Two Halves Making a Hole

Mary is a different person when her husband is around. Not bad. Different. She’s not unique in this shifting of identify. You know because you’ve met her. Over lunch when her husband is off at work, she spouts opinions and speaks with animation. She makes snide jokes. She has an edge that sparkles like a piece of broken glass.

In the company of couples with her husband by her side, Mary becomes a wife. Caring, nurturing, a little quieter in speech. Not bad. Different. And she knows it, though she doesn’t speak of this transformation because Mary doesn’t want to sound like she’s complaining by admitting that a part of her vanishes when she touches shoulders with her spouse, even when the touch comforts, even when it confirms her partnership.

For two halves to become a whole, Mary thinks part of her must sit on the sidelines. She has never told her husband because she doesn’t know how to respond to the imagined arrival of his crooked eyebrow of confusion. Instead she maintains her private side like a secret garden watered by daydreams.

Mary feels happy knowing she has a good life and a loving marriage. She tells herself that the part of her that questions is leftover from an earlier time. What she doesn’t know is that her husband has the same conversation with himself. He loves Mary, yet wonders who he’d be on his own and has fantasies of grander adventure and bigger risks.

Mary’s husband also transforms in the company of couples. He leaves crude jokes outside on the curb even though everyone would likely laugh. Instead of navigating into appropriate conversation, he finds his focus drifting away as if the room has less of a hold on him. Fortunately, his body remains behind to smile and insert well-timed questions, but his spark is weak. He is not complete.

The other halves of Mary and her husband await their turn. They hope that someday they, too, can join the party. But if two halves make a whole, what do two wholes make?

Miraculously, Mary and her husband share that thought on the same day. They shuffle to the breakfast table. Both reach for the pitcher of orange juice at the exact moment. Their hands touch. They don’t pull away. And they stare at each other and wonder what it means to be a fraction of a larger part.


Willie Baronet said...

For some odd reason I read this beginning with the last paragraph and working backward. It's a wonderful take on the paradox of relationships and choices. I can so relate.

Anonymous said...

"The other halves of Mary and her husband await their turn. They hope that someday they, too, can join the party. But if two halves make a whole, what do two wholes make?"

I love that paragraph.

Anonymous said...

The collision of two wholes makes the beginning of a novel.

What shall we call it: "Breakfast at Epiphay's"?

littlepurplecow said...

Enjoyed this. I think most of us are chameleons to a degree - shifting thoughts and selecting words to fit the audience and environment.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing really, that people stay married at all? Because everyone goes into it intact, Mary and her husband are the perfect examples of that. I guess the opposite of Mary and her husband are the couple where the partner is as they always have been, the problem begins when the other person thinks there's a fix or that the person will change. Being married is really hard.

QT said...

I really like this and it reminded me of a BF who broke up with me because I was too intense for him, socially. When we were together I was expected to fade into the background and allow him to take center stage.

Being a part of a couple is so much hard work, obviously it needs to be partly hormone driven in order to get us to pair up at all!

Emily said...

This was very interesting as always. We've recently been talking about math at my school and we were doing a fraction problem and this idea of halves and whole are actually pretty complex. Once a half is a separate whole, it isn't a half anymore. Anyway, thinking of this in terms of marriage is very interesting...I like real world fractions. And I must admit, as a married person, i tend to avoid these couple events at all costs. I'm not a big fan.

Anonymous said...

That was really lovely.