How well do you know the person you’re married to?
Last week, if someone had me this question, I would have said that I know Monty well. Sure, we have our ups and downs, but for the most part I can predict him. I can trust him.
But I forgot how subversive he can be. I’d forgotten that his passionate idealism, which is the very quality that made me fall in love, can manifest as a stubborn, petulant insistence to take the road less traveled. Even if that road is leading toward a dead end.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I came home the other day and saw it. A sky-blue rectangle with large white block letters, Bernie, 2015, was plastered against the rear bumper of our Subaru.
It was the middle of the day. After a morning of teaching I had decided to pop home before heading over to my parent’s house. I spend every Thursday afternoon with my dad, who never fully recovered from his stroke, so my mom can run errands or just take a break. But when I saw the Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on our family vehicle I could think of nothing else. I rushed inside to find Monty standing at our kitchen counter, making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which had to be for him because Noah and Abby were at school.
He turned when he heard me come in, and a smile lit up his face. “Hey,” he said warmly. “You decided to stop home for lunch? Want me to make you a sandwich?”
Monty works from home a lot of the time. He’s a very social person and I know he craves interaction, so I felt a twinge of regret, bursting his bubble, meeting his enthusiasm with irritation.
But I was upset.
“Why is there a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker on our car?” My voice was hard and my arms were crossed resolutely over my chest.
He wrinkled his forehead and then turned his back to me, ostensibly to finish making his sandwich. “I got that the other day. They sent it to me for donating money to his campaign.”
“Monty!” I stepped over so I could invade his personal space. He finished spreading the jelly and pressed the two pieces of bread together. “How could you do that, without talking about it to me first?”
“I need your permission to put a bumper sticker on my car?” He rolled his eyes, put his sandwich on a plate, and busied himself with putting the jelly and bread back in the refrigerator, the peanut butter in the cabinet, and the dirty knife in the sink.
“It’s our car! I drive it too. And you knew very well that I wouldn’t be okay with this!”
“It’s just a bumper sticker, Luce!”
“No, it’s not!” I took a deep breath, trying to stay calm. “You know I support Hillary, and you know I’m worried about her chances. So it’s not ‘just a bumper sticker’ – it’s a passive aggressive attempt to piss me off!”
He sighed and clenched his jaw simultaneously; I hate it when he does that. “This isn’t about you. I happen to support Sanders. Okay?”
“No, not okay! You liked Hillary in ’08, back when she was the underdog against Obama. And my God, you voted for Nader in 2000. You just want to be subversive!”
“So what if I do? It’s not like society is so great that we can’t use a little bit of subversion!” He closed the refrigerator door with his foot, and turned toward me, shoulders squared. “Besides, Sanders stands for what I actually believe in!”
“Oh, grow up, Monty! You know he has NO chance of getting elected! Supporting him is like handing Rubio, Bush, or God forbid, Trump, the presidency on a silver platter!”
Monty shook his head ruefully. “Do you even have any ideals anymore, Lucy? Or is it just all about winning? You tell me to grow up? Well that’s too bad, because you’ve gotten OLD!”
My jaw dropped. “I can’t believe you’d say something so mean!” I ran one hand through my hair and the other my stomach.
He stammered. “I didn’t mean old as in unattractive. I meant old, as in too conservative…”
I spun on my heel but he jumped forward and blocked my path out of the kitchen. “You’re not leaving until we resolve this!”
“You don’t get to decide that!” I pushed against his chest, but he was unyielding.
“You know I think you’re hot.”
“I don’t care about that. I want the Sanders sticker off our car.”
“How about I buy an even bigger Hillary bumper sticker and put it on other car?”
I shook my head. “No. We put it next to the Sanders one, so they’re side by side.”
“Fine.” He narrowed his eyes and lowered his voice to a sultry rasp. “But then we’re doing the same thing on both cars.”
I exhaled loudly. “Fine.”
I was very aware of the rise and fall of my chest, and how if I moved forward a fraction of an inch, my chest would be pressed against his. And then, because arguing can get us both riled up, and because I do actually care about whether or not Monty thinks I’m hot, but mostly because we were alone and awake, I let Monty kiss me. I knew what was coming when his lips parted, when he tilted down his dark head, when he reached out both arms to hold me.
I did not step away.
Instead I met his embrace with enthusiasm, though I was still angry. Soon we were tugging off each other’s clothes and taking out our aggression in the most fun, if not the most healthy, sort of way.
When we were done we laid together on the kitchen floor, sharing the peanut butter sandwich Monty had made earlier.
“I’m still idealistic,” I said. “I care about way more than winning.”
“I know.” Monty kissed me softly on the mouth and I could taste his peanut butter breath.
But I wasn’t so sure myself. It’s easy to make claims. It’s not always easy to believe them.
How well do I know my husband? About as well as I know myself.