their own baggage and misconstrued meaning, I now occasionally turn to images to get the same high, the same rush, the same satisfying ‘click’ between my ears, the same thrill of just those precise few words handed over to another person so that they might know and understand my truth. Perhaps I am moving beyond the imprecision of words.
As a result, I have scoured the intarwebs for years, looking for JUST THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPH, the one perfect image that most accurately captures who and what Gregory and I are together, and best sums up our marriage in EVERY POSSIBLE WAY. And though I am well aware that the relationship of these two young people was, at times, extraordinarily volatile, it is the tenderness shown in this photograph — the way he appears to be talking her down off the ledge and reminding her, even as she literally sits in the fucking gutter surrounded by garbage, of who and what she is and what she brings to the table — that makes this that perfect image.
This single moment, captured in time, is it.