Friday, April 27, 2018

Like a Chair of Bowlies

Books are traditional for the first anniversary. Sarah’s gift to Jonathan is blank, although she has written a hidden message in lemon juice on every fifth page. Jonathan spends 20 minutes excavating the paperbacks and library books from beneath the couch and in between the Morris chair and the wall. He piles the discarded books in a tower before Sarah.

“Have you finished any of these?” he asks.

She laughs and puts them back in the furniture, and that night they make love on literature.

Avocados for the second anniversary—which is not to be confused with advocates for the 40th. Sarah and Jonathan make guacamole with a masher their mothers bought together for the occasion, although neither of them think there is enough cilantro in the finished product. Per tradition, no one calls or stops by on their avocado anniversary, so that they may enjoy themselves alone. They eat together, filling their bellies with green ripeness.

The third anniversary, stars, finds Sarah and Jonathan fighting. She cuts tiny gold star shapes out of pressed metal and hides them throughout their apartment. She meets him at the door with a brand new broom and a dustpan—another joint gift from their mothers—and invites him to sweep up the shower of stars from their home. Jonathan names a star for her. His understanding of tradition is not nearly as deep as hers.

By the fourth anniversary, ribbons, they have made up. Each proudly wears the other’s colored ribbon around their left ring finger that entire day, and strangers beam to see a couple so clearly in love.

There is some leeway in the tradition for the fifth anniversary, air. So Jonathan rents a moon bounce and sets it up on the sidewalk in front of their apartment. Sarah bounces and twirls and flips beside him in the air-filled castle, feeling both self-conscious and defiant as commuters watch them tumble. Her gift to him is more conventional: a jar of her expelled breaths, one for every day of their marriage. She presents it to him shyly, and is pleased when he places it on his night table.

Sarah is pregnant and ill on their sixth anniversary, and tells Jonathan he doesn’t have to give her the traditional tacos.

“What should I give you?” he asks her. He knows there is a trap in here somewhere. He has not forgotten how upset she got over his misinterpretation of the stars.

“I don’t know, nothing?” she hazards. Between the fetus and her stomach, her belly is always churning.

“I can’t do that,” Jonathan says. “How about a bowl that holds tacos?”

She thinks, but does not say, that bowls are for the fourteenth anniversary. She accepts the bowl he finds, and nestles it next to the jar of breaths in their bedroom.

They are sleep deprived new parents for their seventh anniversary, and just barely manage to exchange their gifts—profound revelations—before midnight.

Sarah tells Jonathan that perfection is an illusion.

Jonathan tells Sarah that the past and future do not exist.

More years pass. Eight, nine, ten. Oil, tea, education.

Twenty, a fear.

Thirty, a new identity.

Forty, advocates.

Fifty, forgiveness.

This piece was inspired by Like a Bowl in a China Shop by Hilary Leichter

No comments:

Post a Comment