We crossed Dolores Street at 20th Street towards Dolores Park. The slight September drizzle we were under was an anomaly. But it gave me a good excuse to hide under the hood of my red Bauhaus Goretex parka I had special ordered in Rotterdam just 3 years ago. I wore little under the parka — just a red camisole, and blue and grey leggings — as I had been sulking in bed a mere 15 minutes before. I was upset. The Ukrainian had remembered our 6 months anniversary, but not in time to order the cake. Or purchase a present for surprise upon waking. In protest, I had reverted to my 10 year-old self, spurning all of his efforts to go downtown and buy me a present. Or to take me out to dinner. Or to do anything, that would again, put a smile on my face. Never again, would we have a 6 month civil ceremony anniversary of being legally committed to each other. If this was how we were starting off our marriage, how little would we notice our 16th anniversary.
The Ukrainian tried to make light of the missing cake and other little presents he used to bring to celebrate the milestones of our relationship.
“I was busy,” he said.
“So. When will you not be busy?” I replied. Unfairly, I gave him no room for excuses even though he’d been working 2 jobs and going to school full-time.
I noticed the bag in his hand. “What’s that?” I asked.
Oh, it’s nothing. He replied.
It’s not nothing, I told him. There is a Barbie doll on it. And glitter. And a silver bow. And tissue paper.
A present, I thought! 🙂 He had remembered.
Give it to me, I said as I tried to grab the bag out of his hands.
“No, no, ” he said laughing. “It’s nothing.” He held the bag high over his head. I started laughing too, trying to pull his arm down to at least open my anniversary present.
At last, he relented. He let me grab the bag out of his hands. And, ferociously, like a small child, I reached in searching through the tissue paper for my present.
I found the card, and I found…what? Nothing? Where are my chocolates? were the thoughts that went through my head. Where is a cute little trinket to mark the occasion. I had mentioned many times how much I dreamed of a nice cake or some fancy chocolates for our 1/2 year anniversary.
But there was the envelope. Inside, could very well be a gift card or some other unusual item picked up the last minute. So I opened it. And inside was a card stating “I know we are not as romantic as we used to be…” with a list of all the ways a couple loses it’s romance over time.
I wanted to cry. After only 6 months, we were without romance. I thought these were the sort of cards that 45 year-olds married for 15 years and with 3 kids gave each other. We’d been married 6 months. And during most of that time, we’d been too busy to see much of each other — other than the obligatory “Please pass the toothpaste” routine at 8 a.m. as we both got ready for work.
“The dogs want to go to the park,” I responded. I had no words. After only 6 months of marriage we had become an old married couple communicating through the needs of our kids — or, in this case, our dogs.
“Come with us,” he said.
“No, you guys go. I wish to stay here.”
He asked again. And again, I said no. I was too hurt to want to spend time with him or to allow our anniversary day become happy again. I didn’t want to set the tone that missing presents on anniversaries would be acceptable.
But he asked again. And one more time after that, he asked. “Come with us”, he said. “Come celebrate our anniversary with a walk to the park.” I ignored him and looked out our window from our bedroom facing 24th Street. It was raining. In September. In San Francisco. An unusual occurrence. I could hear the dogs skimpering about. They knew where they were going. I heard their leashes clang together as the Ukrainian grabbed them off the hook. I heard him rustling around for some plastic bags to clean up after the dogs in the park. And I heard him open the door.
I looked away from the window. He had one hand on the doorknob. The dogs were already in the hall. He looked into the bedroom. “Are you sure you don’t want to come?” And I considered. It was not even a moment, but I considered. This is how divorces happen. This is how the distance grows. The silence and the resentment. The shutting out of the other.
“I will come,” I responded, before he could shut the door. I looked around. I saw the rain out the window. I saw myself wearing almost nothing but bedclothes. And I saw the red parka — itself a symbol of a new life I had hoped to be a happy one not so very long in the Netherlands where it had rained almost daily. But my lover there had shut me out. As try as I might, I could never reach him. I could never communicate. Whatever dreams we had to share our lives together were blocked by our complete inability to communicate with each other. When one night, his ultimatums had gone too far, I told him to leave. He did. And when he shut the door, he never came back except to help me pack up for my return to the States. I never saw him again.
“I will come,” I said. And I grabbed the red parka to throw on over my bed clothes, grateful that we lived in California where no one would find this particular combination an oddity. Or an offense to their fashion sensibilities.
We walked to the park. We tried to change the upsetness at the failed anniversary celebration into a celebration at the Ukrainian’s successful effort to get a raise. We did the math, trying to plan our future together financially. But none of the math brought a smile to my face. I was happy for the Ukrainian’s and thus our success. But I was unhappy with something else. The lack of a cake? Of chocolates? No…
“I want a baby.” I burst out. It was a matter-of-fact statement. And it was nothing new for us. But this time, this time under the protection of the hood of my red parka and of the rain, there was a new forcefulness to my declaration. Forget the chocolates, forget the romance. Give me a baby.
“It’s too early, don’t you think?”
“What?” I asked. “Financially, maybe. But for any other reason, no. We have been married 6 months. It’s time”
“Well…” the Ukrainian thought out loud. “I did get this raise. And if we start trying now, then by the time the baby comes, I will have another raise.”
“Really?” I ask. “You are really ready for a baby?”
Lets start trying now, he said. Let’s start trying now.