The Weekend Wife

by melissakiefer

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credit: (via pinterest) from the notebook

Love is patient. I thought I knew the meaning of this verse in 1 Corinthians 13, especially since I’ve had the whole chapter memorized since junior high Bible Bowl and even recited the chapter at my cousin’s wedding. I thought I knew what the verse meant because when I was in high school, Josh was in college world. I waited desperately on my porch for Thursday after his night class just to get a long kiss that simultaneously meant hello and goodnight. I waited for others to accept our love in spite of our age difference. When I attended college in Indiana and he worked in Illinois, I yearned for the weekends and the rush of seeing him which was more powerful than the booze and blare of seedy fraternity houses. I waited for the day when I wouldn’t have to live in a dormitory or apartment with roommates. Josh and I lived for two years in different states so I could work after college. I lived eight years of love is patient, which is what happens when you realize the man you want to marry at fifteen but live in the twenty-first century instead of the 1940s.  Television, movies, books, and my own romantic daydreams gave a much different image of newlywed life, but still I clung to “love is patient” and hoped he wouldn’t work mandatory overtime and Saturdays and Sundays and second and third shifts our whole lives. Now he’s in the Illinois State Police Academy. He’s training for a career in which he could get shot. I write him pathetic, dramatic, transcendent love letters that don’t get to him until weeks after they are mailed. I feel like I am living in the forties and he’s away at war.      

I am told to enjoy my “me” time. My married and married-with-children friends tell me I’m so lucky to have the privacy to take a shower or pee without a screaming toddler walking in on me and demanding my attention. I can follow my own whims and make my own schedule. I can go shopping after work and no one can tell me not to. I can do laundry whenever the hell I feel like it or until I run out of underwear. I can watch Sex and the City marathons. I don’t have to worry about making my husband supper each night. My supper doesn’t have to include meat. Supper can consist of cereal. Or wine. The life of a Weekend Wife includes so many perks. I get to be selfish. But I’d rather just take your screaming baby beautifully sculpted from half wife and half husband, hold it to my chest and rub my cheek across its soft head, breathe in the baby shampoo, and find my own comfort in any creature that needs me.   
I have so much time. I have time to think and worry—dangerous pastimes. I have time to sleep, so I go to bed at six in the evening because I’m exhausted from staring at the blank wall and the spot on the carpet. I’m exhausted from listening to the seven mouse traps snapping shut like gunshots and listening to my mother’s voice inside of my head. And I’m too aware of the rifle, loaded for my protection against intruders, in the drawer beside my bed. My voice of reason isn’t here, my perspective isn’t here. Who will protect me from myself? I am not alive and too alive. I am paralyzed and spinning. I want to hibernate. I want to sink down into a cocoon. But this is my life, and humans aren’t allowed to hibernate. And at the first eye-flutter of morning when I realize he is not in bed with me, dread washes over my body. I’m covered in sweat but also so cold—every part of me.  All of the strength bleeds out of my body. The body knows—how else can one explain the occurrence of an elderly woman dying within minutes of her husband? The body knows instantly. I mourn him in the mornings because I know the comfort weekend mornings bring. I know the tightness of arms wrapping me to him. I know the tenderness of nose and eyelid kisses, the satisfied heap of entangled magic and urgency and heartbeats and skin and covers and the way he covers all the cold inside me with simple, extraordinary love. But the body is not designed to soar and then plunge to extreme temperatures. So I am sick and stuck on this drug that feeds my scarred and purpled veins.
After my daily morning panic attack, I commute to the school I love and have to leave. I humbly realize my job will move on without me, but I might not move on without it—my other drug that numbs the pain and disgrace I feel from existing as a Weekend Wife. They won’t be closing down their doors because the young unconventional teacher is moving and collapsing and is not sure she can bear or dare to teach anywhere else. It doesn’t matter who plants the seeds (I did) or who does the watering (I should). Love means patiently waiting for God to make the seeds grow. Is there a world growing outside of the classroom where I owned my own awkwardness and preached uniqueness and love?
Josh’s district placement when he graduates the academy is an excellent and convenient excuse to throw up my hands and quit. There are just no jobs available. I cannot find one single lead in the education field. It is time to work somewhere that won’t pull my heart apart, someplace where my feelings aren’t so damn contradictory. I could work in a bookstore or café. I could write for a magazine. I could work in an office on in retail. I could answer a fucking phone all day or bag soup and beans and bananas. I need a job that allows me to be an Everyday Wife. I need something not so tangled up in heartbreaking human beings. I thought I thought about the students more than they thought about me. But my heart turns violently inside of my chest when they do think and say thank you in the form of Christmas ornaments and a homemade blanket, homemade music and bread and crafts and Starbucks gift cards, coffee mugs and hugs and chocolate, and most of all when the thank you comes in the form of letters and cards and comments and words. Words. Words show me in my own love language that they use what I taught them. I can’t just rip off the Band-Aid. The cuts have all healed, but still I pick and peel in slow motion all of these brightly colored bandages from legs and elbows that look like they belong to a kid learning how to ride a bicycle. I learned how to ride the bike of education and took off the training wheels too fast. My skin swallowed chunks of gravel from the crashes, precious pebbles now a part of me wherever I go. But just because coasting with the sun on my face and arms outstretched was worth pedaling the hill doesn’t mean I want to stay on the bike.     
Weekends wives know weekends can’t be forty-eight hour (or thirty-nine hour) sultry love fests, though we do find any way to attach ourselves to one another through hugs in the kitchen and holding hands in the car and in the tub and through church and through dinner and sometimes through the night. Still, Josh and I have to pay bills. We have to do chores and run errands and make lists. We have to go to the bank. We have to wash and iron uniforms. We have to see family. We have to see friends. We do not get to be selfish. Weekend Wives also know that life happens through the week when the husband can’t be there to fix it such as my car stalling on an interstate bridge, hitting a deer, blowing a tire, being seriously ill and making it to the doctor, filling out paperwork I don’t know how to fill out, making phone calls, asking questions, pretending to know answers, embarrassedly asking favors, talking to people, fearing. I have to have concepts and policies and protocols repeated several times. I am not allowed to call him unless the emergency is a death in the family.  This policy is what deprives the Weekend Wife of her dignity when she patiently loves him daily with words and thoughts and prayers and body and passionate heart. Love is patient, but love still needs. And I need time. And I need him to fix the lost time. And I need to work on love, selfishly taking all of the time with him I need, until I feel so much more whole than just a Weekend Wife.