door / table

The living room windows are open right now, so my apartment is filled with noise. I can hear the hum of generators on the surrounding rooftops: a long, slow, windy whoosh accompanied by the clacking of something come loose. The machinery is old; we occasionally see technicians poking around with flashlights in the dead of night. Fixing, adjusting, cranking dials. Setting things in order for the safety and comfort of tenants in the buildings below. Beneath this ever-present din of automation is the sound of traffic. Snippets of horn and siren; the deep whine of an accelerating bus.

If I were to close my windows, and if I were to stop tapping the keyboard long enough to cock my head towards the source of it, every few seconds I'd hear another sound: the crackle of glass breaking. The glass that is breaking has been doing so for three days straight. It is the frosted glass panel fitted into the door that separates our bedroom from the rest of the loft. And it is breaking because on Monday night, I lost my temper and slammed an upright clothes steamer against it, shattering it into what I presume is now a thousand-odd pieces. They were getting pretty small already when we carefully taped it up in a sheet of wrapping paper, and by the sound of it, they haven't stopped forming yet. 

The sound I've been hearing these three days is a tiny ping! of the sort you'd get from gently flicking a fingernail against something hollow and smooth and thin, like an empty champagne flute. At first I thought it sounded like tinfoil being crumpled. And maybe it did. Maybe the tenor of the breaking changed as the splinters spread, due to some relationship between gravity and pressure that I could hear explained a hundred times but never understand.

We watched it for several minutes, when it happened. All the anger and tension evaporated out of the room, replaced by pure fascination at what I'd done. We peered at it from a foot away, then two, then three, as we became convinced that any second, the whole panel was going to give and collapse, raining glass down on our feet and across the floor. We knew we had to do something, but the sound and the sight were too captivating to look away quite yet. The door snapped and popped as it fragmented into a random, spiraling puzzle. Terence kindly pointed out that it looked pretty, like stained glass. I was just grateful the subject had changed.

In the kitchen, at a safe distance, with Chaucer cordoned off behind guitars and chairs, we strategized. I put my arms around my boyfriend, feeling ridiculous and ashamed and furious at myself. "Is this a metaphor for our relationship?" I joked, weakly. "No," he said. "But how we fix it is." He vacuumed the few splinters that had escaped upon initial impact; a bullet-shaped hole towards the top of the door showed just how little glass was missing. "This would make a great play, actually," he said. "The entire time, the audience is just waiting for it to fall. Can you imagine the tension?" I could. His comment made me wonder whether I shouldn't try to write a short story similarly plotted, and I spent much of the evening distractedly ruminating on what the rest of such a story could entail. Eventually I'd decide there was no way the event could be anything other than a blog post. A great big arrow pointing at me, labeled Idiot. The small print would read: F- in Anger Management. 

After much back-and-forthing, we decided the best stopgap measure would be to wrap the entire thing. Poster boards wouldn't cover the whole panel, Saran Wrap or foil would be too difficult to maneuver around the hinges, a bed sheet wouldn't be large enough to span both sides, and butcher paper was impossible to procure at such a late hour. So, wrapping paper. We stuffed a sheet under and around the door to minimize the mess in case it gave while we were away, pulled on shoes and jackets, and walked around the block to the all-night Rite Aid.

Face to face with the rack of wrapping paper options, the comedy of the situation set in. We considered, knowing we might well be looking at several days or more of a gift-wrapped bedroom door until maintenance was able to secure a replacement. "Pick your three favorites," I said, figuring we'd have some overlap in our choices. Without hesitating, Terence reached down and grabbed a roll from the Characters Kids Love section: Bert and Ernie on a bright blue background. The thought of having to stare down a pair of muppets every day and night as penance for my stupidity made me smile. "Though I guess this would be more fitting," he said, tapping a roll scripted with Happy Birthday! over and over in a loopy cursive font.

"Is that supposed to be funny?" I asked, rhetorically and with no malice. I'd been hoping there would be something in a solid light green, to match the frosted glass we were going to cover. But the plainest choices were various wedding papers: off white, lightly embossed - Rite Aid's classiest wrap. We ended up choosing a striped silver pattern which offered the most square footage. We hadn't thought to measure first.

Back at home, the glass was pinging and splitting, though still hanging snugly in the door's wooden frame. Terence unrolled the paper, draping it from the top down, while I tore off strips of masking tape. When we were finished, we stepped back to admire our handiwork. I remembered once pranking a hallmate in college with a gift-wrapped door. I wondered whether I had any ribbon laying around, to complete the look. 

That was Monday night. Neither of us has submitted a work order to the leasing office yet.  

Tuesday evening, I was sitting in the tub when Terence came into the bathroom to keep me company. It was dark except for the light of the office building next door, which crept in invasively, stopping just inches from my body. "What do you think the difference is, between couples that make it and ones that don't?" 

He sighed. "Well, what do you mean, 'make it'? What constitutes making it?"

"I don't know," I confessed, because I didn't. "Ten years?" He didn't have an answer at first, and we just sat quietly in the dark. Then he did have an answer. Something about connection, and always being able to get back to a place of mutual respect and love.

There's a metaphor he came up with a few months ago, about our relationship being like a table that we can pile things on - good and bad - but that remains a sturdy constant underneath it all. "As long as we always have our table when we clear everything else off," he'll say, "we're good. Our table is really strong. It's really fucking strong." He talked about the table that night, in the bathroom. And I talked about how sometimes I get so angry, so unbearably angry, that I flip the table and everything precious that it holds. (Well, I didn't say that exactly, because honestly he's much better at the table metaphor than I am - but that was the gist of what I was saying. Owning my awful, ugly anger.)

"Yeah, but what happens after that?" he prodded, and I knew the answer he wanted, which is the true one, and which I said. 

"I apologize."

"Exactly." And he went on to say that doing so made it right, or made it better, or showed I was making an effort, or something generous and forgiving along those lines.

"Do you think I could just stop it?" I asked. "Like, stop being angry, ever? Just stop right now and never be that way again?" (I was speaking very softly by this point, because I was trying not to cry.) He put his forehead against mine and said yes, he bet I could - but that it's okay to be angry. That we're human and we have strong emotions and things happen. And I thought of our gift-wrapped bedroom door and how unnecessary those particular emotions were, and I felt very, very grateful that he saw it that way. 

And then my boyfriend - who sometimes bears the brunt of a temper I don't talk much about but that sits inside me like a hungry animal - stopped making excuses for me and climbed into the water, even though I like it much hotter than he does.

And that is what happened in the days following my birthday.