I lie in red pajamas on the living room sofa, my husband, Trenton, on the other side in his comfy clothes—his green-ribbed shirt with the hole and his fuzzy pants that have no waist. “Our good times were more than our bad,” he says in a voice that aches.
“Yes, but our bad times were so bad.”
“But we never went to bed angry,” says Trenton. “We never stopped holding each other. Even on the worst nights, we would still watch shows together until finally you fell asleep in my arms. We ate pizza together, and I made you wings…”
“That was my one meal of the day,” I say. “I guess I was so focused on making it to that meal that I didn’t notice the rest.”
“But there was the other,” he says. “There was always the other. We never had a fight we couldn’t fix. I don’t even remember what we were fighting about. We had, maybe, four big fights, but the rest of the time, it was good. And we never stopped holding each other. Never.”
And we didn’t. We haven’t. Thirteen years after meeting at Bible School, eight-and-a-half years since kissing in my parents’ backyard under the white trellis, and six years after me trying to drive our marriage into oncoming traffic, we’ve never stopped holding.
But there were days he didn’t want to, for the skinny, and there were tears in his eyes as his wife undressed and all he could see was rib.
He married a girl he didn’t know, a girl who didn’t know herself, a girl who became anorexic like she had as a child, and he knew this the night he tried to make me popcorn, the night I screamed about the butter, asked why he had to ruin it like that?
“It’s just a bit of butter,” he said, but it wasn’t. It was him attempting to control me as my father had done, and so I made my own popcorn and the salt fell to the bottom of the bowl.
And it was three years of me drinking nine cups of coffee a day and him holding me at night while I tried to fall asleep and the insomnia always winning, it was three years of me starting awake and crying and crying and then lying on the couch and reading and reading and wondering when this would all end, this war I’d brought upon myself.
And one day, the two of us fighting again on the highway home, I turned the car into oncoming traffic.
Trent took the wheel, told me I needed to choose: him or food.
I chose him, then, the farm-boy who’d stood on my doorstep those years ago and couldn’t find the words to ask me to go on a walk, but later vowed ‘til death do us part.
I’m eating now, and sleeping now, and he doesn’t cry anymore when I undress.
And some nights, when the kids are asleep, Trent pulls out a blanket and we lie by the wood stove and talk about the day and our boys.
But mostly, we just hold each other.
As if clinging for dear life.
*This piece is a reprint from The High Calling. Used by permission.