It was one of the worst days of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was at the kitchen sink when the two people I love the most, grumble into the room like a toxic cloud. The silence is thick and the mutual hate radiates indiscriminately as they pour coffee. They effortlessly avoid each other with barely constrained fury, aggression and not a little bit of effort. They vacantly acknowledge my presence, and take turns filling the awful quiet with small meaningless words.
They have been fighting again, and their marriage can't take much more of this. They know it, I know it, I suspect even the toaster knows it, and it's an entirely inanimate object. I try and be brave. I carry on the charade, partake in the idle chatter, and politely pretend not to notice that my whole world might soon crumble around my ears. I fill up on pleasantries while they gorge themselves on sidelong spiteful glares and unsaid poisons.
Unbidden, my words erupt. Stop it! Stop it! You're tearing me apart! I can't deal with this anymore. You're killing me. My every waking moment is full of torment, and the nights are even worse. I lay in in bed most nights and cry, eventually falling into dark dreams full of rejection and death. I'm not even sure if you guys love me anymore, or if you ever even did. I'm sorry I'm a failure in your eyes. I'm sorry I let you down. If only I had been perfect, things would have been different… better. Still, you just have to stop, you have to fix it, because you have to. Because if you can't make it, then nothing makes sense. Your love has to matter, it has to be enough. Because if you can't… because…
I can't finish. Tears overwhelm me and I rush out of the house. I collapse on the front porch and let the tears come.
After several seconds the door creaks open. Tentative steps approach. Uhm, we're sorry we've hurt you, we never intended to. We'll work on our relationship, try and make it work. And we're not disappointed in you. You haven't let us down, not at all.
Absolutely. Because, we don't know who you are. Who the hell are you again?
Who am I? I'm Flip. I change your drinking water filters every year. Who am I? Wow. I thought we had something.
Uhh. I'm sure we did. Yeah. Flip, we kinda sorta remember you. So, first off, you seem like a really nice guy, but do you think that you could just finish changing the filters… and then maybe just go away?
Yes. I can do that. I'll pull it together. I'm sorry I broke down, but I really am glad we had this talk. Next year will be better.
Next year? We don't think that will be a good idea.
You're absolutely right. That's a long time. You guys should have me come over every six months or so. And maybe we could even have dinner. Hey, I know! We could go to therapy and work on our issues.
WE don't have issues.
Then why am I on the front porch crying?
Fair point. The two of us, have issues, things we need to work on. And you, yourself, you have some serious issues. But there are not issues between the two of us and you. As a matter of fact, never mind, forget the filters. I'll figure it out myself. Why don't you just go away. Now.
Are you sure?
OK then. So… dinner?
Uhh. We'll call you.
They go back in side and close the door. And lock it. And then oddly it sounds like they are struck by the sudden urge to rearrange their furniture, most of it now resting against the front door.
Hey, you guys I didn't give you my number. Guys! Hey guys! My number! I'll just go ahead and carve it into the tree out front, shall I?