The Collision of Intimacy
Editor's note: the following is an excerpt from Killing Lions. We love this chapter on living with Eve, and thought you might as well. You can check out the full book here.
There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.
It’s been a long day. I have been running around town doing odd errands that needed tending to, I wrote for a few hours before that, and when Susie got off work, we went to the climbing gym before making dinner. I am dog-tired, and so relieved to be falling into bed. But before I can turn off the light, Susie has rolled over on her side, let out quite the sigh, and begun to rehash the day through what seems to be an unending flow of questions and conversation. You’re kidding me, I think to myself, doesn’t she know beds are for sleeping?! The answer is no, she does not. I do have the escape of controlling the one light, which she knows signals my imminent slumber once turned off. When we moved into the guest room at the ranch this summer, which has two lights, her face was that of pure twisted pleasure when she looked at me and left her light on, and I knew I was trapped.
I have said this before, but as the saying goes it bears repeating: Susie and I are opposites in so very many ways. We clearly approach sleep differently. She wakes up much like a puppy, all bright eyed and excited to be in a new day, while I am what you might call… slow to rise. I don’t see what’s so great about this new day and why it has robbed me of the joy of dreamland. I run at a steady pace, fit for one that has chosen other things for the past twenty years, that is to say, not always the essence of elegance or speed. Susie runs like the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire is audible, and I believe I once saw a gazelle take notes to improve its grace and form. She treats every new acquaintance as a new best friend, while I have adopted the old judiciary model of “guilty until proven innocent” and wait for the person to win my favor. When Susie is with me, we eat quite well, whereas once I am left to my own devices, I dine on Korean Ramen. Ironically, I like nice things and she can live without them quite happily, whereas she pines over good cheese and I am lactose intolerant.
Now, add to this the reality that she is always there. (“Duh, Sam. What did you expect?”) Okay. So it doesn’t sound profound, but let me continue. Having Susie around, living with her, exploring life together, has been a tremendous joy and is a key part of marriage, but what I didn’t expect was how that feels sometimes. Someone once described marriage as though it were a mirror that was brought into your life, but I think it’s more than that. Let’s add that this mirror is following you around all the time and can talk like the teapot from Beauty and the Beast, and then I think you begin to get the idea. All of the good things about myself are constantly reflected back at me, which also means that all of my failures and deficiencies get their turn in the spotlight.
Before Susie, I could be out with my friends and be in a foul mood and I would be able to dismiss it to them all as just that, a mood. I could apologize for being angry or checked out or grumpy, and then go back into isolation. Everyone only saw glimpses of me, hours at a time, but that was before. Susie knows who I am when I am in public, and who I am at home. The dilemma is obvious: all of my issues, my inadequacies, my failures, become this siren blaring out that neither of us can ignore. It’s amazing… I want to get angry with her for exposing me, and then I want to pull away and hide somehow, to disengage. I found myself thinking the other day after she raised her eyebrows in response to some rude comment I made about a friend, Leave me alone! Let me be broken for five minutes!
Living with Eve can be really good; in fact living with Susie has been the best part of my life thus far. Yes, there is confusion, and plenty of unknowns, and enough occasional flailing on my part to pass the time. But that doesn’t come close to defining us.
We have had a very busy couple of days recently. Three days ago we got up at 3:00 a.m. to meet some friends and climb one of Colorado’s 14ers; the next day we drove six hours to be part of a wedding celebration with some dear friends of ours, which we then drove back from the next morning. We leave for a weeklong trip tomorrow. But last night, after driving all day, we went for a bike ride once the sun was going down and the day was cooler. It was beautiful. We rode along a bike path and then cut down by some train tracks to get to a path that follows a stream that I had discovered earlier. We talked about loving our time here in Colorado, about our little apartment, about making meals together. As we rode along, I noticed the sky growing dark and threatening to rain, but we were enjoying ourselves too much to cut it short, so we continued to explore the trail. I loved seeing Susie’s joy at the beauty of it all. At the moment we started heading home the rain came, and it came fast.
So we took shelter in the first thing we could find, which happened to be a railway underpass. We probably stood there for forty minutes, first watching the rain, then listening to the train passing overhead, and then pointing out the arcs and veins of lightning crossing the sky. We talked about what kind of parents we want to be, what sort of home we want to create, and how happy we were to be stuck in a thunderstorm. I loved every minute of it.
Marriage has felt like so many moments stolen from time. Like that night under the bridge in the rain, it can seem like nothing else exists and that we have finally stopped the flow of time and seized the present moment. There is nothing else like it. Susie and I have often said that marriage is like having a buddy with you, someone who will adventure and suffer and explore and live by your side. Having Susie by mine has opened more doors than it ever closed, our dreams have changed into new and greater ones, and we continue to change as people – the both of us working on the other. But among all those wonders, it continues to be the small yet timeless moments that we treasure the most. It is amazing how much joy could be packed into so little a thing as that instant, standing close together in the rain.