Before we know it, the tide is about 20 feet from our car and coming in fast. The water is blocking our exit. We panic for a moment. I wonder what the car rental company will say when we return the vehicle via Dublin. It takes us a minute to realize there’s another path not too far down the beach. We make it back in time to have dinner in the hotel dining room.
We are romantic and cozy again, but the distance I’ve created settles into some crevice in my soul. It will revisit me after we are married in rebellious outbursts of silence and long drives by myself.
After an hour, you say that you don’t feel well and we need to leave. We descend the escalator to the parking garage, and I look at myself in the glass window, thinking how beautiful I look tonight and you being sick is causing no one to appreciate the effort of loveliness I put forth. We pull over on the way home because you are feeling worse by the minute.
When we get into the apartment, you go into the bathroom and stay there for a long, long time. I don’t know what to do. I can hear your distress as you are becoming dehydrated and weak. You call for me to help you. I don’t answer. I am fuming at you inside. My night is ruined.
A little later, you come into the living room with bloodshot eyes and plead, “I need you right now.”
I storm out of the apartment, leaving you there alone with our marriage vows.
“I can’t,” I say as I avoid your gaze. You race back into the bathroom, and you are scared that you are weak enough to have to go to the hospital. You tell me this later. But now, I am sitting on our saggy blue couch in my stiff dress feeling so angry at you for being in need. When I see your desperation and hurt in all its rawness, I become more angry at myself, and I storm out of the apartment, leaving you there alone with our marriage vows. And we are both helpless.
The morning after we nearly float away in our car at the Sandhouse, we go to the dining room and pick at the capers and fish on our breakfast plates. Young local teenagers work the floor and serve us orange juice and coffee.
A middle-aged German couple eats silently together at a table adjacent to us. They look like birdwatchers in their tweed coats with their spectacled faces looking at the patterns on the walls behind their partner’s head. “Why don’t they talk to each other?” I wonder.
I have never been more ashamed of myself: the pride, the vanity, and the insecurity screaming like you owed me something.
I can imagine what barriers they have built inside over the years. Maybe apathy or bitterness has crept into their souls. Maybe they are just comfortable with the silence. Maybe they just don’t care anymore. They travel together and sleep next to one another for the warmth of companionship, and nothing else. Secretly, I pray that we never become like that.
We have been married eight and a half years now. That night of the party when I failed to help you in sickness and in health marks the beginning of the slow and painful death of my rebellion. I have never been more ashamed of myself: the pride, the vanity, and the insecurity screaming like you owed me something. I was just beginning to experiment with it all in that fit of pettiness on the beach at the Sandhouse.
Three years ago I made the choice to let you into all the inner workings of my mind. I told you about my fears and how they were real and how I thought I was going crazy. Since I told you all of that, I have not needed you as much since, save the bigger, scarier things to come. That is good. It is good because I know you really don’t like to dance and go to big parties or linger on the phone. I have stopped asking you for things like that. Our closeness is growing to be enough.
The moments when we are near getting washed away into the sea push us into a tension, a place where we question, and then thank each other for it. We distance ourselves from each other for times so we can embrace more fully, then, sit, and watch the surf again. Now I know we will never become birdwatchers.