When our two eyes meet for the hundredth time in the day, skies outside cloudy, a rolling froth of clouds threatening to boil over, caught in the red rhombus of a televised tornado warning area, something happens that was unlike the first ninety-nine. We are pulled inward. A glass is set down on the counter, unnecessary in our current orbit. One of those rare kisses that outmodes titillation, brief formality, or banal assurance. All of those kisses are meaningful in the way dimes and nickels are; they are cumulative. But sometimes we reach out, clasp our hands behind each others’ necks, and from thin air draw a silver dollar. There’s strength in the unpredictability of domesticity.
The front door is to blame for most of it. A flat surface hanging on hinges reserved for our use only. From the street it’s like all the others, staid and steady behind the numbers of our address, a hardwood defense of our privacy and behaviors. When we are out there, somewhere, beyond its fronting side, we take with us all knowledge of the house, its corners and walls, what state it’s in, how many crumbs will attach to your bare feet if you walk across the kitchen floor. But when it’s shut behind us and we are enclosed in our one and only home, we can’t guarantee a converse knowledge of the outside, a confidence that things will stay where we left them: that streetlights have not gone out or that storefronts have remained intact. It would be ridiculous to bet on such unproven facts. Inside, though, we are the house. And the house wins by percentages.
Behind the front door, our scents are kept intact. Sweat from over the oven accompanying spice and hissing protein. Odorants leftover from what we’ve attached to ourselves cling muddled in the bathroom. The sleepy evaporations caught in wrinkled creases of the sheets release all at once when the covers are lifted. The aroma of cleansing products has a short half-life, dissipating by the second, relinquishing control to our trace elements.
Fledgling descriptors of the time we pass inside.
There are also the erratic paths we take, roaming from one room to the next in search of a single possession amongst all the other accumulated products, the one tool or balm or paper that will solve the current problem and restore balance to the house. Integers, foodstuffs, and notifications. Hammers, glue guns, or phone books. Foundation, stasis, reaction. When will dinner be ready and disrupt my frame of mind? When will the cat erupt and impede our argument? The strange thing about balance is that it always reserves a place for the next upset.
It is a tumultuous house, uncomfortable with silence. Chop chop against the cutting board, steady blowing through the vents. Overlong nails typewrite the floor when the dog chases a small tuft of invisible intrigue. The stereo tries hard to ricochet its music into all the rooms. We practice conversations like instruments, beginning again and again, focusing on different approaches. Even when we are at rest the computers whirr, updating and checking for input, and our dreams incorporate and push our limbs across the sheets. Our lungs compress; breath rattles our tissues. We snore alongside the settling dust of the day.
Would it mean so much if we were apart, if we were the sole tenants of our own lives and domiciles? Do the random patterns and nightly collisions of will and stress and fantasy enrich us? It seems inevitable that two people occupying a house must eventually become load-bearing walls themselves, that the edifice around them cedes some control and responsibility. After all, a house only touches at corners. We are much more flexible and desirous.
I have time for one more paragraph. Then I have to attend to other duties.
Sometimes she will say things I’m unprepared to rebroadcast. And she assumes the windows are shut or that the neighbors are not on the other side of the fence. These aren’t secrets or discretionary facts or even embarrassing code words, just personal sentences that are performed for a single audience, prepared for a specific judge. And when I hear, I allow for certain inconsistencies. I discern the meaning from known cues and familiar vocal tilts. But I can still be caught off guard when her words find a clandestine tenderness that escapes our established routine.