birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Last Time

We fight so much in our first year of living together that I ask him to make us an illustrated "Fight of the Month" calendar for year two. He draws us throwing snowballs at each other for January, hurling cherry pies for February and on through the year. The thing I learn is that the old sayings are true. It's better not to go to bed mad, because I'll be the one with the tears and insomnia. Forgive and forget, because so much of the crap-ola is just so forgettable. Yeah, somebody besides me should notice first when the chaos level is getting out of hand and straighten things up. Yeah, somebody else should be responsible for whatever it is that we've forgotten that's now turned into a headache. But even as I sit here trying to write about it, I don't care. It's easier to do than complain or hold a grudge or keep score. That's one thing we both learn. 

I draw a few boundaries. No massaging the models. The big early fights are over just what male artists do with their naked female models. They're all young, which means younger than me, all beautiful in a never-ending supply, and all in my house with my husband, who is also a massage therapist. I don't really get what the whole deal is with modeling till I do it myself. He's photographing and wants the shot. It's boring and mechanical after a while, trying to hold a pose. I get it that there's probably some other dynamic going on with him and the models who aren't me, but I also get that it's a job for both of them, not some kind of erotic play. It's what he does.

When he makes a deal with his cousin for us to move from L.A. to New York to sublet the cousin's apartment for a couple of years, but doesn't tell me, I'm furious. I don't want to move, I don't have the energy or desire, we don't have the money. But soon enough I'm going along with it. The shock passes and I'm excited, even. Then I wind up doing most of the packing because he's so bad at it, and I care more. After the movers are gone and we're driving East to give our car to my parents in Colorado, I'm exhausted and angry, and I crank into high gear and yell out every grudge I've ever had. He doesn't make enough money. He's fooling around with the models. He drinks too much. He made me do all the packing and now I'm leaving everything behind because he wants to make this ridiculous move. What a selfish idiot. He's a sorry excuse for a man. 

And when I'm done, and he has shrunk inside himself, pale and silent and as sunken as a bomb crater, I see that if I keep going, I will break something in a way that can never be repaired. I see the light go out of his eyes. I see the mix of rage and shame I've stirred up and I see how deadening it feels. I see myself dropping the bomb and I see the mushroom cloud rising and I see that we are not unbreakable, that in fact this way we have of bouncing back and forgiving even in the years of the fight of the month or fight of the day is not a gift of our decent natures but something we choose and choose and choose. And I have almost destroyed it. I see it and I feel the tragedy of all we'll lose if I ever do this again. I see how close we are to coming apart. So I stop. I put my hand on his thigh, and try to rub in an apology. I stop and we keep on driving. We turn up the radio and drive on.  

Yeah, Right

First Blood(ish)