The guy was tall, muscular and terrified.
Let me explain.
He was a summer guest at our college,
invited by our adult daughter because
he needed a place to stay— seriously.
Allow me also to explain that my wife and I,
have a, shall we say, volatile relationship:
if tension rises, we have established very
clear guidelines for resolving things. Generally,
yelling will be involved, accompanied by door
slamming and the occasional tearful epithet.
These guidelines, developed through carefully
monitored battlefield conditions, usually define
the duration of hostilities: normally several minutes
to several days, depending on how angry she is.
One should note, however, that the pronoun “she”
is generally replaced by the pronoun “he” in
all official records. This policy has operated
successfully as long as its implementation
occurs only in front of our children, who generally
regard it as hilarious.
So the guy was terrified. He had watched a mild
disagreement about window cleaning, normally
a minor three minutes sortie, escalate into
a force seven riot and stomp, complete with
two door slams and fourteen tears, strategically
shed from each of her eyes. Such escalation
would hardly occur under normal conditions;
but the scrutiny of a twenty-four hour observer
whose parents, our daughter told us, never
raised their voices, was losing its charm.
He figured it was not long until the carving knife
appeared in one of our fists, an operatic prelude
to its neatly seating itself point first in somebody’s
currently beating heart. If only he had realized
that the only difference between the current spectacle
and Grand Opera was that our words were yelled,
not sung. Consequently, we were quite surprised
when he stepped between us passionately begged
us not to do anything drastic, but to try to calm down
to save the marriage, because he could see that, deep
inside, we had something special, something worth saving.
There were tears in his eyes; he was trembling.
That pretty well ended the hostilities: it was as if we were
twelve-year-old kids who had been caught playing doctor
by the local cleric. That whole thing was pretty strange.
Who knew there were couples that didn’t fight? To us,
the possibility of universal peace in a marriage was
inconceivable, to him, the use of war to create peace
was equally impossible.
What if he had married our daughter? Would he panic
every time she invoked her innate right to scream and slam
and cry? Would she become frustrated at his inability
to take part in this healthy exchange? Nobody prepares you
for this; you are expected to work out your own rules.
But what if you can’t understand each other because you’re
too busy honouring your preconceptions see how much you
have to change for love? Is our heaven somebody’s hell?