I suppose it happens to all couples after a certain amount of time. You get to a point in your relationship where everything big has been discussed and what remains are the bits of conversation that you might have with a parrot.
“How was your day?”
“How did you sleep?”
“What do you want for dinner?
“I don’t know.”
Paul and I are no different, except that we added the following to our repertoire somewhere along the lines:
“How’d you get to be so cute?”
“I don’t know.”
“What’s your job?”
“To sit here and look pretty.”
“Who are you?”
“The big dog.”
The questions are always posed by Paul and if you were to eavesdrop on our conversations, aside from feeling terribly bored, you would perceive the passion in my replies to be comparable to your average fast-food worker and at times filled with the same contempt. He likes to ask these questions when I am busy writing or when I have one eye open and a hand outstretched for the snooze button.
At some point he actually began to sing refrains to my replies. For instance, he might have asked me if I was hungry and if I said “Yes,” he would sing something like “Willy is so hungrrryyy,” in a falsetto rock star voice, no less.
He is in an interminably good mood juxtaposed to my often pensive one.
One morning recently the questions and singing reached a fevered pitch. As I struggled to wake up and iron my clothes, I could take no more and asked Paul, for the love of God, to please stop singing.
And then there was a stunned silence.
It was the sound that made me open my eyes, like an insect buzzing but more digital. With one eye squinting in the brilliant September sunlight I turned my head to see an old man in his seventies sweeping a metal detector in a two foot swath of beach, left and right, left and right. He wore white ankle socks with sneakers and his head was covered with a beige brimmed cap. He did not raise his capped head, keeping it always focused on that two foot wide path waiting for a signal.
I put on my sunglasses and looked around me. The coastal autumn light in Maine paints the colors so vividly that you feel as if you have been lifted up close to the sky among the listless clouds. A woman stood facing the sea, her hands in her pockets and her head tilted slightly upward. The dark sunglasses covered her eyes, but her immovable stance implied deep contemplation. She stared out at the horizon where the water met the sky at some reflection of a memory.
She waited twenty paces ahead of her husband wrapped in her own thoughts. They never spoke. He never looked up but would occasionally stoop down and dig a hole with his hands looking for a long lost treasure.
I thought how odd it was that he mined for someone else’s lost articles; a ring, a necklace or some coins, hopelessly searching that narrow band. I wanted so desperately for his wife to drop her ring in the sand and wait for him to find it.
“What are you thinking about over there Willy?” Paul asked interrupting my reflection.
I thought about that question, about all of the Marco-Polo queries that he peppers me with throughout the day pinging through the emotional distance. More than questions, they’re affirmations.
“Just thinking about how lucky I am,” I finally replied.
One more added to the repertoire; many more to be discovered.