It was a Monday night when Kristen decided to be unhappy in her marriage.
The day was not, in other respects, an unusual one. People at work, unhappy to be back in the office after the three day weekend, had as usual behaved as though she were being personally unreasonable when she reminded them at 2:15 that their slides were due for the Tuesday Ops deck by 3:00 PM. Some day, she promised herself, she would leave them un-reminded and they could explain to the Senior Vice President how a deadline that arrived at precisely the same time every single week could be, every week, forgotten.
Then at 4:56, as she was struggling to get the last of the slides together, the inevitable text had arrived from Ron, "Can u pick up kids? Running late and have to finish." She gritted her teeth, knowing that if she replied, "No." the response would be, "Please...?"
She announced her entry of the other admin's cube with a can-you-believe-this sigh. "Ron sends his text-pologies again. I have to go get the kids before 5:30 or they start charging by the minute." Jennifer rolled her eyes sympathetically. "Todd and Kathy haven't sent their slides yet. Can you put them in when they do?"
Jennifer could. "Couch," she advised.
James and Emily tussled loudly in the back seat and wailed when, as always, homework was ordered before television. There was nothing faster than frozen pizza in the freezer, and the thought of carbs for dinner reminded her of the free cookies which had proved irresistible in breakroom that afternoon, making her doubly exasperated.
Ron did not appear until after dinner.
"Sorry, hon," he announced himself, dumping his laptop case on the kitchen floor as he swung the fridge door open and grabbed a beer from the bottom shelf. "Meetings. Samir was out. Code wouldn't compile." Because, she almost thought she could hear him say. I have an important job. "Oh man, I'm tired..." he was saying. As if this was some unique achievement of his, unexperienced by her.
Steps sounded behind her, but she didn't turn. Pop went the beer, just behind her. "Oh hey, pizza." He grabbed a piece. "Down by twelve points already," he complained, vanishing into the living room. A moment later the TV sounded.
She paused, savoring her frustrating and imagining the sympathetic nods that it would draw from Jennifer the next day when properly related. "He always does this. And didn't even sit down and ask how my day was." Always.
She rose and went to the door of the living room. He had one foot on the coffee table, the pizza slice folded over in one hand, the beer in the other, leaning forward tensely -- the pizza sliced paused in it's trip to his mouth -- as he awaited the result of a play.
She could hear in her mind the nattering advice of the pre-marriage counselor all those years ago. "Never say, 'You always...' That's fighting language. Say, 'When you do that it makes me feel...'"
But after sixteen years of marriage, and in the middle of watching a game, "makes me feel" would elicit no more than an absent "Uh, huh..." And all of a sudden the work of not being unhappy in her marriage seemed the one thing she did not have energy left for, however difficult being unhappy might later prove to be. So thinking of how it would sound when related over coffee the next day, she started with, "You always do this. You just don't care about my job, or dinner, or... I don't know what you do care about."
Jane Austen’s Emma in Washington, DC
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