It's dark out. I've put on my snow boots and coat to take the garbage out to the dumpster. As I throw it in, I wonder, "What if my wedding ring just flew off and landed in the dumpster?"
A dark part of me answered, "Good. Wouldn't go in after it."
I know these thoughts are part and parcel of married life; I just didn't know they would kick in so soon. It's only been a month and half.
Sitting up in bed later that night, he fidgets with his ring subconsciously, taking it off and putting it back on again, repeatedly, while he explains the flaw he's just noticed in our relationship, or in me, or in himself, I can't tell yet. But I notice the ring thing. I notice the inner dialogue playing out behind his eyes, the oppressed bachelor, "Into the Wild" Kyle, trying to break through to stable, married Kyle and make his doubts known.
Marriage is brutal. For whom is it not brutal? How do people end up at 25th anniversaries? 50th? It's been a month and a half.
A hand on my shoulder wakes me gently. Through bleary eyes, I can make out Kyle's friendly, freshly scrubbed face. That and the morning light are more than I can handle right now.
I get up from the couch, mumble hello and goodbye, and crawl back into our bed.
Again, I'm awake, this time much more rested. It's probably an ungodly hour. I check my phone--yes, yes it is: 11am. Kyle will be home soon.
God, it's so inconvenient how I have to make him lunch, and I can never go to noon Mass anymore...
I check my phone a minute later.
"Work is buying us lunch today."
Well... Cool. Great. Freaky.
I arrive at the church early enough to give a confession as well.
"Father Fischer," the plaque reads, next to a small red indicator light. I stand in line and ponder my sins for a bit, asking the Holy Spirit for help. The door opens, a sorry soul exits, and the light turns green. Here goes...
I manage to slink into the confessional and kneel behind the screen unidentified. I don't want to see his face today.
"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been three weeks since my last confession."
"Um, okay, well, I made some jokes at my husband's expense, I feel pretty terrible about that. And then otherwise..."
I rattle off some other, broader sins and brace myself for his counsel. Some priests just hear your confession and give you a penance--not Father Fischer.
"You know...a husband...is supposed to love his wife...as his own body."
His slow, booming voice makes this reproof last all the longer.
"How can he do this...if you are ridiculing him?"
Yes, Father, thank you, I understand, I feel bad, that's why I'm here--
"You know...to dishonor...one's husband...is a very grave sin."
Yes, thank you, I get it, I'm a piece of crap, can we move on?
"For your penance..."
Sliding to the center of a polished pew, I realize I have about ten minutes to figure out how I'm going to stomach forgiving Kyle from my heart so I can receive the Eucharist--and Father Fischer's absolution--with any integrity.
"If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." Matthew 6:14-15
"When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.” Mark 11:25
"His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” Matthew 18:32-35
I make several, last-ditch attempts to weep dramatically by dwelling on the events of last night, but each attempt is successively more quickly neutralized by the higher part of my soul, until finally, I have to admit my hands are tied.
Stupid God, making brilliant, smart-ass caveats and conditions to foolproof his forgiveness...
In my best Eric Cartman impression, I pray, "You're breakin' mah balls, here, God. You're breakin' mah balls."
I curl up on my living room floor, still unable to throw myself that pity party I so desperately desire, even after all that good progress at Mass.
"Make him a stew," advises a voice from within. Kyle has been requesting one for a few days.
I get up and busy myself with that for the rest of the afternoon. The recipe calls for red wine. I test the quality of it, and then some. That perks me up a bit.
I leave the stew simmering on the stove for Kyle and make my way to the church again for a choir rehearsal. Singing about God and the Blessed Mother is a much needed distraction.
Later, as I'm leaving the church, an older gentleman holds the door for me, and we descend the steps of St. Mary's together into the dark night, snow falling gently upon us.
"How's married life?" he asks with a twinkle in his eye.
My usual response to this is "Great!" since I suppose that's what people want to hear. I can't muster that tonight.
"Brutal. It's a little brutal right now."
He doesn't miss a beat.
"Yeah, it's like looking into a mirror of your own faults, every day. It's good for us though."
"For sure. Thank you. Please pray for us."
From the comfort of our bed, I wait for Kyle to return from his evening outing.
At last, I hear the key in the door--my thumb clenches its current rosary bead more tightly. I listen to him remove his boots and outerwear. I hear him knock--
He opens the door and reads my face. It is safe to enter, he decides. He climbs in next to me, and we chitchat for a little bit. He tells me he really, really liked the stew. I smile and tell him I've been "stewing" all day. He smiles sheepishly.
"Sarah, I'm really sorry about some of the things I said last night. I keep playing them in my head, and I feel terrible. I was way harsher than I needed to be. I haven't been doing a very good job of modeling Jesus for you lately. I've been dropping the ball, and I'm sorry."
I'm impressed. I wasn't expecting such a great apology, so fast.
"It's okay, I forgive you. I literally have to. Plus, you forgave me for making those jokes that embarrassed you. I wouldn't want you to think I was hopeless as a wife, so I don't think you are hopeless as a husband."
For the first time in twenty-four hours, I can hold his gaze...
...we venture forth tentative smiles...
...and just like that, a lifelong marriage seems feasible--maybe even endearing--once again.