Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pink Hats 17: The Rest is Frosting


"The days are all blurring into one..."

"You got that right, Jake," Bob said wearily, addressing the character Jake Sully, in the DVD of Avatar Jessie and he were watching. "Whoever coined the phrase 'Friday night, date night,' was obviously not a doctor."

"No, they weren't, but I'm not complaining" Jessie said, "I couldn't do this in a theater." She snuggled closer to him, draping her right leg over both of his.

He slid his arm around her and said, wryly, "Not unless you want to get arrested."

They were sitting -- lounging is more accurate -- on his over-sized chair-for-two with their legs stretched onto the matching ottoman. The past two weeks, since his conversation about adoption with Chuck, Bob and Jessie had been so busy, their contact was limited to text messages saying, "I love you," and sleepy, late night phone calls. They'd been able to grab a couple of quick lunches together, in her office or his, and on a couple of occasions, one seeing the other passing in the hall, they'd slip into a vacant room, like two teenagers, for a quick kiss and hug. First one would leave and a few seconds later, the other.

That morning, Jessie arrived at the hospital and found a mixed bouquet of flowers leaning against her office door with a note that read, "Pizza and a movie, my place, 8 pm tonight? xoxo, B." She responded with a text, "C U then. xoxo." To an outsider, their courtship might have seemed less than ideal, but the reality of medicine is such that it becomes the silent partner in any relationship. Something Bob and Jessie knew going in.

"My favorite poet is Rich Berlin," Bob said, punching the pause button, leaving Jake asleep in his cinematic bunk. "He's a psychiatrist out in Lenox and we met at a conference on medical journalism a few years ago. Anyhow, he wrote this poem called 'Our Medical Marriage,' about him and his wife, and there's a line I'd like to read to you." He reached his free arm across the chair and picked up a thin paperback off the end table and opened it to a dog-eared page.

'One hushed June evening in mid-life
scented rose and thick with fireflies,
the phone steals her.
I sit with my half-filled glass
and the life we knew we were choosing,
our marriage a joining of two strains
of mint, planted close, cross-pollinated
to form a single type, the small, unfailing
flowers arrayed in purple spikes
I can see most clearly
when I'm down on my knees.'

"Mm," she whispered, "I love that. Especially the line about two strains, cross-pollinated to form a single type."

"Me, too, and also the evidence of it, the small flowers, that he's able to see best when on his knees. I assume he's referring to his garden -- I've never asked him about it, I should -- but I'd also like to think it refers to a sense of humility he feels in the presence of their marriage. It's the kind of thing I feel when I think about us."

She laid her chin on his shoulder and said, "Tell me more."

"What I mean is, when I think about the way we met and all the time in between, and how you make me feel as though anything and everything is possible -- I've never been particularly religious, though my parents were -- but about you and me, I feel like I'm in the presence of something...for want of a better word, something transcendent. I'm so much in awe of you."

He'd turned his face toward her as he said this and she traced her finger around his lips before kissing them lightly. "You, sir, are utterly amazing. It is a gift, what we have, and one I never thought would feel quite like this. I'm not certain I can describe it, but it feels deeper, more 'alive' -- it makes me want to take chances and go exploring, to see what's out there beyond the boundaries of my life. And what makes it wonderful is we were both going in that direction, individually, and now we're going together."

"It's kind of like Jake, here," he said, gesturing toward the television. "he's slowly losing his connection with the person he was before he landed on Pandora and is taking on the identity of his Avatar and all that it means. Who he is on the inside is becoming a more accurate reflection of who he is on the outside. I feel like that's happening with me, and you and the twins are inescapably essential pieces of my puzzle. And you're the biggest and most important piece of all."

She smiled. "I like what's happening. To both of us. How we're finding a way that's ours. It's a good thing. You haven't brought up adoption this evening, but I want to because it's time you knew where I stand. I want my own children and if we decide we want them to be 'our children,' there is no doubt in my mind, I want that, too. But I also love the twins and I'm absolutely with you in any decision you make."

"It's a huge step, Jess. It means we're going to be a family from the outset. I hadn't planned on things developing quite like this when we first met, but they have and --"

" -- neither of us could have planned it and that's the beauty of it, sweetie. This is out of our hands, in a sense, and I like that. We're being led in directions we wouldn't have thought of and couldn't have anticipated, and as long as we're always together, it doesn't really matter to me which of those directions we take. First and always, you're who I want. The rest is frosting."

He shook his head. "I am so lucky, God, I'm so lucky."

"Yes, you are," she said, kissing his cheek, "and so am I."


(Creative Commons image by Sifu Renka via Flickr; Our Medical Marriage from How JFK Killed My Father by Richard M. Berlin, MD, Pearl Editions Publishers, copyright 2004)

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