The End of Our Marriage

We are in marriage counselling.
My wife does not believe in our relationship.
“It doesn’t grab me,” she says.

The councillor tells us that we are too figurative.
We lack a “sense of place.”
He suggests that we spend more time on the five senses,
try to anchor ourselves to something palpable.

He gestures with the serious end of his fountain pen:
“You, Sir, contain no details to love.”

The following week I am taking a work call
at a neighbourhood barbeque. I look over at my wife,
sitting cross-legged on the patio. She is smooth and floral,
talking about Electronic Voice Phenomenon
with a cluster of small children dressed as sweets.

She catches my eye, drifting
behind thick black clouds of grizzled pork.
I return a well-rehearsed baritone smile
but she is mouthing the words This isn’t working,
its quietness emptying the air.

The counsellor is unperturbed. “Dialogue,” he says,
pulling out an executive toy: a set of kinetic energy balls
that he insists on calling The Hendersons.
“Look how The Hendersons communicate,”
he says, clapping his hands.
“By passing the buck up and down the line,
The Hendersons remain in a state
of perpetual mutual conflict.”

We turn the garage into a timeline for our marriage.
A wall of index cards maps out key incidents.
Pink for her, blue for me.

We decide to jump to our fifth anniversary,
by which point we will have emptied our eyes of tears,
our wallets of furniture,
and our garden will have a swimming pool
with hilarious consequences.

The counsellor calls round occasionally,
offering various bolt-on packages:
a rainbow in a boat, medical scares, various lengths of jinx.

I ask him how The Hendersons are doing.
From certain angles he looks like a placard
with the word COUNSELLOR written on it.

You survived,” he says proudly,
“because you started as close to the end
as you possibly could.” We smiled, and Love perpetuated,
like needing glasses to find your glasses.

I began to root for her. I wanted her to be happy.
I handed her things and she found reasons for them.
God, I stared at her. The rest is subjective.
Occasionally, the corridors filled with one-way sunlight,
our faces separating from our expressions.
But that was just our way of showing our love

from Emergency Window (Penned in the Margins, 2012), © Ross Sutherland 2012, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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