Years ago when M and I first started dating there was a guy where we
worked who seemed to be interested in me; often doing nice things, or
so they seemed. He once made me a mixtape of Dave Matthews, but
because he was interested in music–and a self-proclaimed expert–he
put the tracks on in the order that he thought they should go.
Interspersed between he included a few poems read by Charles Bukowski,
without even listing it on the label. It was certainly strange, yet
one of those refrains still echoes in my head: it’s not the big things
that get to you, rather it’s the little things that wear you down.
After being together for almost two decades, M and I have adapted to
each other, and in doing so we’ve created this life where there was
nothing before. Some of it is miraculous, the stuff of movies and
great novels. And then there are the old disagreements: how each of us
has a different way to get butter from the stick, how one of us
doesn’t throw the butter wrappers away when they are finished. One of
us leaves banana peels in the car– there’s one in there right now as
a matter of fact– and one of us ignores the dogs each morning so the
other unlucky one has to get out of bed way too early.
Once you start down that well-trodden path there’s no need for a
street map. The list of fights and squabbles is as familiar as you own
hand. For some reason when we get into a confined space, (the car,
waiting in line, or even into bed) I start rattling off my standard
questions. “When are we going to move, will we be too old for a baby,
will we always have dial up?!?!?” We rehash the dialogue; same old,
same old. Sometimes I feel like I’m just repeating myself. Just pop in
the tape and press play, pauses inserted so that M can have his say.
But yet our lives for the most part are not only that, we are so much
more than our tedious arguments. There is music, there is love and
even if we have our roles and play them well, there are always
Bukowski said, “It’s not the large things that send a man to the
madhouse.” A broken shoelace can make you snap sooner than death,
flood or unemployment. But looking back I see that these small minor
fights help to make up who and what we are together. They are worn
into the foundation of our relationship like grooves on a record. Peer
closely and you can see those deep etchings, arguments and incidents
that leave their mark on each of us.