About two weeks ago I developed an irritated spot on my finger. My ring finger, on my left hand, right under my wedding rings. It started out bright red and then turned scaly and angry. It looked like eczema, and again, it was right under my wedding rings. At first I ignored it, but then the rash got uglier. Maybe itís a reaction the metal of your rings, some friends asked. Or from the heat, suggested others. I thought it might have stemmed from the cleaning solution I used when I last cleaned my rings. But the metal has never irritated my skin before, Iíve worn the rings through hot summers already, and the cleaning solution is the same Iíve always used. You need to stop wearing your rings and put medicine on it until that rash goes away, someone cautioned. So last night, I took my rings off and applied layers and layers of lotion.
Today was my day off. I thought we could go out for breakfast, I told Kent. Maybe the West Village or something nearby, eat and then walk around and shop, pretend we are idle rich. His shoulders sagged. But I thought we could drive up to Columbia and I could show you around the campus after dropping off some paperwork, he said. Okay, sure, whatever. I just thoughtÖ
No, no, itís fine, he said, weíll do your thing. First I need to walk the dog.
Oh. OkayÖIíll take a shower, I said.
A half hour later I hear him hissing and swearing in the bedroom. Motherfucker, motherfucker, he is saying. Motherfucking dry cleaners.
What is your problem, I ask. The fucking dry cleaners, he yells, shoving a blazer at me. The shoulder pads are all fucked up, godammit. Feel here Ė theyíre all fucked up.
I feel the shoulder pad, it seems a little bunched up compared to the other, nothing horrible though, and I tell Kent as much. I tell it to him in a very bitchy voice. Itís just a jacket, I snot, whatís the big deal. He does not like that.
A few minutes later, after a hasty apology from Kent for snapping at me over the blazer, and a passive-aggressive martyr bit from me in response, we are out the door. So where are we going first, I ask. UhÖhe says. Do you want to go downtown or uptown first, I ask, hands on hip, bitchy tone in voice. Whatever, I donít care, he says. Letís go downtown, I really could give a shit. Awesome, I say, I love this day.
Fifteen minutes later we are in the car, slowly edging through the West Village, looking for parking places. Um, you canít PARK THERE, I shrill. Donít you see the signs? Jesus Christ, Kent exhales, would you RELAX?
Ten minutes later we are walking down the beautiful tree-lined streets in the very-West Village. Do you want to go up to Pastis, I ask, pointing to the restaurantís red awning visible up Hudson Street. Nah, itís probably too late for Pastis, theyíre serving lunch, he shrugs. Well, where DO you want to eat, I demand. Wherever, whatever, I really donít care, he tells me.
We grab take-out from a nearby pastry shop and sit on a bench near Eighth Avenue. This almond croissant is stale, I comment. My coffeeís cold, he replies.
Later, walking on West 14th Street, I step in a filthy puddle of scummy street water. Shit, I hiss, I stepped in a nasty puddle. Kent shrugs, Well, this whole neighborhood smells like piss, what do you expect.
Walking, walking, walking and fighting the whole time. I just wanted a good day, I am yelling. Why are you always mad at me, he is asking. BE MY FRIEND, I yell. BE MINE, he yells back.
Letís just go home, I donít want to be with you anymore today, I say.
He doesnít say anything.
Why wonít you TALK to me ever, ever? I demand.
He doesnít say anything.
Do you even LIKE me? Do you really love me? Because I donít feel very loved right now, I spit.
He doesnít say anything.
In the car we are silent. I notice that Kent is turned around, not sure which street will take us to the south-bound lanes of the West Side Highway. I donít say anything. We get on the highway heading uptown. Kent is looking for places to make a U-turn, of which there are none. I know this, but still say nothing, sitting there with a raised eyebrow and a scowl.
Motherfucker, he says finally, where can I make U-turn?
Oh, I just assumed we were going up to Columbia. If you wanted to go home, you should have gone the right way, I tell him. He doesnít respond, driving angrily through traffic. He heads to Columbia, for spite.
At Columbia, I hear myself say, Iíll just wait in the car while you go drop off that paperwork. Which I donít want to do, and I know is a horrible, bitchy thing to say. Kent wanted to take me to campus to show me around, and having some paperwork to drop off was simply an excuse to get me there, to give him a chance to show off, to show me something new, to walk around and have a nice day. I know he wants to walk around, so I shrew that I want to do the opposite.
Kent puts the car in gear and speeds downtown. We hit traffic everywhere, and are not speaking. Somewhere around 23rd Street he turns to me and says, I deserve better than this. SO DO I, I yell back. At West Street I look over towards the World Trade Center site and wonder if Kent would even miss me if I were gone. Would I miss him. Would it be easier to be on my own.
At home I go straight into the bedroom and lay down. After a bit I get up and go out to run errands. When I get home, Kent is asleep on the bed. When he wakes up, he hugs me and I hug him. Letís go out for dinner, he suggests.
We eat at the corner Japanese restaurant. We share sushi and have a few beers and we are talking for the first time in what feels like weeks. Iím sorry about today, I tell him, sincere. Kent nods, Me too. It was bad, I say. He nods again. We split the last piece of yellowtail and order more food. Kent squeezes my knee, and says, Itís okay.
At some point, I looked down and noticed that the rash on my hand is clearing up. I am not a superstitious person, but I do know that marriage is hard, that being alone may very well be easier. I know that in any marriage there will be bad days, and that itís more than good days and bad days. And I know that tomorrow I will put my wedding rings on again, and that we will be okay.