The Good Husband

“Well it kind of hurts when the kind of words you say kind of turn themselves into blades.”

Was it because I said yes? And if so, which yes was it? After that early no, which capitulation was the one? Was it when you said I’m happy to cool it, but how ‘bout we share a red next week? Or when you said can I see your tattoo? Was it the acquiescence as I slid off my dress and closed my eyes … was it how my layers looked on the floor?

Was it because you said we don’t connect then pressed me up against the wall. Was it when you said do you mind if I contact you here? or when you pushed me, crying, out the door. Was it when you said I’ll be there at 6 and I waited till 9. The birthday you ruined? How we played in the dirt? How I sought your mouth when you turned away. And walked home alone in the dark, every time?

Was it because I said yes! always, despiteWas my affirmation to you an abdication? Did I hand back the crown you had bestowed, did I end up at your feet not the other way round? Did this play dutifully to your dichotomy – was the seventh sin an abnegation? Tell me exactly which capitulation was the one? To absolve you of care when you corroded my heart (while carefully plating over your own).

A thousand wagging fingers might concur – but love, it was only you when the lights went out.

Jacqueline Bublitz Writer at body, remember

Image: Joanne Piechota

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Heart

Peace. I will stop your mouth! – Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

The couple on the television show are fighting. It’s a real-deal, humdinger argument. There have been dirty looks all day and the tension is now bubbling at their lids. We get lots of uncharacteristic yelling as the former lovers throw subtext-laden accusations back and forth, the heat rises, they move closer – is that genuine fury in her eyes as she fully unleashes? Then suddenly it changes, there is a beat, the tiniest axis shift, and she’s in his arms. They are kissing and her hand is on his neck as she makes the soft, telling sound of acquiescence. Audiences all over sigh, and cheer loudly. Or want to throw their dinner at the screen.

Alicia and Will kiss The Good Wife

This recent polarising scene from my favourite television show The Good Wife is a grand example of passion. It is in fact the bang-on definition of the word – this representation of suffering, of surrender. The word passion can be traced back to the Latin verb pati which literally means to suffer. It also has a relationship to submission, to allow and to permit. This then is passion as our stories have always told us. The immense emotion and the giving over to it. The idea that there is something epic, an uncontrolled and driving force at play, when certain people come together.

I write a lot about passion here at body, remember. I privilege passion in fact (I was definitely one of the viewers cheering!) and would even go as far as to say that passion is my default experience, heightened as my desires always seem to be. I can love something to distraction, I can suffer with the best of them, and yes I can surrender beautifully. Ridiculously. Palms open, heart pulsing on my shirt-sleeve ridiculously. As any reader of this blog will likely have figured out already, I am not one to love anything in a mannered way.

“Half – the most beautiful half – of life is hidden from him who has not loved passionately.” – Stendhal

In the context of relationships, I don’t mean to say passion has come easily or frequently throughout these rotations around the sun. Thus far, I have had two grand passions in my life. One bright and blinding like the sun itself, and the other more like a moon-rise – years of a cloudy night sky with sudden moments of illumination, and yes the guiding light for this blog, and my book. Two grand passions. Neither of which I escaped from unscathed. Suffering and surrender? You betcha! Like I said, I can suffer with the best of them. And the truth is, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I cheered for our Good Wife Alicia, and her wounded lover Will because I think that you are never more fully alive, never more connected than when you follow your heart. It can sound trite, an over-used term like this. But I believe the heart belongs to you. Reason is given to you, it’s piled on with the teachings of your family, your culture, your faith. Reason is the check and balance of a society that has a vested interest in your model citizenry. The heart is something else altogether. It would sooner put you at the centre.

“I want to live my life so that my nights are not full of regrets.” – DH Lawrence

But as I said in an earlier piece here, the sincerity of the body has been much maligned by the idea that words are more honest than a beating heart. We have all talked ourselves into and out of things because the decision seems right as opposed to feels right. By feel, I mean that alive, connected sensation which signals our arrival at something, the beginning of more. And that’s not exactly something women are encouraged to pursue, this idea of more. Not when we’re bombarded with messages that suggest we’re too picky in love, that too many options will make us miserable. Not when the greatest role we are supposed to play is that of the good, satisfied wife.

Indeed on The Good Wife, the backlash against the lead character pursuing her own passions with Will after her husband cheated on her (with both a prostitute and her best friend – stellar guy) has been a strong reminder of how a woman driven by passion can be seen as dangerous, as morally bankrupt. The people wanting to throw their dinner at the screen over the passionate kiss mentioned above can see how such an action could bring about the unravelling of Alicia Florrick. Those of us cheering can of course see this too. The difference is we celebrate it. We want more for our girl.

“Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.” Katherine Mansfield

Those two grand passions of mine changed me. I stopped skimming the surface, I locked in on this life of mine and became honest. I came to understand that I’m not always nice and I’m not always prepared to put my needs last. I also came to understand that in the pursuit of connecting to others, and to myself, I am prepared to take great risks. Neither relationship ended particularly well, but that’s not the point. Their influence flows through my life and threads through my stories like an ink vein to my writer’s heart, and I am a better person (and writer!) for it.

Here’s hoping The Good Wife writers (and viewers) allow Alicia to discover the influence and impact of grand passion for herself.

Alicia Florrick The Good Wife

“Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.” – E.M. Forster, Howards End

(and sometimes the same) revisited

At different moments throughout the day (and sometimes the same) they will reach for their phones, a reflexive text forming in their fingers that stops somewhere before the keys. Desire is put back in the pocket reluctantly as fingers twitch with observations of sky and city that remain unsent.

At different moments (and sometimes the same) they will see a glimpse of the other in a crowd, some flash of shoulder, some glance of hair, and they will trip mid-step before righting themselves and adjusting their eyes and hammering hearts to the smaller mouths and longer legs that in the throng could have been.

At different moments (and sometimes the same) when he is pouring the wine or she is making the bed they will encounter a dull ache to the bones and the muscle, and the world will constrict just a little as they try to breathe out the sadness through the first sip and the smoothed sheet.

At different moments and often the same they will wonder whether the other is travelling just as slowly through the minefield of their past. And each will wonder for just a moment if the other might too prefer an explosion to the quiet terms of this resistance.

Joanne Piechota image at body, remember

Hi readers! I first wrote and published this little piece a full year ago, and I was struck today at just how much of what I felt at the time still holds true for me. It can be a day, a month, or a year and you still have to train yourself out of contacting that person, you still have to push back your instinct to reach out. It takes constant effort to stay away from what you have loved.

So much of love is permission. This poem is about what you are left with when the offer is rescinded … and the small hope that in the aftermath, you are not the only one left wanting what you once had.

Image: Joanne Piechota

Room Service

Hotel beds remind. The pink powder scent and unyielding sheets. Toes pushing up against clinging cotton, fingers drawing on threaded walls – there are things the body remembers in a room that hums.

Bath. Wine. Bed. I said at the start.

No room service? you replied.

And I said that it would come … but much, much later in the night.

Joanne Piechota photography at body, remember

Image: Joanne Piechota

Ellipsis

You were shattered after that first betrayal, you disappeared on me the next morning. It took two full weeks. Then the little red flag and your name.

–   Hi.

–   Hi …

–   I’ve been thinking about you, Mags. How are you going?

–   Fine.

(I am bristling at your disappearance. You never even bothered to say thank you).

–   Okay, good. It’s just …

–   It’s just?

A full hour and then:

–   I miss you.

So this is how easily we made our choice. This little dance of words, each sentence extending an invitation to the next. One offering accepted and then another until our fingers were tripping over the keys in our eagerness to propel this thing forward. My response was immediate. I had been waiting two full weeks.

–   When can we fix that?

And that was it. The moment we decided. We knew where we were going because of where we had already been. The first night, we could claim surprise. But not this, not the conscious plan. I had my eyes wide open this time, though I never asked where you went those two weeks, away. Did you pray, did you make love to your wife, did you try everything in that fortnight to be a better man?

I would see its trace so many times in the coming years. The concerted effort, way you tried to push it down. The way you would suddenly harden your surface without warning, the way you could shut me out. And how your resolve would suddenly crack apart when it became too much. This strange tenderness that grew in the dark, and found its light in my provocation.

You waged an ongoing battle with the force of my submission once you understood how it could change your course. I thought I was making you brave at first – this laying down, baring all. I did everything to elicit the ragged breath and cry of release that announced your arrival in my arms. But it also signalled your retreat, didn’t it Mack. Did that make me complicit in my own demise? I still don’t know where my surrender took you. I tried so often to follow, but I was already lost there in the dark.

Yes, my love. I missed you too.

Intervention

Charlie read somewhere that dancing helps. You are depleted of chemicals he says, all of your happiness has been cried right out. But I think he’s got his science wrong. It’s crying that gets me through the night, it expels what I’ve shored up all through the day. I concede to the wake because they are only trying their best. And it will be a relief to let go, if only for a few hours.

It is the mid-week 80’s tribute night, the boys have carefully chosen our destination. There is nothing of you to be found in the synthesizers, in the jangling pop, in the men dancing up on each other under spinning balls and flashing lights. I feel a reluctant flicker, a sense of return and though I want to say it’s too soon I know I have to stay.

We order tequila as Tom heads for the bathroom. Charlie tells the barman her boyfriend just died and it makes me giggle, the sudden, appalled look on his face.

It’s okay, Charlie continues loudly across the bar as I take my shot and throw it back, It’s okay because her boyfriend was actually a total cunt!

And then I’m laughing for real, He was, I splutter, he actually was and the barman watches in horror as the laugh morphs so quickly to a hysterical cry, standing here in this neon bar, with the first strains of Flashdance twanging behind me.

Charlie doesn’t flinch, he just hands me another shot – There you go, darlin’ and I love him more for letting me cry, for understanding how to do this. I throw the tequila back between ragged breaths and the sharpness of the liquid disorients my sadness, it burns in my throat and the shock tips me back into laughing just like that.

Tom returns from the bathroom as I start to hiccup, and Charlie puts his arm around me. Honey – he pulls Tom into our circle as my shoulders heave, as I laugh and cry at once, now we got ourselves a wake.

**

They stagger me home at 2am. I threw up three times at the bar. We danced until I couldn’t stand and I kissed a beautiful looking boy who seemed as though he liked it. The solace of another mouth. It has more than once brought me back. I never was as faithful with my body as you were, Mack.

(Another snippit of Maggie’s story … I still love her the most).

Overture

It takes me three weeks. I can’t find the words, not even a single sound to encourage introduction. The closest moment was also the first, when I saw her there stirring the coffee a little too long. The rhythmic turning of the spoon, sleeves pulled down low over her hands, she never once looked up as I let this new reality sink in. Pale to the point of translucent, her skin was barely covering the cracks. I could see the blue of veins in her temple and the strain of neck when she took off her scarf. I couldn’t breathe. I should have just said hello right then, but I kept silent and came back every day.

She’s beautiful, Mack. In the way of an artist’s sketch, all lines and shading and the mere suggestion of form. Revealed beneath layers that would come off one by one as the weeks passed – the lowered cap, the padded jacket, the dark glasses finally removed. I kept coming back to find her. I survived the memorial at work and the slowing of stories in the news – the little pieces of you slipping away, because she was there, this woman on whom your whole life turned. We sat across from each other at this city café every morning and it was the only thing that slowed my heart to a tolerable beat.

Once, she looked up and I offered a smile, but we both looked away before it was finished. I might have never managed a word, there isn’t a single one I could make fit until the day they accidently bring me her change.

I’m sorry this isn’t for me I say as the waitress sets down the plate and coins, I mean thank you but

Lucy Mason looks up from the next table. That’s for me, I think – she reaches over and holds my gaze a second too long before flushing red and looking down. I feel as if I’m about to fall. It is the look of somebody who knows.

A minute and then softly, without looking up – Do I know you?

What? Oh. Ahhh. No. I – and still I have no idea what to say.

When she finally looks up I am fixed with an inscrutable stare. Cerulean eyes – is that the last thing you saw? I can feel you all through me as I take a deep breath and hold out my hand.

I’m sorry if I have been … well I didn’t know what to say, but I’m sorry if I’m bothering you. It’s just …

Lucy’s expression has not changed, she is betrayed only by a pulse at her throat. My hand stays suspended between us and she does not move to take it.

I don’t want to cause any trouble, I promise. I’m just … it’s just … Benjamin Mackintosh – Mack – was my friend.

And then of course I burst into tears. My friend, my lover, what kind of truth could I say right now to have this woman understand? This woman who has been through a nightmare that sits right at the heart of mine. This woman you died trying to save. I have no idea what the fuck I am doing as she finally reaches over and takes my hand.

***

The other central relationship in this book of mine. Lucy in fact sits at the heart of everything.