Beyond love and compatibility, you have to commit to getting through all the joys and struggles that happen . . . enema-rriage.
the kids and I are leaving
My father did return to the car that day. I remember watching his shape recede into the distance and then reappear, his form crisping up again, detail by detail. I remember my anger at the other motorists who zipped by rubber-necked to glimpse our drama on the side of the road. I felt ashamed of whatever stories they were concocting about my family in their minds. I’m told we went to the circus as planned, although I lose my memory somewhere along my father’s walk back. My mother must have tidied her face.
I’ve time-stamped the day in the station wagon as the beginning of the end for my parents, but I know it’s not that simple. I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment in their marriage when my father stopped trying and started biding his time. I wonder when my mother stopped caring about the quality of words that left her mouth in her escalating attempts to provoke any serious reaction from my father. For roughly a year, anger and resentment ran like an undercurrent beneath our home, always humming, every argument between my parents feeding the next.
Then one day, my father stood in our family room between two suitcases and said goodbye. He was off, headed for a new easier life filled with skiing and tennis and women who weren’t my mother. She would return from divorce court trumpeting that we had won big and my father had lost. But I knew the truth. My family, the people I needed to have under one roof, had been sacrificed. We were all losers.
Jason walked through the door an hour later, shaking a plastic bag, all business. “I looked at the picture,” he said. “You’re going to need help. Get down on all-fours.”
I didn’t know where we stood right then, if we still wore the morning’s ugliness like a shroud. I didn’t care. Misery outplayed it all, I just wanted to feel better. I crouched down in the bathroom, a space hardly big enough for one, let alone two with the pregnant one on her knees. I studied the image of the plastic applicator on the box and fretted over fitting another thing into my body. I clamped my eyes shut as Jason moved behind me.
Then I heard amusement in his words. “I think you are supposed to . . . present a little more.”
“Jesus Christ, Jason!” I tried to look over my shoulder, to the spot where he towered over me with the bulb of saline aimed at my rear, but I could only address the wall. “Get it over with!”
I felt pressure and then nothing, maybe an imagined sensation of cool. Jason left and I turned the lock, feeling vulnerable and weird about our newest plane of intimacy. I had a sudden gripping fear that something integral had shifted between us. A worry that Jason might look at me differently quivered in my gut alongside the baby and everything else.
Then came pounding on the door. “Cora! Don’t do anything! You’re supposed to wait five minutes!”
“Leave me alone!”
“I mean it! I’m setting a timer!”
“Get away from the door!”
Just then our daughter’s baby-voice chimed in. “Daddy, Mama okay?”
“Yes, honey,” he replied. “Mommy is full of poop.”
I used to peek at my parents in their bathroom, three decades ago, in the blue house where I grew up. My mother would sit on the lidded toilet, wearing a plastic cap on her head, while my father used a hook to pull strands of her hair through the cap’s tiny holes. Then he’d snap on rubber gloves and paint over blonde hair color, the odor harsh in my nose as I played voyeur at the door.
The light in the tiny space reflected off the gold wallpaper and gave my parents an aura. They were completely at ease together, giggling. My mother looked silly in her cap, ice cubes tinkling in her glass of rum and Coke, and my father played hairdresser between swigs of Miller Lite. Looking back, the adult in me whispers that the alcohol made them glow, that my frugal father didn’t want to pay for pricey salon highlights. The child in me wants the proof of love.
In the Hoboken bathroom, time passed and with it, mercifully, everything else. I opened the door to find the same blue eyes staring at me from three faces.
“Feel better?” Jason asked, a grin notching up his mouth.
I nodded, smiling too, abruptly struck by the realization that this argument and inconvenient rescue would not chase us into tomorrow. We were both wronged and wrong, but we could leave it alongside the wrinkled remains of an enema bag. We’d each made the decision while on opposite sides of the bathroom door.
It’s not a guarantee until death do us part. But for now, it gives me courage.
I can’t know if we’ll make it, Jason and me. Intentions don’t always equal outcomes. It turned out he bought a four-pack of enemas at the store that day, and that box followed us for four years and through two moves, always claiming a place under the bathroom cabinet. I considered the remaining enemas saline dreamcatchers, meant to ward off any evil things that might be coming for my marriage. They gave me comfort.
One day, a pregnant neighbor who knew the story and found herself in a similar predicament phoned to ask a favor.
“Take them!” I laughed as I handed over the box. “Save your marriage.”
The child in me whose parents fell apart is ever watchful. She can’t be any other way. Over the years, I’ve debated replacing the box of enemas that I gave away, lured by some implied promise like a lucky rabbit’s foot dangling on a key ring, but I haven’t. I know that if I asked, Jason would still drop everything and bound through the door, wielding enema as shining sword, just like he did years ago. I’d do the same for him. We’d laugh about it after.
It won’t stop me from jamming my marriage under a microscope and cranking the magnification to search for cracks. It’s not a guarantee until death do us part. But for now, it gives me courage, one daring to whisper that we might be alright, that time is simply a beast clutching my unknowable answer in its mitt.
Cora Waring is a writer, storyteller, and mama of three. When she's not carpooling her kids around, you can find her at Emerson working on her MFA in Creative Writing or teaching indoor cycling classes around Boston. Her work has appeared on BluntMoms.