Tag Archives: marriage

On the Midnight Shuttle

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Moonlit Fields of Desire by Angela Turpin

We met at the Los Angeles airport after our flight was canceled because of a mechanical failure. You asked me, “Will they ship my luggage to my home?” I shrugged, having not traveled much in my lifetime, not much at all, except for business, which was why I was here, waiting for the next flight to Santa Rosa.

I didn’t pay any more attention to you. I was too busy waiting for my boss to return with her bottled water. I wanted to board the plane and head home. It was after ten o’clock, past my bed time, and the veggie sandwich I had eaten an hour ago was not enough to settle my nerves about whether or not I would be home in the morning to help my husband take our children to their respective schools.

After the plane landed in San Francisco, you found me once again waiting for the midnight shuttle to take us home. When you wouldn’t stop talking, I finally reached out, introduced myself, and shook your hand. I noticed your closely clipped hair that made you look almost bald, the tweed Fred Astaire hat in your hand, and the button down shirt and khaki slacks that made you look like you had stepped out of a 1950’s photo. You kept on talking and talking, and your enthusiasm buoyed me. I lost track of how cold the San Franciscan air was and how dark and lonely it felt beneath the awning. You were like a bouncing fluorescent ball of energy illuminating the darkness. Your talk was so absorbing, witty, and entertaining that I forgot about how my husband did not call to say he loved me, how my daughter only cared about how I had yet again missed her birthday, and how my co-worker friend thought my photo text with the abbreviated message, “Wish you were here,” was for my husband, not him.

My boss stood on the sidewalk behind us smoking a cigarette. I pointed to a man standing on the curb holding a sign with someone’s name written in black marker. “That will be me later this year when I go on a cross country book tour,” I said.

You glanced behind us at the man with the sign and nodded. “How many books have you written?”

“Too many to count,” I said, “but this will be the fifth I’ve published.” I bit my lower lip and tears welled up in my eyes as I wondered if my family would miss me or would they dread the day I returned.

You tossed the tweed hat back and forth between your hands and said, “I followed a girlfriend to college and picked whatever major seemed grown up at the time just to be with her, but when I discovered color—how blue or orange can make someone buy something—I discovered the my true calling.” You clasped your hat gently with the fingers of one hand and gazed at me with your hazel eyes. “Sometimes you have to follow a path that will care for your health and spirit.”

I glanced away and shivered. You must have thought I was cold because you offered me your jacket. I shook my head and said, “It’s my soul that’s freezing.”

You frowned and pulled me close. I rested my cheek against your shoulder and noticed my boss across the street staring at us. I shifted, trying to pull away, but you held me closer and whispered, “How can you be with someone who limits your potential? Who doesn’t want you to succeed? It might have been fine when you’re twenty, but it’s not okay when you’re forty. You need respect and recognition. You deserve to be with someone who understands that.”

“All I ever wanted was happiness,” I whispered back.

You released me. “Are you happy?”

I glanced away, afraid to answer.

You waved your hat like a magic wand, cutting through the night, bringing clarity to the situation. “When my wife and I contemplated getting a divorce last year, she said it was because she couldn’t live with a man who was too soft with his children. I told her I would rather be unmarried and alone than to create so much tension with my son that he would never open up to me. If that means I’m not hard on him, then I’m willing to end the marriage. I cannot live with someone who cannot accept me as I am.” Our eyes met. “When are you going to stop hiding that light inside of you?”

“I’m not hiding it,” I said.

You stopped talking. Your fingers splayed to catch the brittle night. “You’re such a liar.”

I laughed.

When the shuttle arrived, we sat next to each other and continued to chat until the bus driver said, “Hush. People are trying to sleep.” You tilted your head close to mine, and our heads touched. “Let’s whisper,” you said.

It was after midnight. “We should be sleeping,” I said. “We both have to be at work by eight.”

You whispered, “But I could talk to you all night.”

I smiled. “And I could listen to you all night.”

You said, “You are a good listener.”

We touched noses and continued talking.

I felt your voice vibrating against my skin. I felt your energy infiltrating me with new life. I felt your words filling me up, making me full.

“I have plenty of friends who say they’re writers,” you said, “but I’ve never seen anything they’ve written.”

“It’s a tough business,” I said.

“That doesn’t matter.” You wrapped your arm around my shoulder, tugging me closer. I placed my head against your shoulder and felt safe and warm and loved and understood. You said, “You’ve published five books.”

“I only sell one book for every five hundred hits on my website,” I said.

“That’s good.” Your voice uplifted me. “The average conversion rate is one to two percent.”

I was too tired to try to calculate the mathematical formula to verify if you were correct. “I won’t feel so bad anymore,” I said, although I knew deep down I would continue to compare myself to my friends, many of whom had books for sale in the Hudson Bookstore at the airport terminal at LAX.

You held me closer and whispered, “You’re a star.”

I smiled against your shirt, too uncomfortable for words.

Later, as the shuttle drifted through San Francisco, our words grew sparser, our breaths grew longer, and our eyelids grew heavier until we parted into dreams.

When the bus driver jolted us awake, we parted like plastic peeling away from skin, reluctantly and hesitatingly, a film of body heat clinging to us like memory. You said, “I enjoyed our conversation.”

We stepped out into the night, and while I waited for my boss to disembark to drive me home, you pulled me into your arms and said, “Even if we never see each other again, I will always look into the heavens and think of you because you are a star.”

I felt my throat tighten and tears well up against the surface of my eyes. “This night reminds me of the movie Before Sunrise,” I said.

You chuckled, stepping back and holding me with your hands on my shoulders. “No, it’s more like Clerks.”

I shook my head. “It was more like destiny.”

You smiled and nodded, donning your hat and walking away to the long term parking lot, leaving me alone.

Weeks have passed since that night. And whenever I am alone after midnight I think of you and wonder if you still think I am a star.

Because He Said He Would

Moonlight artwork

After a long week of taking care of sick children, your husband nestles up behind you and places a book on the counter where you are washing dishes. At first, your breath stops—a gift—until you realize you’ve already checked that book out from the library and read it last year.

You hide your disappointment and thank your husband for the gift.

A week later, your husband notices the unbent spine of the book stacked on your night stand. He says, “You haven’t read the book.”

You say the truth. “I’ve already read it.”

“But I thought it was her new book,” your husband says.

“All of her books come out in hardback first,” you explain. “Two years later, the publisher re-releases them in paperback.”

For a long moment, your husband doesn’t say anything. “I guess I didn’t pay as much attention as I thought I did.”

“It’s all right,” you say. “I’m on the waiting list at the library.”

The next week, your husband takes back the book. He doesn’t purchase the new novel since the bookstore has already sold out. He promises you he will buy it online.

Two weeks later, the book becomes available for you to pick up at the library. You hesitate, wondering whether or not you should release the book to another reader since your husband said he would purchase the book for you.

You wait and wait, hoping the decision will be made for you—the book will show up in the mail or the hold at the library will expire. But waiting isn’t doing anything except extending the time before you will have to do something.

Finally, you ask your husband, “Should I let the book go to someone else?”

He doesn’t look up from reading a news article on his laptop. “Why do you always have to nag me? I told you I would get the book. I just don’t have the money right now, okay? But I promise to order it online next week after I get paid from a client.”

“Do you know which book is her latest?”

“Of course, I do. You’ve told me a million times. Damn it, do you always have to remind me?”

You think of waiting beneath the mulberry tree for him to arrive home and watching the sunset and the moon rise and the sitter return with the children. “I forgot about our date,” your husband said when he came home after midnight. You called the theater and asked if you could get a refund for your unused tickets. You couldn’t. The next month when the VISA statement arrived, a sharp pain stabbed between your breasts as you relived that night beneath the mulberry tree alone. You think of the other times your husband has forgotten: to pick up children from school, to buy salt from the store, to pay the bills.

You think about how many times you have reminded him: with notes tucked beneath windshield wipers, text messages, voice mails, e-mails, Post-It notes, and love letters. You want to cry out, “You won’t get anything done unless someone lights a fire under your ass,” but you take a Zen-like approach and say nothing.

You release your hold on the book. You wait quietly and absorb each moment as it is with all its imperfections.

One, two, three weeks pass. You log into your library account. If you click, “Place on Hold,” you will stand behind 385 people who are also waiting to read the coveted book.

You resist the temptation, remembering the tension in your husband’s jaw, the lilt of anger in his voice, the stony wall of his resistance to your constant reminders.

He said he would buy you the book. His words, a gift certificate you hold eager for redemption.

A Zen priest says your husband is your practice. Your husband has asked you to believe in his promise to buy you the right book even when your reason and experience tell you to side with doubt. The Zen priest tells you to give your husband the opportunity to surprise you. “When you let go of your expectations, miracles happen,” he says.

You sit beside your husband that night and practice patience. You breathe in and breathe out. You release your expectations. But your practice isn’t perfect. You feel forgotten and neglected.

You glance over at your husband who is sitting on the recliner posting links on Facebook. He is here, in the room with you. You are not alone. He has not abandoned you. The book is still somewhere out there, and if you wait patiently, you will eventually own it, because he said he would.

Not All Successful Marriages Are the Same

Ed and Angela Lam Turpin

This week my husband and I were contacted by Katherine Santiago, Associate Producer at HuffPost Live, the video streaming network from the Huffington Post, to discuss the controversy sparked by Gabrielle Reece’s comment that submission is a sign of strength in a successful marriage. Santiago discovered us through my blog, A Feminist Marriage, about the sacrifices my husband and I make to maintain an interdependent marriage. Santiago said she thought my husband and I would have a great voice for this segment about careers and modern marriage.

Unfortunately, my husband and I had previous business engagements that could not be rescheduled. It would have been interesting to speak with my husband about our marriage on HuffPost Live. It was an honor just to be asked.

If we had spoken, I would have started the discussion by saying successful marriages do not necessarily share the same dynamics. What works for one couple can be the undoing of another.

In The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts, Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee followed several couples over several years to discover what made a good marriage. What Wallerstein and Blakeslee discovered is most marriages fall within one of four types: romantic, rescue, companionate, and traditional.

Reece’s submissive marriage falls into the traditional category in which the husband provides for the family outside the home and the wife provides for the family within the home.

A romantic marriage is full of ardor. Its strength comes from the romantic aspects of love: hand holding, love letters, and spontaneous weekend getaways.

A rescue marriage is built on a couple’s determination to create a safe haven for each other to thrive and grow.

A companionate marriage is built on interdependence. Its strength comes from mutual give and take.

None of these types of marriages is better than the other. If a couple who is naturally fit for a traditional marriage tries to conform to a companionate marriage, there will be tension, misunderstandings, and eventually heartache and brokenness.

That’s why Reece and her husband may have faced the possibility of divorce after only four years of marriage: the dynamics weren’t working for them. Once they found the type of marriage structure that complemented their strengths and desires, everything fell into place.

That’s how it is with any marriage. Once you find what works for you and your spouse, stick with it. Don’t try to conform to what your neighbors’ marriage looks like or how your parents’ marriage functioned.

I wanted a romantic marriage, but striving to live a life full of hugs and kisses and spontaneous getaways only brought us grief and disappointment. Once my husband and I discovered we function best by building on the foundation of our friendship, the rest of the marriage took care of itself. Sure, we have our romantic moments, but we’ll never drop all of our commitments to jet set to Paris for a midweek getaway to express our love. We’re more likely to rearrange our schedules to help each other reach our goals.

That’s the beauty we have as modern couples. We marry not for societal reasons, but for personal reasons.

Always the First Time

Desperate for company, I turned on the TV to watch 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The Hawaiian atmosphere seemed soothing after a long day at work. I proceeded to paste Indie Excellence stickers on my stock of Out of Balance books while only listening to the movie as background noise. But halfway through the movie, I couldn’t work anymore. I was captivated by the young woman who lost her short term memory as the result of an auto accident. She could remember everything that happened before the accident, but anything new she only retained for 24 hours. Her mind became a tabula rosa overnight.

Of course, the island’s biggest womanizer, Henry Roth, falls in love with her. Lucy, however, can’t remember him after the first day. Her father, brother, and friends care too much about Lucy to let her be victimized by someone looking for a one night stand without consequences. But Henry is insistent. He endures Lucy’s violent rage when she does not recognize him even after spending the previous day enveloped in his arms, whispering sweet nothings. He believes his love for her will heal her mind. It doesn’t. But he still goes on loving her, knowing he is powerless to fix her.

I identified with Henry. I live with and love a disabled person. I understand the unique challenges of trying to live a normal life while trying to do what’s best for the one you love. Unlike Henry, I am bound by moral and legal obligations. Henry, however, could have any woman he wanted. He chose Lucy. Loving someone deeply always plunges you into the unknown, but loving a disabled person forces you to be breathless and terrified and alive. You become more aware, more creative, more intuitive, more adventurous, because you want to connect with a person who lives in an insular world circumscribed by protective routines. What amazed me most of all was Henry’s willingness to give up his normal life to become part of Lucy’s broken world, a world where he has to struggle every day not only to get her to recognize him, but to win her heart all over again. He battles bad days when she rages against him, throwing lamps and dishes at his head because she thinks he is an intruder in her father’s house. But there are good days, too, where he finds a way to reach out to her and bridge the familiarity of one day with the uncertainty of the next. He even rewrites his dreams to incorporate her into them, because he loves her.

On the other hand, Lucy’s disability comes with its own blessing: she could not remember the sins of yesterday. What freedom comes with that! Imagine your spouse forgetting everything you’ve ever done wrong and falling in love with you for the first time. Now imagine that happening every day for the rest of your life. Incredible. Absolutely incredible, right? There would be no divorce for irreconcilable differences because you would never remember any disharmony in your relationship after a good night’s sleep. There would be no reason for adultery because every day you would be falling in love for the first time. Life would be fresh. Each day we would enjoy a first smile, a first laugh, a first kiss.

Unfortunately, normal people do not live their lives this way. Normal people hold grudges close to the chest as if guarding precious metal. They sink under the weight of their memories. They imagine their lives as a chain of gloomy, dungeon-filled days with people they used to love once, a long time ago, when they were young and stupid, and they only choose to stay together because of moral or legal or financial responsibilities.

But what if everyone was damaged like Lucy? What if our memories were as evanescent as soap bubbles, here one moment and gone the next? Would we be able to stop destroying any chance at love taking root and transforming our lives? Could we drop our expectations of perfection or happily-ever-after or any other fantasy we might entertain? Could we learn to accept our own and each other’s limitations? Could we wake up each morning with the horror of our brokenness and the amazement for our blessings? Could we make our old and tired relationships new?

For underneath all the trappings of social and economical status, we are broken. We want to be loved for who we are by someone who can genuinely love us back. We want to start each day fresh, letting all the mistakes of yesterday dissolve into the nothingness of forgetting. We want to wake up and embrace the ones we love with amazement and gratitude for what we have been given, not with the terror for what has been taken away. The good news is we do not have to lose half our minds to discover the beauty of falling in love over and over again with someone who can accept us as we are, damaged and imperfect, ragged and flawed. We can choose to make each moment the first time, if we are conscious, if we are aware, if we are truly present and alive. We can make all things new.

Book Trailer for The Human Act and Other Stories

Below is the book trailer for my upcoming short story collection from All Things That Matter Press:

Official Book Trailer for The Human Act and Other Stories

Visit my Fan Page for daily updates at Angela Lam Turpin on Facebook.

For more information on the background of the collection, visit my blog on Goodreads.com.