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.