The Universe, According to My Husband

 
 
 
DrRobertGoddard


 

Give me a sec to catch up on my notes.  Earth = round thing?


 
 
 

All partnerships bring with them a hidden debt that you do not know you will be paying out, day after day, for all the years of your union.

You may discover that your sweetie doesn’t know the location of the laundry hamper if you gave her a GPS device and a light shove.

You may wake one day to the surprise of a partner’s burnt offering (called breakfast) wafting prettily into the vents of the smoke detectors.

You may find, as my husband did, an annoying habit right under your quivering ears— like my peccadillo of playing albums on repeat for hours while I am working.  Hours and hours and hours of someone yowling about something in 4/4 time.
 
 
 

The debt I pay for marrying the man I chose is the size of the universe.

And it’s getting bigger every day.

My debt expands as fast as the seasonal planetary mysteries, in series form, on Netflix or Hulu, from Discovery Channel, PBS, and the BBC

What an exciting time to be alive! For my husband! And, to a much lesser extent, me!
 
 
 

Two astronauts check mobility of different types of Apollo space suits
 

Look, I get we're testing these space suits. But if they ask us to do the dance to Y-M-C-A! I am so outta here.


 
 
 

I did not know when I married The Husband that his hobby was studying the universe. 

And I did not know that would include having to listen to and/or watch in passing a sleek-packaged array of programs about every element of the science of the universe.

But I now know I do not understand the following:  astronomy, astrometry, astrophysics, astronautics, astrochemistry, aerospace engineering, spectroscopy, cosmography, cosmology, and basic geography.

I already knew that I do not understand math beyond basic fractions and percentages, and even then I do sums in pencil with my tongue sticking out slightly to help me focus.

Still, a second pass at my backwards math often shows a mistake.  And most of the time, I still have to look up the formula for percentages, except for tipping a standard 15-20%, and that is because I was a terrible waitress and learned, over time, what under-tipping was.

My dyscalculia makes the universe, and my husband’s cadastre of television shows, terrifying and confusing and unreal.
 
 
 

My husband’s experience could not be more opposite. He basks in the pure physical pleasure of the clicking channel changer as he surveys in our Netflix/Hulu queue with the hands-on-hip satisfactory gaze of a landowner examining his holdings.

We do our best by each other.  He tries to watch his shows during a time when I’m doing something in another room.   I try not to play albums on repeat in his presence.  Each of us values the sanity of the other one, and that does help things.

And, like Virginia Woolf, I do have a room of my own.  An office.  With a lock.  And enormous headphones that pipe albums, on repeat, from my iPod.  If you are a writer and you plan to marry, factor in this square footage and you’ll be a happier pair.
 
 
 

Pioneer 4
 

At first glance, I would assume this is a festive fondue warmer. It is not. This is NASA's Pioneer 4.


 
 
 

Do not think for a single second that The Husband has excluded me from his survey of the universe and all its known holdings. 

He tries to explain the whosits and the whatsits, his voice dropping to a lull, his hand moving with a pencil on a piece of scrap, as he talks me through a basic description of dark matter. 

His earnestness is heartbreaking.

On an unexpected day, these thoughts he is trying to pass to me will coagulate into a brief, thick bubble of an idea.

As soon as I try to catch hold of The Husband’s idea of the universe, even a part, I find in its place a mental image of Steamboat Willie dancing boopety-boop with his knees while he pilots his churning boat past a winking benevolent moon.  There’s calliope music in this scenario, and that is somewhat comforting.

The fact is The Husband and I will never have a true conversation about the politics involved with the interloping gravity of Jupiter to Venus, as it correlates to the shift of the length of summers in the Sahara and the consequential effect on the monsoon season. (I read Discovery Magazine, which to my brain is like reading People en Español in that I get the basic concepts, but the subtleties are devoid of context. Yet the pictures are so pretty!)

The Husband and I will also never thrash out what I do know about the universe, or at least its literary equivalent.

I am clutching my stomach, while laughing and rolling around my desk in my squeaky chair, as I consider the irony of the next bit I’m about to tell you.

Give me a moment here to collect myself.

Okay.  I’m fine now.

No… wait.  I need to wipe the laughter tears with a Kleenex so that I might see what I’m writing.
 
 
 

BeyondFantasyFictionMar54
 

I would read this. And probably understand it. Probably.


 
 
 

Here’s the deal:  I read science fiction.   Not hard science fiction.  Don’t give me that much credit.

I read soft science fiction, including most of the Hugo Award winners, and a lot of the Nebula prize recipients.  My home library stacks feature a section for sci-fi, and it may surprise you to know I own a few early editions of what are considered the classics of the form. (It surprises me.  Those early editions were happy accidents.)

The Husband does not like science fiction.  Don’t be too angry with him.  He doesn’t read novels, generally, or fiction at all.  He’s too busy reading about the universe.

And, as there’s plenty of it, I expect that’s what he’s going to be reading until the day when we both have to switch to the large-print editions of whatever holographic spirit world that books will inhabit in the not-so-distant future of hovercraft library bookmobiles circled by barking dogs in jetpacks.
 
 
 

While he’s parsing the universe, my mind strings gossamer threads out of Madeleine L’Engle’s idea of the tesseract and the singing of mitochondria; knits together Frank Herbert’s twin mapping of planetary ecology to the stability of governmental bodies; embroiders upon Bradbury’s sense of the fullness of mutual otherness that occurs as one species relates to another species.

At night, while the real stars pale under the gauze of thin clouds, I read and reread these stories to myself, year after year and try to keep content with the universe that I know, an innerspace of literature: infinite, dark, and warm.

As I read, I can hear theoretical physicist Michio Kaku on the television in the living room laying out the basic mathematics of making an elevator that goes from the surface of the earth to the International Space Station.  The Husband is watching his stories.  He is content.

 
 
 

Untitled (man and woman with man in the moon)

 

Bluebird, when you said you'd fly me to the moon, I thought you meant, you know, with NASA , not a cardboard cutout. Lame.


 
 
 

Our misunderstanding of one another’s view of the universe is the real debt we pay to each other, nodding gently at the missed passes of everyday conversation.

He would prefer to converse with me about the shows he watches.  I would love to discuss the then-revolutionary ideas proposed by Herbert about the relationship of healthy planetary ecology to the balance of governmental power.

Neither conversation will ever happen.  We might as well ask Duchess Monkey and Ilsa von Dogovitch if they feel strongly either way about the political ramifications of the recent experiments using the Large Hadron Collider in Berne, Switzerland.

Meanwhile, I asked The Husband last week if there was a book he thought I could read that might help me understand the show he’s currently watching, Discovery Channel’s “How the Universe Is Made.”

He suggested I look around for a pop-up book.  We both laughed.  He went back to listening to Astronaut Stanley Love reveal how interplanetary gravity works, sotto voce, American-style.

I closed my eyes and I heard the voice of Douglas Adams in my ear, unspooling a story, as sure as the lifespan of a star, as brilliant and as fine.  Adams could, and does, explain the universe in a language I understand:
 
 
 

    Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is.  I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

 
 
 

I sag back on the couch and listen to my brain recite Adams word for word.  Soon, Zaphod Beeblebrox will make his first appearance.  Now, there’s a man I could talk to, I think.  At least one of his heads might listen to what I have to say and respond with words I’d understand. 

The other head, of course, will be busy reading the interplanetary edition of People en Español.

 
 
 
Méliès, viaggio nella luna (1902) 06
 
 
 
*This is a reposted story from January 22, 2012. Bluebird Blvd. was three months old, and had just won its first “Freshly Pressed” award from WordPress. This particular piece is one of my personal favorites because it shows several aspects of my life all at once, including a more three-dimensional version of The Husband. Hope you enjoy! Go here for an explanation as to why we’re reposting this week. (Hint: It’s all about you!)

 
 
 

The Marriage Interpreter [No. 37]

 
 
 
Gertrude Said a Lot of Things
 
 

The Husband walks into Bluebird’s office.
 
The Husband: Yaaaaay!  I’m learning to speak Braille!
 
Bluebird: That’s grea—.  Waitaminute.
 
 

***

 
 

THE HUSBAND is sitting on the couch. He is highly caffeinated.
 
The Husband: It’s like Gertrude Stein would say—
 
Bluebird: (Small voice.)  Oh no.
 
The Husband:  — “Alice can you cook anything without those ‘jazz’ cigarettes?”
 
 

***

 
 

THE HUSBAND is explaining literature to Bluebird.
 
“You know, Gertrude Stein used to say to Ernest Hemingway—  ‘A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose is corduroy, Ernest.  Listen.  You need new trousers.'”
 
 

***

 
 

THE HUSBAND wanders into Bluebird’s office, eating soup.
 
The Husband:  I only refer to myself in the fourth person.
 
Bluebird:  There’s no such thing as the fourth person.
 
The Husband:  In my mind, fourth person does too exist. Fourth person refers to me and to people talking about me at the same time.
 
Bluebird:  No.  Well, maybe…? Nope. Still no.
 
 

***

 
 

THE HUSBAND and the Bluebird are working in their side-by-side offices.
 
Bluebird: (About to ask a question.)  Um…?
 
The Husband:  No.
 
(Both crack up.)
 
 
 

Jonesing for another Husband funny fix?  Try:
 
The Universe, According to My Husband.

The Day This Man Became The Husband

 
 
 

 
 
 

The Husband and I dated for many years before we married. And when we proposed to each other, I started to design and orchestrate an at home wedding.

It took a year of planning. We married in 2002.

I wanted our marriage to start off with as much love as possible.

My dress was made by a designer, my closest college friend. (It is an archival silk, ombre dyed deep, deep blue at the bottom— a look no one was doing yet. This designer was, and is, quite amazing.)

That hairstyle was inspired by advertising photographs in French Vogue, which I occasionally picked up and read for my job. I wrote a lot of freelance fashion stories for many years. (The hair would be considered ubiquitous now, but it was a very new hairstyle in 2002.)

That whole look was created by a friend and master stylist— Christine Herbeck. She based her decisions off of photographs I provided her, descriptions, wishes, dreams.

In the end, she relied on her own internal compass. (She thought the makeup needed to be softer, lighter, more glamorous, and she was right.)

Because no one had seen a hairstyle done quite that way before, Christine had to invent it from scratch.
 
 
 

I was extraordinarily lucky to marry the man I love with the help of friends.

I bartered and traded and paid for these beautiful services with our own saved-up money. However, I had help with many of the barters, and friends did things for free that I didn’t ask for, which melts my heart to this day. As I said, I was very lucky. Am very lucky.

My brilliant stylist friend came over to do my hair and makeup. My friend came down from New York with the dress.

Friends strung our living room strung with pop lanterns. Friends bedecked our backyard with borrowed set design pieces. Each step along the way confirmed our desire to marry amongst our friends— because we believe that marriage is a social contract. A pair marries, but in doing so, they make promises to their community and their community makes promises to them.

One of my husband’s closest friends married us. (She had been with the love of her life for ten years then, and twenty as of this year— so she would know what questions to ask. And yes, she did not pull her punches when she interviewed each of us, separately, about our desire to wed.)

The Husband wore his grandfather’s bespoke Italian wool tuxedo, which fit him beautifully.

The cakes were made, standard issue, by our favorite restaurant. (They made them with love, having been witness to our courtship from the beginning.) The future Husband’s nephew decorated the cakes with toys and sprinkles bought for our wedding.
 
 
 

That night, fifty people, all of our closest friends and family, gathered to witness our vows and eat barbecue homemade by a friend of a friend (a blue-ribbon barbecue champion).

Everyone said it was the happiest wedding they had ever attended. For years afterward, they were amazed at this feat. It was so blissful.

It was love that did it.

During that fall, it rained every day, except the day of our wedding.
 
 
 

Our dog Lola (rest in peace) was our flower girl.

Donald Ewers took our wedding photos.

I asked him if he could shoot them documentary style.

Everyone was smiling. Everyone was smiling. Even Lola was smiling.

So much love. So much luck.

And not a drop of rain.

 
 

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 30)

 
 
 

 
 

THE HUSBAND is sitting on the couch, ruminating.
 

The Husband: I really want a meat grinder so I can make sausages.
 

Bluebird: Okay…?
 

The Husband: …and I want to make them in funny shapes.
 

Bluebird: (Thinks for a minute) So, what you’re telling me, basically, is that you want to make… sausage balloon animals?
 

The Husband: Exactly! How did you come up with that one?
 

Bluebird: I don’t know.
 
 

***

 
 

THE HUSBAND is eating oatmeal and thinking.
 

The Husband: If a giant bear fought a giant shark in space, who would win?
 

Bluebird: Are they wearing oxygen tanks?
 

The Husband: Huh? No. Because bears store air in their humps. Don’t they? And doesn’t a shark have an air bladder?
 

Bluebird: I… wow.
 
 

***

 
 

THE HUSBAND is STILL eating oatmeal and talking. Our dogs Duchess Monkey and Ilsa von Dogovich are hoping he will drop something.
 

The Husband: If people eat chicken livers, do they eat chicken kidneys? Or do they use them in voodoo? You know, for real small sacrifices?
 

Bluebird: I don’t know.
 

The Husband: Oh, Monkey, you got hair in my oatmeal!
 
 

***

 
 

THE HUSBAND just walked in from the garage.
 

The Husband: Oedipus!
 

Bluebird: Um, what?
 

The Husband: Mi libro para escuela “Vive” se sirve horita!
 

Bluebird: Great. I don’t understand you in two languages.
 
 

***

 
 

THE HUSBAND is sitting in the armchair, thinking.
 

The Husband: My memory is like the Aurora Borealis. Electrical particles come into my head and they sparkle.
 

Bluebird: Why are you bringing this up, exactly?
 

The Husband: I can’t find my car keys.
 
 
 
 

WE ARE ALWAYS LAUGHING (OR MISUNDERSTANDING EACH OTHER.) AND THEN, WE LAUGH
 

*The Marriage Interpreter (No. 7)— It’s all m-o-o-t.

*The Marriage Interpreter (No. 13)— Then, there was a thunderstorm. And witches.

 

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 27)

 
 
 

Groucho Marx - portrait


 

Who would you have narrate your life?

 
 
 
THE HUSBAND is translating El Caso Cerrado on Telemundo for me.
 

The Husband: (Translating simultaneously.) The man is saying that… he had… a collection of stuffed animals, and… Happy Meal toys, and his girlfriend… got mad and burned them all. And so, he… went to go stay with… his mother so he… could regain his composure. He is suing her for his composure.
 

Bluebird: Is any of this true?
 

The Husband: (Looks at the ceiling, thinking.) He did say the word “composure.”

 
 


 
 

THE HUSBAND is on the phone at the ranch.
 

The Husband: It’s all about rescucitocity. Reperosony. Retrocity? Uh. Febreze.

 
 


 
 

The Husband on the phone.
 

The Husband: Who would you have narrate your life if they were to make a biopicky about you?
 

Bluebird: What?
 

The Husband: Well, who would you have narrate your life story?
 

Bluebird: Oh! Wallace Shawn or Floyd from the Muppets. How about you?
 

The Husband: A combination of Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby. They would sing it. (Singing.) Annnnnd heeee couuuuld neverrrrr maaaaake a smoooooothie agaaaaaain.
 

Bluebird: That sounds more like Tom Waits.
 

The Husband: You’re right!

 
 


 
 

THE HUSBAND got a 98 on his final for his Intro. to Philosophy class.
 

The Husband: I aced the Groucho Marx section.

 
 


 
 
*ONE QUICK NOTE: I am back from my big Alaskan vacation! The comments section is open! I can’t wait to talk with you all!
 

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 24)

 
 
 
Leo Franklin and Madge Aubrey in dress rehearsal for "The gay divorcee", Sydney, 1930's / Sam Hood
 
 
 


The Husband is studying philosophy this summer. Here are a few moments that reflect his, um, current state of being.
 
 

THE HUSBAND just got back from his philosophy class.
 

The Husband: They should make Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling into a children’s book. See Søren drink! Drink, drink, drink! See Søren mad! Mad, mad, mad! See Søren’s dad. Sad, sad, sad.

 
 
 


 
 
 

Later the same day. THE HUSBAND is making coffee and thinking.
 

The Husband: Who would win in a wrestling match? Kierkegaard or Schopenhauer? (Stares intently at wall.) How beefy were these guys anyway?

 
 
 


 
 
 

THE HUSBAND is looking out of the kitchen window, thinking.
 

The Husband: (Turns to look at Bluebird.) Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. I mean that literally.

Bluebird: No, you don’t.

The Husband: Okay, I mean that psycholinguisticallically.

Bluebird: No. You don’t.

 
 
 


 
 
 

THE HUSBAND looks concerned.
 

The Husband: I am afraid of the things that I’m not thinking.

Bluebird: Whaa?

The Husband: (Points finger at Bluebird.) Yes. That. Exactly.

 
 
 


 
 
 

The HUSBAND walked into my office and immediately started talking.
 

The Husband: Have you ever noticed that you can’t shake your own hand? (Attempts to shake own hand and fails.) I mean properly? (Keeps trying to shake own hand.)

Bluebird: I’m putting this on Facebook.

The Husband: Is this news? (Still trying to shake his own hand.)

Bluebird: Apparently.
 
 
 

NEXT SUNDAY: Bluebird Blvd’s OUR SUNDAY BEST will resume. In the meantime, why not find out what happened on the night The Husband dreamed he owed the Keebler Elves money, in The Marriage Interpreter (No. 3)?
 

TOMORROW: More tomfoolery during The Silly Season!
 

ONE MORE REMINDER: (I know! I know!) The Show Us Your Weather! Blog Carnival is still taking entries. Do you blog? Do you have weather? We want to hear about it! Really! (Also! Current entrants— the rules have changed. If you want to post more than one entry, we will take ’em!)

 

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 23) — 2012 London Olympics Edition!

 
 
 

London Olympics

 
 
 
 

OPENING CEREMONY

 
 

THE HUSBAND just got home— he’s goggling at the costumes of the American Somoan Olympic hopefuls. He looks *so* confused.
 

The Husband:  Where is Angora?
 

Bluebird:  Do you mean Angola?
 

The Husband:  No.  The place with the fluffy sheep that make the sweaters.
 

Bluebird:  The sheep make the sweat—?!?
 

The Husband: (Firmly) Yes, they do.
 
 
 
 

DAY ONE OF THE OLYMPICS

 
 

Watching the repeat coverage of the men’s swimming competitions on Telemundo* late at night with The Husband.
 

The Husband:  (Listening intently) She is saying that the competitors are swimming very fast—
 

Bluebird:  Uh-huh?
 

The Husband:  In water.  And (translating in his head)— that they are very pretty swimmer men.
 

Bluebird:  You’re making this up.
 

The Husband:  Um…  possibly.
 

*Spanish-language American Television station
 
 
 

Twenty minutes later.  NBC is airing the heated preliminary between the Americans and the Australians* in Beach Volleyball.
 

The Husband:  You wouldn’t think beach volleyball would be this intense.
 

Bluebird:  Jeez Louise-a-lou!  This is a close one!
 

(The Husband tips his head to one side.)
 

Bluebird:  There is a lot of hugging in beach volleyball.
 

The Husband:  It’s sport hugging.  That’s not real hugging.
 
 

*It was Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley (Australia) vs. Misty May-Traynor and Kerri Walsh  (U.S.A.), which you can read about in this Reuters story.
 
 
 
 

DAY TWO of the OLYMPICS

 
 

THE HUSBAND just walked into my office. He has been watching the Olympics for almost 14 hours.
 

The Husband: Avocados are a superfood! Josh Brolin was in Goonies. GOOOAAAAAAL! Mas y mas!
 
 
 

THE HUSBAND just walked into my office from his post-Olympic TV-watching nap.
 

The Husband:  That was THIRTY YEARS ago, Harold!  Let it GO!
 

Bluebird:  Wharrr?
 

The Husband:  (Arches eyebrow.)  You heard me!
 

(The Husband wobbles out of my office.)
 
 
 

THE HUSBAND is staring at the television.  It isn’t on. 
 

The Husband:  I learned something important from watching the two-man rowing event.
 

Bluebird:  Yes?
 

The Husband:  In two-man rowing, it is important that you learn how to turn around really fast, and keep your chair well-oiled.  Because you will go backwards.
 

Bluebird:  Oh… kay?
 

The Husband: (Still staring at “off” TV screen, mumbling.) You will go backwards. (A beat.) Especially in Angora.
 
 
 
 


 

 
 

The Marriage Interpreter [No. 22]

 
 
 

Ruth St Denis and Ted Shawn in the Dance of the Rebirth from...

 


Your brain is like a piñata filled with free-range eggs.


 
 

THE HUSBAND just walked into my office.
 

The Husband: Where’s my robot? (Dances in a circle.)
 

Bluebird: (Staring at computer screen.) Do you need assistance right now?
 

The Husband: Boop-beep-boop-boop-beep!
 

Bluebird: (Still staring at computer screen.) Speak slower and clearer.
 

The Husband: Boop-beeeeeep-boooooop-booooop-beeee—
 

Bluebird: (Looks away from computer screen.) I’ve got the gist of it now. No more coffee for you.
 

The Husband: But… I haven’t had any coffee.
 

Bluebird: (Stares at The Husband for a long moment.) Then maybe you should drink some?
 
 


 
 

THE HUSBAND is staring out the window.
 

The Husband: Well, the squirrels ate all the peanuts I put out on the patio—
 

Bluebird: Yup.
 

The Husband: — as well as all of the peanuts that were sitting on the patio table, in a sealed bag. Stupid Houdini squirrels!
 

Bluebird: Hou— what?
 
 


 
 

THE HUSBAND left me a note on the coffee maker:
 

Hey! Good morning. I made you chork pops for lunch! They are in the fridge. Enjoy!
 
 


 
 

THE HUSBAND just walked into my office.
 

The Husband: Bebe Rebozo!
 

Bluebird: Who is Bebe Rebozo?
 

The Husband: Exactly.
 

(He wanders out of my office, whistling.)
 
 


 
 

THE HUSBAND just got back from the grocery store.
 

The Husband: (Waving arms around.) Get ready for your dinner extravaganza! I got you TWO kinds of crackers!
 

Bluebird: Okay?
 

The Husband: The first is roasted Golem and herb. The second is Wasa!
 

Bluebird: That can’t be right.
 
 


 
 

The HUSBAND talking while he drives:

The Husband: I want to save this karma for something important. Like not getting hit with a trombone in a tight orchestra pit. Someone could say, “What happened? How’d you get that injury?” And then I can say, “Which do you mean— my eye, or the back of my head?” (Mimes trombone player sliding the outer slide out and then in— WAA-Waaaa!) That’s what I want to save my karma for. For not… that happening. Excuse me. I think I have confused myself.
 
 


 
 

THE HUSBAND just poked his head into my office.
 

The Husband: Why was George Jefferson of the Jeffersons married to such an evil woman?
 

Bluebird: What the who now? I think you’re confused.
 

The Husband: Wasn’t he married to Leona Helmsley?
 

Bluebird: The name you’re thinking of is Weezie, his on-screen wife. And George Jefferson was played by Sherman Hemsley.
 

The Husband: So… not Leona Helmsley?
 
 

*Rest In Peace Sherman Hemsley. Thanks for breaking barriers and making us laugh, sir.
 
 


 
 
The Husband and the Bluebird are in their side-by-side offices.
 

Bluebird: (Speaking through the open door of her office.) Do you know what I’d call your brain? Free-range.
 

The Husband: (Replying through the open door of his office.) Free-range brain? Or free-range thinking?
 

Bluebird: You know like the label they put on eggs? That’s your brain. Except more like a piñata? Full of weird surprises.
 

The Husband: My brain-piñata would be filled with candied eggs.
 

Bluebird: We’re out of eggs. That’s what I was actually trying to remember to tell you. So, you have a free-range brain piñata. Are you cool with that?
 

The Husband: (Pause from The Husband’s office.) I’m not sure what I’m agreeing with here. We’re out of eggs?
 

Bluebird: Yup.

 
 

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 21)

 
 
 

PAPER PLATE AD, COUPLE AT DOCK— George Eastman House

I am all omnibotempt!


 
 
 

Once again, I have been keeping a list of all of the things The Husband has said lately.

The last time I did a “bits and pieces” version of our dialogues was in The Marriage Interpreter (No. 19).

Some of these you may have seen on Facebook. Others I stashed away to share with you on a day like this one. Have fun!

 
 

***

 
 


THE HUSBAND just got home from class. He’s taking advanced Spanish.
 

The Husband: Hoo-boy! This class is definitely advanced. We’re studying informal confederates. Perfedorates, uh. And subjunctive clods. Hey! Why are you laughing now?

 
 

***

 
 


THE HUSBAND is on the phone. He is at the ranch.
 

The Husband: I thought I brought my Spanish discs so I could study my Spanish for class, right?
 

Bluebird: (Sort of not listening.) Mmm-hmm?
 

The Husband: But, I accidentally brought “Lost In Translation” instead. Did you know that I can conjugate Japanese verbs? Bill Murray is not going to help me with my Spanish, is he?
 

Bluebird: Mm-hmm…. Wait, what!?!

 
 

***

 
 


THE HUSBAND says he’s going to open up a Western-themed pet store called “Sam’s Pecks and Paws.”
 
 

***

 
 


THE HUSBAND, peering at me over his coffee, in the kitchen.
 

The Husband: I am all omnibotempt!
 

Bluebird: Yes. Yes, you are that.

 
 

***

 
 


THE HUSBAND is dancing around my office with his brand new textbook set for next fall.
 

The Husband: Fistful of poetry, bro! BOOYAH!
 
 

***

 
 


The HUSBAND is SINGING in the hallway— “Cheeeeeetah skulllls and turkey feathers!”
 
 

***

 
 


THE HUSBAND just got into an argument with my dressmaker’s dummy.
 

The Husband: (Accidentally kicking dummy.) Just take it easy! (Points finger.) Just calm down. Okay, then!
 

(The Husband walks back out of my office without another word.)
 
 

***

 
 


THE HUSBAND just jogged through my office.
 

The Husband: I am putting the “FUN” back into perFUNctory!
 

Bluebird: ???
 

The Husband: And what does perfunctory mean again?
 

(The Husband jogs away.)

 
 

***

 
 


The HUSBAND is SINGING as he shaves— “Deer antlers and a CIVIL WAR BUGLE candelabra! Sans CANDLE!”
 
 

***

 
 


THE HUSBAND is in the kitchen.
 

The Husband: I’m eating nachos without the “chos.”
 

Bluebird:  So, what’s in them, then?
 

The Husband:   Hamburger and cheese.  Because you ate the chips.  And I have a festive South-of-the-Border attitude.  And I’m feeling Welsh!
 

Bluebird:  I understand you about… (Rolls eyes up, calculating.)— twenty percent of the time.
 

The Husband: (While eating “na” without the “chos.”)   Sounds about right.

 
 

***

 
 


THE HUSBAND, right now, looks up from his Spanish book as I walk through the room.
 

The Husband: What are you doing now?
 

Bluebird: Exploiting the hilarity of our marriage for comic writing material.
 

The Husband: (Waves hand impatiently.) Yes, yes. I mean, besides that.
 

Bluebird: Breathing and using up gravity.
 

The Husband: (Gives a “thumbs up” gesture.) Keep up the good work.
 

(The Husband resumes studying.)

 
 

***

 
 

IN THE BEGINNING

It amazes me to think that the entire Marriage Interpreter series started with a discussion about “crumping.” Well, I’m amazed, myself, I tell you what!

 

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 19)

 
 
 

 
 
 


Conversations with THE HUSBAND on the phone are even more disconnected than our in-person interactions.

Here are eight phone conversations and one in person conversation that I recorded while we we were talking.

Some of these have previously turned up as status entries on Facebook. Others have not. All conversations are printed with the permission of The Husband.
 
 
 
 

BLUEBIRD talking to THE HUSBAND, who is calling from the ranch.
 

The Husband: I’m going to take you to The Jackrabbit Pan-Fry Festival.
 

Bluebird: What is that?
 

The Husband: A thing… that doesn’t exist. I can’t think in words right now.
 

Bluebird: Please take me there.
 
 
 
 
 

THE HUSBAND, back from the hardware store.
 

See if you can translate this:
 

“I got the stuff to do the thing with the stuff that… push it. Glue? Micronesia.”
 
 
 
 
 

THE HUSBAND on the phone to the BLUEBIRD, out of nowhere.
 

The Husband: Die Gedanken sind frei! [Thoughts are free.]
 

Bluebird: How do you spell “Gedanken”?
 

The Husband: Just like it sounds.
 

Bluebird: ???
 
 
 
 
 

Morning. BLUEBIRD on the phone with THE HUBSBAND
 

Bluebird: So our friend J— found a cult classic film I want to watch, but I’d need you to try to translate it. It’s in Russian.
 

The Husband: Okay…. As long as you don’t mind if every other sentence is “Where is the Museum?” and “I like hot tea.”
 

Bluebird: ???
 
 
 
 
 

THE HUSBAND on the phone with the BLUEBIRD, right now.
 

The Husband: Isn’t the extemporaneous a part of the brain?
 

Bluebird: I’m getting on Facebook.
 

The Husband: What? Why is that funny?
 

Bluebird: Hold on. I can’t type and laugh at the same time.
 
 
 
 
 

THE HUSBAND, hurriedly, on the phone with the BLUEBIRD.
 

The Husband: Your pro-dunce-iations won’t help you now! Call me Jimmy Ampersand!
 

Bluebird: How much coffee have you had?
 

The Husband: And we can call you Olivia Von Umlaut! (Pause.) Not much coffee. Two pots? Why don’t they call it an Andpersand? That would make more sense. It has “and” built right in it, see?
 

Bluebird: Switch to water, please.
 
 
 
 
 

THE HUSBAND, on the phone again, mumbling to the BLUBIRD.
 

The Husband: I got this knock-off of Garnier shampoo called Gerpiyay or Carnier, and it smells like Froot Loops. Bees keep dive bombing me. Hey! Are you typing again?
 

Bluebird: Yes? No. Maybe? Yes.
 
 
 
 
 

BLUEBIRD on the phone with THE HUSBAND, who is at the ranch.
 

The Husband: (Sounding jumpy) Damn owls! They keep dropping stuff on the roof to make it go CLANG. (Puts hand over phone.) Knock it OFF, owls!
 

Owls: CLANG!
 
 
 
 
 

At the ranch, two days later; THE HUSBAND on phone with BLUEBIRD.
 

The Husband: Either it’s raining or an owl is peeing on me. Oh. It’s raining.
 

Bluebird: ???

 
 
 

A Little Story Amongst Friends

Color photograph from 1942 showing an instructor explaining a parachute.

 

This morning, The Husband will come in early and wake me up, possibly by jumping on the bed.

He will jump on the bed, and he will probably bonk his head on the ceiling.

The dogs will bark.  I will throw my pillow at him, laughing, but today I will give him more allowances to act up more than usual.

You see, today is his birthday.   He is forty-mumble.

The Husband walks with the lean loping roll of the tall and slender. I am indecently short and curvy and I walk like a wildcat with a case of the hiccups.

We cannot stand face to face unless I climb up on a chair.

Regardless of the height difference, I know that his eyebrows semaphore two dozen messages a day.

Right eyebrow up, left eyebrow down—  You know I’m joking, right?

Left eyebrow up, right down— I’ve gotten the dogs worked up, but I’m going to blame it on street noise.  You won’t believe me.

Both eyebrows down, right corner of right eyebrow up— I’ve had six cups of coffee.  I’m about to jump on the bed while you’re asleep.

Men on the street generally think him manly.

I am always surprised by the things men say about the man I call my husband— he is unexpected, an anomaly.

Here is what men say to me— your husband is a 1940s-ish sort of man.  He’s the kind with an ease to his person and a lot of unexpected skills.

I smile.  I live with him.  One can become accustomed to certain traits.  Others continue to surprise and shock.

For instance, The Husband can teach himself anything from a book.

One summer, he taught himself how to sew curtains.

Everyone should know the fundamentals.  His eyes turned back to the page of my old sewing text.

His stitching is perfect. My grandmother said when she ran a finger over the resulting lined seamed curtains. You say he learned this from a book?

His long, unfussy hands lean into his trouser pockets.

The Husband wears carefully tailored vintage gabardines in grey and silver blue and green.   He knows how to tie more than three types of knots in his silk ties.   He even has silk socks with embroidered clocks on them.

He can tell a joke.  He can build a chair.  He can bake a cake.  He can fix a car.  He can train a horse.  He can raise orchids.   He sometimes tries to explain physics to me.  I sometimes try to explain poetry to him.

Animals and children lean into him naturally.

Yet, the Husband does not ordinarily wear hats because he always has nicely coiffed hair.

The night I met him, I was hunched miserably at the counter of a restaurant next to a man who co-owned a gallery down the street.

In a few hours, I would be performing poetry with a big band for New Year’s Eve.  I was nervous and tired the whole of my twenties.  I needed coffee.

The woman at the counter wouldn’t serve me coffee.  Just would not do it.   I didn’t have it in me to jut out my chin that night.

The future Husband leaned behind our mutual friend, the gallerist, and made a very silly joke.  I cracked up loudly.  It got the waitress’s attention.  She served me coffee, finally, as this strange tall man winked at me.

He said later that he knew right then he’d marry me someday.

In a few minutes, I will hear him turn the doorknob.  The Husband wakes up at four a.m. to read and listen to music.  His face shines in the morning— these are his best hours.

I was not raised to marry.  It was an option, but not the option— I was a writer.  This was my vocation and the whole of my life.

No one in my family expected marriage from me, but I did marry after all— and I married the one man they mutually admired.

The Husband surprises us often.  He can see a great distance.  He can restore a motorcycle.  He can play more than one musical instrument.   He can speak deferentially and he can listen carefully.

In a few seconds now, the door will open.   I will surprise him.  I will be sitting up and smiling with a book on my lap.   I married a man who is capable of anything, especially kindness.

He will still jump on the bed.  It is his birthday, after all.   I will clap and laugh.  The dogs will bark.  And a new day begins with a story made of words and hope and home and a man and a woman.

And the door opens.

Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots, Meacham Field, Fort Worth, Tex. (LOC)

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 14)

 
 

Two Women (cinema 1915?)


 
 

THREE BRIEF SCENES FROM AN AVERAGE MARRIAGE

 

SCENE ONE

 
The Bluebird is washing dishes in the kitchen.  The Husband is shaving in a bathroom down the hallway.

 

Bluebird:   (Shouting to The Husband in another room) So, I said to the guy, “What do you think about flamingos and—” (Reaches to flick the garbage disposal switch)
 

(The uncovered wires meet with The Bluebird’s damp left hand and she receives a nasty electric shock.)
 

BRRRRRRRRZZZZZAAAAAA—
 

(Lights flicker throughout the house. Twice.)
 

— ARRRRRRRRRRP!
 

The Husband:  (Walking quickly from the bathroom with soap on face) Bluebird?
 

Bluebird:  (Standing stock still with eyes open) Um?  I, uh…?  Hm.  Well.
 

(The room smells of barbecued dishtowel.)
 

The Husband: (Quietly) I’ll fix that today.
 

Bluebird:  (Still not quite sure what’s going on) Ah.  What?  The flamingo says… Hm.
 

The Husband:  (Even more quietly) I’m thinking, maybe, you should… sit down?
 

Bluebird:  (Now being led to a chair by The Husband) The guy….  Wait.  The flamingo?  Ah. Hm.
 

The Husband:  How many fingers am I holding up?
 

Bluebird: (Squinting) Eleventeen.
 
 
 

Harvest (cinema 1913)

 
 
 
SCENE TWO
 

Bluebird and The Husband are standing by the side porch door.  She reaches her hands out to him.
 

Bluebird:  Let’s dance!
 

The Husband:  I don’t remember any of the steps.
 

Bluebird:  Sure you do.  I’ll count them for you.  Box step.
 

(The Husband places his feet outside Bluebird’s feet and waits for her to count.  This position is incorrect.)
 

Bluebird:  Step back and close.  Step side and close.  Step front and close. Step side and close.
 

(The pair awkwardly completes the first rotation.)
 

Bluebird:  Let’s switch to the basic waltz. Now, why don’t you count it in your head?  You can do this.  (He can’t do this.  He can do many, many things well.  But not this.)
 

Inside Bluebird’s head:  (ONE two three. TWO-two-three.  THREE-two-three…)
 

Inside The Husband’s head:  (Step?   Square… Triangle.  Orangutan.  Purple?  Tattoo.)
 

 
 
 

The Saint and the Singer (Cinema 1914)

 
 
SCENE THREE
 
An ordinary Saturday morning.  The Husband has consumed too much coffee.  The Husband and Bluebird are sitting on the couch together.
 

The Husband:  I have questions.  Can I ask you some questions?  Are you ready for some questions?
 

Bluebird:  (Covers eyes) Okay?
 

The Husband:  (Staring at ceiling) Are “kitten hands”* a real kung fu move? Is Wavy Gravy a real food? If Wavy Gravy teamed up with The Flying Burrito Brothers would they have cowboy hippie superpowers?
 

Bluebird:  Wow.
 

The Husband:  What?
 

Bluebird:   I just had a mild meltdow— Never mind.  The answers to your questions are:  No.   Possibly, if you don’t cook it right. Yes, Wavy Gravy and The Flying Burrito Brothers would have cowboy hippie superpowers.  Now I have some questions for YOU.
 

The Husband:  Huh?  Like what?
 

Bluebird:  (Has also consumed too much coffee.)  What company in their right mind would make a hybrid grape-apple combination and call it a “Grapple”?  What is the point of men’s capris?  Does anyone in this town teach yodeling?  What do you think they charge per lesson?  Is it me, or does Ryan Seacrest look like Howdy Doody?
 

The Husband:  (Inwardly frightened a little bit.) Well…. huh.  You got me there, Bluebird.  I don’t know.  I really don’t know.  (Trying for casual.)  How many cups of coffee have you had this morning, exactly?
 

Bluebird:  (Without missing a beat) Eleventeen.
 

 
 
 

The Saint and the Singer (Cinema 1914)