My husband’s idea of fine dining is The Olive Garden. He loves the endless salad bowl; he keeps the waiters working. I like restaurants where the chef experiments with new ingredients and the waiters don’t call the customers you guys.
Neither of us cooks much, which presents problems. Sometimes I’ll make spaghetti or a stir-fry with shrimp or chicken. I’m good with salads and soups.
Marty’s usual daily dinner fare is a 12 inch Subway sandwich. He often asks for turkey meat with all the vegetables, plus additional tomatoes. No mayo. Extra mustard, lots of vinegar. LOTS of vinegar. The workers at our local Subway, some of them former students of mine, call him Vinegar Man. Once I joined my husband for his evening meal. “Dr. Markelis is married to Vinegar Man,” I heard one of the workers whisper to the cashier.
My husband loves football. He used to play offensive half-back in high school and then again in college. This wasn’t enough football, so he joined a touch football team called the Beercats. He played on the Beercats for twenty years. He was Number 36, the middle linebacker.
“What’s a middle line-backer?” I asked Marty when we first started dating.
“Think of him as the quarterback for the defense.”
“What’s the defense?”
My husband has a lucky number. Thirty-six.
I don’t believe in lucky numbers.
My husband cheers for his team even when watching a game that’s been taped.
“That’s stupid,” I say.
He responds with a talk about quantum mechanics and string theory.
I once took him to a Lyric production of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. Not even an opera, but an operetta, a farce, “a funny play with lively music,” I told him. He kept waiting for the superhero to appear.
“You know. Deflator Mouse.”
“Mighty Mouse. Without the self-esteem.”
He used to gamble. I used to drink.
He likes South Park and The Simpsons; I enjoy the Simpsons, but think South Park is juvenile.
He likes puns.
“A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it,” he’ll say. Or, “The best way to communicate with fish is to drop them a line.”
“What time is your dentist appointment?” I asked him once.
“I thought it was at three.”
“No. It’s at TOOTH HURTY.”
I ignore his puns. I don’t want to encourage him. This makes him angry. “I should at least get a groan. Or a courtesy laugh.”
We argue about the concept of the courtesy laugh.
“You give your friends a courtesy laugh when they tell jokes that aren’t funny,” he claims.
“My friends don’t tell jokes. They’re naturally funny.”
I feel bad when I say things like this. Luckily, I know what makes my husband happy. A game of Scrabble. My husband is a Scrabble genius; give him a seven letter word like PRESENT and he’ll come up with its anagrams in seconds: PENSTER, SERPENT, REPENTS.
“Think of the story in the first chapter of the Bible. The snake, or the SERPENT REPENTS because the Old Testament writer, the PENSTER, is there. He’s PRESENT.”
“Except in the Bible the serpent doesn’t repent. In fact, he’s responsible for the downfall of man.”
“Well, maybe if there’d been a better penster present…..”
When we play Scrabble, my husband usually wins. I used to try to distract him with small talk and, sometimes, puns: “How do you like my rack?” I’d say, pointing simultaneously to my breasts and my Scrabble tiles. This would make him angry, almost as angry as when I’d place one of the tiles on the board upside down.
He lugs around a Scrabble board the way some men carry condoms. “You never know when you’ll get lucky,” he says.
My husband talks at length to salespeople, waiters and waitresses, cashiers. They like him, except for the grumpy Subway owner who charged him extra for tomatoes.
“Sir, you are eating me out of house and home,” she said in a thick Indian accent.
“None of the other Subways charge extra for tomatoes,” he replied.
“You understand, no?” she said very slowly, as if talking to a child, “vee awe in-di-vi-duly owned and oper-ated.”
My husband cries at movies. Years ago we went to see Babe, the story of the beleaguered pig. At the end of the film, when Babe enters the sheep-herding contest and emerges victorious over the dog, garnering perfect 10’s and the adoration of the crowd, I heard a funny sniffling sound coming from the right. My football player husband, eyes wet with tears, head trying to disappear into his jacket, was holding back sobs.
We argue about his driving (my nagging), his lateness (my nagging), and his choice of restaurants (my pickiness.)
We rarely argue about money, never about sex or politics. We both like sex. With each other. We’ve done it on a golf course in October, on a raft in Lake Michigan, on a big oak table in an executive board room at the Dartmouth Library.
I am the more jealous one. Sometimes I dream that my husband is with another woman, someone younger and thinner and more athletic. Someone who appreciates his puns. I wake up angry and worried. I nudge my husband from his peaceful sleep.
“What is it?” he asks. ”
“I dreamt you were cheating on me,” I say. Sometimes I smack him on the shoulder.
“I can’t help what you dream.”
I tell him my theory: one person’s state of mind while sleeping—his thoughts and desires–can permeate another’s dreams.
“You’re crazy,” he says.
I describe the woman, some amalgam of who I think I should be, some nonexistent woman neither of us knows.
“I don’t get on your case when you dream of Paul Konerko,” my husband finally states with some irritation, referring to the White Sox slugger and first baseman.
“That’s true,” I say. I apologize to my husband for hitting him on the shoulders.
I try to fall asleep.