I can’t recall how the argument began. It was one of those marital spats that started as nothing and became something it never should’ve been. Sweet grapes unexpectedly crushed, boiled, and barreled until they were so acidic they could cut tongues.
We were in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the weekend. My husband had just returned from Army deployment in Afghanistan. Our work schedules had kept us from being able to take a romantic vacation to celebrate his homecoming, so this was meant to be just that. We nearly botched it up with a squabble that started on one of the four corners of Santa Fe Plaza. Understand, it wasn’t a simple you say tomay-to, I say tomah-to disagreement. It’d been simmering for months.
We’d been separated while he was serving. Yes, geographically, but it was more than that. When the military satellite was working well enough to Skype, we kept the conversations light. Funny stories from our respective lives; video feeds of our dog Gilly chasing his tail; “missing you” gush-fests and the like. Every minute was legit, mind you. No fabrications. Merely selective exclusion of the harder stuff: my swollen knee that made it nearly impossible for me to walk without sobbing; working 9-hour days at my desk to finish my third novel; the leak in the roof over the flat-screen TV; the flooded backyard threatening to invade our living room; the creepy new neighbor who liked to come out on the porch and watch me pull weeds in my rose garden…I didn’t want him worrying about me. These things were trivial in comparison to his job performing surgeries in 110°F heat on IED-wounded soldiers. No, no, I wanted his head in his game. So I did what any good wife would do. I put on lipstick and grinned for the laptop camera. In his own way, he did the same, cracking jokes about his Spartan tent and freeze-dried mystery meat MREs.