Thursday, February 24, 2011

F is For Fourth of July

I think that people are like mosaics: a cohesive whole made up of disparate parts. Some of those bits are smooth and soft -- tumbled gemstones, gleaming brilliantly in the composition. Others are pointy, jagged bits of glass. If it's your mosaic, you know what they all mean. You know that if someone else comes upon it and isn't careful, he may be dazzled by the shine, but cut his hand on one of the sharp bits. After all, you know they're there and you still sometimes do it yourself. 

For several years, the Fourth of July was one of my dangerous pieces.


In 2006, I had come home on a perfectly normal Saturday to find my husband mowing the lawn. I knew something was wrong immeditely, but I didn't know what it was. So I waited. When he was done, he came in, got a beer and flopped down in a chair.

And then he told me that he didn't think he loved me anymore and had a prepared list of reasons why we should split up. (It was a really great list, by the way. It included such gems as "You're fat" and "You don't know how to ski".)

Several hours later, he thought maybe we should try to work it out. Or not. He didn't know. Maybe if I worked at it, I could convince him.

Welcome to my personal hell.

Two days later it was the Fourth of July. I felt as though my life was balanced on a razor blade -- it wasn't about safely landing on either side, it was about desperately trying not to be sliced in two and knowing that I was bound to fail.

We went to the beach -- so normal. Except for the part where we didn't talk. Except for the part where we were walking side by side like two strangers who just happened to be at the same place at the same time.

We sat on the breakwater and watched the boats in the harbour when I finally cleared my throat and said, never taking my eyes off the water, "I feel the way I felt when I was in junior high and the boy I liked didn't like me. Except that you're my husband. Which makes me not know how to feel." Except pain, I wanted to say. Except this crushing pain. But I didn't say it.

He stood up. "Let's go," he said.

I should have known then that there was no hope. But hope's a funny thing -- it refuses to leave you, possibly becuase, like good friends and family, it knows that you need to have something to hold on to when it seems you have nothing left.
The thing about anything sharp is that, over time, it becomes rounded. Like river rocks, worn down by tumbling through the stream. Still shiny, but less dangerous. Sometimes, through the process of wearing, something lovely is revealed. A vein of something precious running through something that seems ordinary.

On that Fourth of July, in the evening, a couple we were close to invited us over for dinner. My husband quickly agreed -- anything, I think, to get us away from the minefield that we were living in -- and off we went. When it started to get dark, we walked down to a baseball field to play frisbee. It was empty but for the fireflies.

After about an hour, the fireworks started in the two neighboring towns. From where we were, we could see all of them -- the sky was filled with streaming sparks of colour, everywhere you looked and, on the ground, the fireflies twinkled and danced around our feet. It was like being inside a snowglobe filled with light and sound. It was magnificent. And in the midst of it, our mutual friend came up behind me and said, very quietly, "You're going to be fine. I promise."

As time passes, I remember that miserable moment on the breakwater less and less, and the sense of awe and amazement I felt with my face lifted to night sky more. Even in the middle of misery, there is beauty. It's important to remember it -- there is beauty in EVERY piece of the mosaic. Even the sharp ones. It can just take time for it to be revealed.

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