Monday, April 20, 2009

Husbandry



I have a friend who once described her husband to me as the kind of man who, when taking a piss, will reach down and wipe the toilet rim with a piece of tissue, just to get the pubes off.

I can so clearly imagine a man pissing, the relaxed posture, hips forward, butt cheeks clenched. Also the way he will stare into his own stream. What I cannot imagine is any man also taking the time to better things for everyone by wiping off any offending hairs.

My husband, Vild, is a big-picture guy. He wouldn’t notice there were pubes on the toilet unless they’d all banded together and verbally offered to make him a sweater.

Vildy is an industrious fellow. He can frame an entire room with 2x4's and a nail gun in a single weekend, without help. But when it comes to finish work, he’ll affix the trim with 3-inch dry wall screws and call it a day. He has big ideas that involve a lot of mess and varying degrees of hazard. He is both brilliant and dastardly in this way. If he decides he wants to save some money, look out, that cheap bastard will attach a bicycle to a car engine and by golly, you’ll have air conditioning. But you’ll never have a car again, or a bike. And you may not have air-conditioning for very long either.

I love that his mind is so unfettered with minutia that it can strike out boldly into the world. And when it does, I play the part of straight man, the loyal Mr. Watson to his Alexander Bell. We live on five acres, three of them wooded. We heat our home by wood that he cuts and splits from our property. He calls me “Sacaga-whiner” in homage to my pioneering spirit and my East Coast Elitist roots, both of which are in play during these rituals. I’ll haul a cord of wood, but I’ll bitch about it the entire time. It’s a deal we’ve struck that we’re both comfortable with. I like to complain, but I also like being out there with him in the woods, the snow crunching out the sounds of our manual labor. Its nice work for the soul, giggling out there with my man, while he teases and cajoles and I kvetch and haul, puffing out white clouds of talk.

There is nothing in my hoighty-toighty private school upbringing that would prepare me for these moments, this life. I never would have thought, growing up in high-falutin’ New York City in the 70’s, that I would one day become so intimate with loamy dirt. Here’s something my York City brethren might not be aware of; when you burn your own wood in a wood stove, dirt ends up everywhere. It trails through the house from the garage, through the kitchen, down the stairs, across the rug, to the firebox. Chips and bark, and chunky bits of flora can be found everywhere. I'll admit, its nice not paying a $300 heating bill, but sometimes I’d like a little more thermostat, a little less tinder.

I love my husband because he respects that I’ve come a long way from my New York high-rise upbringing, but also that I’m still going to burn some fossil fuels from time to time. His is in no way an environmental consideration. He’s not green and he doesn’t really care to be. He's a paranoid isolationist, in quite the jolliest way you can imagine. He’d go all the way off the grid, as long as he could be sure of Internet access. The man works his ideas through the web... and also, when he’s not completely industrious and goal oriented, he’s a lazy piece of shit, with his laptop resting on his big old man-belly, spraying popcorn across the living room as he watches exasperating right-wing TV. He’s a wanna-be homesteader. He wants to grow his own crops and forgo city utilities so he won’t have to pay for anything. Plus, the guy just really wants a bunker. He wants to cache weapons in there and have cots. He wants flints, and crank flashlights, deer jerky and first aid kits. It’s an extreme, rather literal, man-cave concept. The only difference is, he doesn’t want to go in there to get away from his family. On the contrary, he'd like for us all to go in there with him and hang out. Watch him surf the net in there. I have something a little more above ground in mind. But I admit, that’s my liberal ideology talking. We both know whose bunker door I’ll be knocking on when all my “feelings” have been worked through above ground. It’s in this spirit that I allow him to be a complete fucking slob at home.

This rural way of life has changed me, and I'm not sure for the better. This past summer, Vildy split his head open at work and came home with eight bright blue stitches in his scalp. He’s very casual about these things. He's in no way hysterical or dramatic. He might mention on the phone that he hit his head at work, but it isn't until I see the shaved spot and the surgical thread that I know he's actually been hurt and hospitalized.

The stitches stay in a week and then its time for them to come out. He's not a man who will go back to the doctor for such a task. If he thought he could have glued the thing shut on his own, he'd have done that. In that case, office policy prevailed. But the removal, that's on his terms. He goes into the bathroom with some delicate surgical tools: my cuticle nippers, the tweezers for threading my overlock sewing machine, and a hand mirror. Thing is, no matter how hard a guy tries, its hard to cut out your own stitches while holding a hand mirror. That's why there are hospitals, and trained professionals who work in them. 

Instead, I get called in. I am an upholsterer by trade, so I know something about stitchery. This does not qualify me to be a doctor. This qualifies me to make slipcovers. But just as in the post-apocalypse world he so desires, my skills in this area are called upon, and I become resident doctor. Problem is, medical stuff makes me want to puke. Plus, I have a terrible bedside manner. It’s a trait I inherited from my mother, who, story goes, told my Dad to suck it up when he snapped his femur in the living room. Like her, I am very suspicious of anyone who claims to be sick, and I’m prone to believing that they are faking it to better take advantage of me and make me bring them things in bed. Its something I'm working on, so I follow him in squeamishly, to administer a tentative compassion.

I see immediately that there’s no way I’m not going to be pulling the stitches out of his head, and so I take a minute to give myself a little pep talk about not being such a pussy.  I put on my $15 dollar drugstore reading glasses. Staring down at Vild’s closely cropped head, and with my whole body clamped tighter than a scorpion’s ass, I slip one edge of the cuticle nippers carefully, carefully under the first loop of blue fishing line fastened to his flesh. When I move the angled blade just slightly, it tugs at his skin from the pressure on the suture. I can feel how his whole fleshy scalp is just hovering over his bony skull. Oh, my fucking God!  I feel all the blood in my body drain down to just above my flip-flops and pool there. I might actually faint. I’ve never experienced this sensation before. But I remain conscious long enough to give the nippers a decisive ‘snip’, before I have to run outside and hold my head under the garden hose.

I wish I could tell you that it was possible for me to complete this unpleasant work with some dignity and haste. But this is not the case. It took a shameful amount of shivering and gag suppression to clip and pluck the loose strands of filament out of his skin. On the up side, I can check suture removal off my list, and feel optimistic about never, ever, doing it again.

Married to Vild, I’ve come to see everything for its usefulness of purpose, its ability to get a job done, including myself. His forward trajectory is so resolute, so uncompromising, that he’ll use whatever is handy, in whatever way he deems necessary, without considering failure as a possibility. My sweet, soft-bristled broom was used to apply black top to the rental property driveway. He'll mop up a wine spill with the nice bathroom towels. To him, tool is tool. His take is, “But I saved us a thousand bucks.” While mine is: “Great, now go spend $30 of that on replacing my nice broom, so I can sweep up the sawdust from your last project, building a whole other messy stove that burns sawdust.” By the way, if anyone needs sawdust, we’ve got a 10’x 10’ barn, that he built in an afternoon, filled with it. Come on over and help yourself to a bucket-full. You don’t even need to call first.



5 comments:

  1. Jesus, this piece makes me laugh so hard, it's sick. Just makes me love you and Vildy like crazy.

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  2. Sacaga-whiner...it doesn't get much better than that.

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  3. Sacaga-whiner and the tighter than a scorpion's ass were my favorite parts. I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU HAD THE GUTS TO TAKE OUT HIS STITCHES.
    Please write a book.
    Please please please.

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  4. I AM IN AWE. PERIOD.

    How do I forward this??

    ReplyDelete