It is astounding, sometimes, to me.
“It”, that is, is the difference between me and my wife.
Back before we both became unemployed via that euphemistic transitional term – retirement – we were both gainfully employed for quite a number of years. As it happened, we both worked for the same company. We both worked for IBM. As it turned out, the fact that we both worked for that company had a great deal to do with – everything really – the fact that we ever became married.
It’s hard to imagine, in the face of some of the stresses that the fact of that mutually shared employer imposed on us, how we could still be married.
But we are.
Self serving history aside, the point to what I had set out to write when I first set out to write whatever it is that is still to be written, is that I am writing that she and I – my wife and I – are diametric beings.
I just had my nose rubbed in that fact as recently as an hour ago.
She was going back to Seattle.
I am staying on the island with Bert.
Bert needs to be stayed with because Bert is a cat.
Cats have many qualities that make them quite independent. Several of those qualities aren’t scooping the poop from their cat boxes and feeding themselves after their bowls have become empty. So if you have a cat, and Bert is a cat, you need to consider their strengths and their weaknesses (I prefer to think of the weaknesses as unique requirements) when you think about travelling.
Bert brings to the table some non-cat related special requirements. He is really old. We don’t know how old because he joined us from somewhere – some house up above ours in rich people’s land - on the upper side of our back garden in Seattle. Our best guess is that he lived with someone who had died. That best guess continues with the belief that whoever it was that, subsequent to that assumed death, settled the assumed dead person’s affairs, had no place for Bert.
We have no idea, obviously, what his – the cat’s - real name is.
So – as our self-invented myth of Bert recounts - he came down and insinuated himself into our lives.
And that insinuation was gradual.
Bert is a politician.
That was in 1998. Bert must have been, the vets tell us, four or five years old at the time.
But back to the point of this story.
That point being the difference between me and my wife.
She spent a good part of the afternoon packing her car for the trip back to Seattle. Most of what she was packing was recycling and garbage. We prefer not to burden the island with our detritus.
Besides we pay for two addresses to the City of Seattle for taking stuff like that to wherever the City takes stuff like that.
But there were a few other – more crucial – things that needed to be packed.
The strawberries that we had picked this morning were among those things.
She left about an hour and fifteen minutes ahead of ferry departure time which was really unlike her but she really wanted to make that ferry.
After she left I went out and planted some chard to backfill that which we have already consumed.
I also planted a couple lettuces.
That was not a backfill.
That was a pale rider of an imitation of the massive crop of lettuce – in all its amazing plethora of forms – that is going to seed much faster than is our ability to consume it.
Having planted those things, the weather having been quite dry, I attached the hose to the faucet and started to water everything, starting with the herbs, catnip and lettuces.
It was quite pleasant.
The water that runs out of the head of the sprayer and the water that runs out of the place where the asymmetrically deformed male joint of the hose (sorry, I don’t know how else to describe the mechanics of this) is connected to the sprayer. Most of that water could and was directed to the various plants that had become amazingly dry in the last 36 hours or so. However, the non-sprayed-to-the-plants water – the water that came out of the head and out of the joint with the hose – of course had to go somewhere, and it wasn’t to the plants. That somewhere where the water had to go turned out to be my shoes, and all over my pants.
But what the hell.
I was just finishing filling my shoes and wetting my pants while at the same time watering the last of the driftwood delineated beds that we have planted with all sorts of vegetable delicacies when a car came shooting down our driveway.
It’s not a driveway, it is a very short gravel road, but driveway is the easiest thing to call it.
The window of the car was down.
My wife was in the car, which shouldn’t have surprised me because the car was her car.
“I forgot the strawberries” I heard floating over the air between me in the garden and the going-down-the-driveway car.
“Shit” I said to myself, on her behalf.
Replete with that guilt that can only come from empathy – and love – I thought to myself “why didn’t I just stay in the house? She must have called and I could have taken the berries to her and she could have kept her place in line at the ferry dock.”
But I had been planting and watering.
So she had needed to make a decision.
And therein lies the point to this story – the point with which I commenced this story.
That point was, and is, the difference between us.
I, had the identical misfortune befallen me, would have sat in line, cursed, railed against my ancestors, the fates, the gods, the leadership in Washington DC and the administration of the Washington State ferries.
But I would have stayed in line.
I have no idea what, if any, verbal externalization my wife might have indulged in.
But, because she appeared coming down the driveway at about the time that the ferry probably should have been loading, I know that she hadn’t stayed in line.
I called her on her iPhone about ten minutes after the ferry must have departed.
To my surprise she answered.
“She must be in line waiting for the eight o’clock” I thought to myself.
“Hi, where are you?”
“I’m on the ferry.”
I couldn’t have done that.