parallel lives

by bam

any minute now, in the pit-a-pat of the pitch black of a rainy morning, the man i love, the man i weave my life with, will grab the keys off the ring, walk to the curb and drive 200 miles away.

i will get boys out of bed, off to school. i will go into a classroom. work with first graders learning to read. i will see first-hand who reads and who doesn’t yet. i might well be alarmed. i might walk out of that room, thinking, hoh boy, we are sunk. or sinking.

the man with the keys and the old volvo wagon will be driving still. will be on his way to the world’s first green museum. often, by day, he fills his hours with the world’s first this. or the latest architectural that. he talks to people all day with broad sweeping visions. often, of late, he talks to that fellow from tv who builds very tall buildings, fires his minions, right there on the screen, goes by the name of “the donald.” you know, the one with the very bad hair.

sometimes i too talk to souls with incredible visions. sometimes my day job fills my hours with thoughts far, far away. but i layer my day jobs. i’ve got more than just one. oh, sure i write newspaper stories. and i care very much about every last word.

but the fact of the matter, the job that keeps me awake is the one that draws me to classrooms, to cafeteria lines. the one that has me keeping very close watch on the souls who are growing inside of this house.

that’s the one, i think, that takes every ounce of my intellect, and more of my soul than i ever imagined. that’s the one that has me sifting through sands, searching for stones on the side of the path, the ones left long long ago by the wise souls marking the trail. some days i feel lost in the woods; others, the direction is perfectly clear. even if lonely.

what amazes me is the invention of what we’ll call marriage, but really is two lives daring to buttress each other. the fact that two souls can lead such different lives by the day, yet come home, night after night, to the same table, the same couch, the same bed.

there are days, plenty, and especially of late, where our worlds just barely connect. he is off in a newsroom, battling battles. and i am at home worrying about consonant blends, how to teach that c and h sound like a train, s and h remind you to whisper and c and k echo each other.

there are days, spans of days really, when it feels as if whole chapters roll by. not a paragraph shared. oh, sure i know the essentials. what train he’ll be on. if he’ll be late.

but do i know the ins and outs of his soul?

often i do. not often enough, it might seem.

does he know mine? not unless he sits down and reads what i write here. (just a joke, just a plug for the chair, there.)

do i know at this minute, what he is thinking? how he lurched on the brakes because a car in the rain nearly collided with the one just in front? do i know the questions he’s thinking of asking, or why this museum is worth a three-hour drive?

the state of a marriage in the thick of these years, must be such that it can get by on fumes and wisps. for fairly long spells.

but then, in the unscheduled serendipitous sentence, in the sharing of a story, or hearing how deeply he listens, when really it matters, the whole deal is sealed. i remember why i, who clung to my all-alone time, gave it up. i recall how it is that he makes me more than i am, all on my own. i remember the feeling of spreading my wings. catching the updraft. some days, he is my wind.

it is, at best, an exercise in extreme empathy. putting yourself in the place of the one who you love. imagining the world as it comes crashing toward that other one’s soul. while keeping yourself as adrift as you can.

i choose–by mutual consent–not to explore here the ways it does not work. that is the subject of some other place. what amazes me though, what is worth examination, is simply the marvel of spiraling, always returning. how we find, in the dark of a cool rainy dawn, that place where we both draw our breath from the very same air.

how our keys can dangle in parallel, on two separate rings. we can go off for very long hours. and still want, very much, to come again to the same table. to intersect. to share the stories that over the years weave us together. to know there is much that pulls us apart, the drama of days, the simple equations of physics and math.

but to know, as sure as we know there is oxygen out there, that there is reason for both of our hearts to proclaim this the place where we lay down our heads and our dreams and our prayers. we’ve birthed more than two children.

we’ve birthed a path up the mountain that promises this: some days, we diverge, we climb over rocks, barely hold on in slippery places. but once in a while we meet up and look out together. what we see, it catches my breath. it holds it and draws out my lungs. but then it fills up.

then i know i am breathing the very pure air of parallel lives intersecting for one simple reason: together we climb to a place we’d not climb alone, not a chance.

marriage is not often the subject of discourse here at the table. i was simply struck, as we both stood in the dark, diving into our day, at how different are the lives that we lead for much of the daylight. yet somehow, we always find union. i think it worth putting out there because of souls who i love at various stages of union: a dear friend who after many long years has fallen in love, and has sent out a series of questions about how it is that we negotiate the deep and not-so-deep matters of this married state; another friend who seems to be circling ever closer to becoming betrothed; another dear and beloved friend who is in the depths of “un-marrying,” as she puts it. all three are souls who take nuance to heart. who mine all of life at its depths. i am groping, but the state of the union–the freedom to live parallel lives, the miracle of coming together, the negotiating and re-aligning so those paths don’t too widely diverge–is worth considering in the way that we do here…..if you can, if you care to: do you marvel, ever, at the contrast in texture and content of your day and that of your mate? is a married life one that holds virtue for you? how has yours buoyed you? or pulled you down under? what is it that reminds you of why you are there in the first place? what of the love that sustains you? what great marriages have you known, learned from, aspired toward? what seem to be the lessons worth carrying forward, taking to heart?