I accomplished something marvelous today for which I am quite proud. You see, our sink has the uncanny ability to change temperatures on the dime with no sense of moderation. Thus, while washing dishes the temperature either hovers around scalding or plummets to the level of a glacial lake; there seems to be no alternative. But tonight I managed, with the dedication of a man who obviously has no life and the tenderness of touch Michelangelo himself didn’t utilize on the Sistine Chapel, to bring the water to the idyllic level of warmth for washing dishes, whence it actually remained. I was so overjoyed that I danced around the apartment, soapy hands and all.
All this goes to say that my wife left town today and I’m here alone. This afternoon, I drove her to the airport for a visit to her family. On the way home, I wondered what I might do with all the freedom: eat junk food, leave the toilet seat up, etc… etc. Then I realized my first order of business had to be a quick stop at the pharmacy to refill a prescription. I may as well be seventy.
When I arrived home, I sat down at the table running my fingers along the top. It was a Friday night, but without my wife around, I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. I glanced at a stack of books I’d wanted to read, but they didn’t seem so appealing with no one around to share my favorite quotes. I thought about watching a movie, but with no one to laugh with it seemed like a moot point. I picked up my phone and rang a friend
“Hey man!” I said like coming up for air.
“…Hey? What’s up?”
“Not much,” I looked up at the ceiling, then tried to lower my voice to a tone of man sitting on the couch in boxers and tube socks downing a six-pack of beer. “My wife’s out of town so I was thinking of making some grub and watchin’ a manly movie. Wanna join?”
“Uh.. yea…sorry,” he said, as one might apologize to an puppy that’s begging for a walk. “But I’ve got plans…with other friends.”
“Oh.” My tone deflated. “Okay. Welp. No worries! I’ll just be here, uh, enjoying the, uh, movie! Cool. Have fun!”
“Yea… but wait-”
“Yes? What? You changed your mind? You want to come over?”
“No, I was just gonna say: don’t burn the pizza.”
Needless to say, none of this was quite what I’d expected.
It’s safe to say that I am an independent and introverted individual. I recall one particular summer as a single lad spent guiding on the coast. I rented a small room from an elderly gentleman and passed most of my evenings completely alone. I chuckled to myself during sitcoms, jotted down favorite quotes in my journal, and celebrated small victories, such as learning to cook mussels for the first time, by blogging about it for the enjoyment of somewhere around three readers (not counting my mother). Life was good; I was, for all intents and purposes, happy.
So when it was decided that my wife would leave to visit her family for a weekend, I wasn’t exactly worried. As much as I love her, I figured a weekend to myself might be somewhat rejuvenating. Yet there I was sitting at my kitchen table drumming my fingers like a kid home alone during the middle of summer vacation, bored to smithereens.
For there are people in life, no matter how much we try to deny it, to whom we become attached. Like handprints in soft cement their impressions are placed into our hearts and we are permanently changed. I cannot say this is always an enjoyable feeling, this pressing into my heart, any more than I can say that I like returning home to an empty apartment. But such is the conundrum of love: a changed heart is a broken one, in some way or another. And love, though it is also a choice, can happen as involuntarily as a flower bending to the wind.
And so I find myself facing the imminent necessity of acknowledging the handprints in my own life. It’s the acknowledgement that saves me from apathy towards those I love, those I need, the most. My wife sits at the top of this list; and if there’s anything I’ve learned from a night of drumming my fingers atop the table, it’s that her handprint is the most prominent on my heart.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go flip the toilet seat up and eat a frozen pizza in my boxers on the couch. Afterwards, I’ll probably do something equally reeking of masculine debauchery. Like finish the dishes.
The wife’s out of town, you see.