If house sharing was the frying pan, marriage was the fire, and I carelessly fed my life to the flames.
Both Husband #1 & I were barely in our twenties when we set up house. He wasn’t averse to sharing household tasks but was shy of public knowledge. I was bemused one night cleaning up after dinner when he reacted to a knock at the door which I went to answer, by directing me to wait. As I hovered, he stepped away from the sink, dried his hands, walked to the living room, turned on the TV and settled on the couch. Only then was I free to open the door.
TV was central to Husband #1’s existence. Back in the 1980’s there were two channels – ABC plus a local commercial station, and VCR. Enthralled, he would sit for hours, gazing at the screen. On one occasion, I’d had enough. Awoken from solitary sleep in the early hours by noise seeping through the floor to the bedroom, my exasperation with the habit of his absence in favour of the idiot-box got the better of me. I stomped downstairs, eliciting no reaction though he was awake, engrossed. So rapt, he didn’t blink as in a single movement I pulled the TV out from the wall with one hand and cut the power cord to it with the scissors in the other. That got his attention.
I should have heeded the signs. Husband #1 had little affinity with cats. My black half-grown kitten Ziggy’s first meeting with him commenced with bitten fingers. Ziggy continued to taunt Husband #1 by hanging off and rattling screen doors and window screens, then running away if Husband #1 responded, until the little cat’s life ended by snakebite. The night he died, the insect screen on the window rattled emptily.
After we were married Husband #1 conceded a cat, so long as it was a kitten, black and male. That wasn’t quite Baddy, the cat I returned with from the vet’s. She was a 6 month old grey tabby who’d been whiling away her days in a carrier on the vet’s counter, waiting for a home. She and Husband #1 disliked each other on sight. She too hung off and rattled screen doors then ran away if Husband #1 answered.
Husband #1’s prize possession was his water-bed. It soon became Baddy’s. She loved to claw it, chase the waves then lay in the middle claiming it as her own.
Given I hadn’t fulfilled Husband #1’s initial cat criteria, when I encountered a black male kitten on the counter at the vet’s, he came home with me. Husband #1 named him Jack, and of course he was the favourite. Baddy tolerated Jack but kept her distance. Jack however loved everyone, including Baddy. He had a fondness for Husband #1’s smelly work boots; a boy thing they bonded over. This made it all the worse when Husband #1 discovered Jack had a proclivity for a sheepskin Husband #1 insisted on using as a floor rug, up until he discovered Jack’s use for it. After that we had to guard our sheepskin Ugg boots as well.
Husband #1 loved food: his and mine. To keep him from annexing my dinner I would usually garnish it with chili sauce which he hated. One evening we had a friend visiting and were eating a casual dinner of barbequed chops while watching a video on the TV in the living room. I’d finished my dinner and put my plate on the floor as my seat was away from the coffee table, to go to the bathroom. Returning, I noticed Husband #1 had taken advantage of my absence to appropriate my plate and gnaw the chop bone. Unsurprising as there had been no chili sauce on it. Intriguing though was our friend quietly shaking with laughter. As Husband #1 replaced the well-chewed bone on my plate, our friend managed a glance at Baddy who was positioned near the door washing her face, and remarked enjoy that? the cat didn’t leave you much aye mate.
Exit stage left.
Oh For A Muse of Fire…
…Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.
Henry V, William Shakespeare