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 Texas : Features : Columns : Notes From Over Here :

I Fear That My Wife Is Insane

by Byron Browne
I fear that my wife is insane. There can be no other reason for her continued presence here in our home. Any rational, right-thinking person would have been packed and gone months ago. Yet, she stays and even finds a way to maintain a smile on that marvelous, olive-skinned countenance of hers. Clearly, something, cerebrally speaking, is not right. Consider this example.

Recently, we traveled overseas on business. Well, we traveled overseas to begin a process that will require returning on business in the near future. In any event, our excursion necessitated a car’s rental, hotel bookings and airline tickets. While I sat at home earlier this month, complaining about my classes and students, while I sat at home skimming through magazines and books, yelling at the dog and fingering what is left of my hair, my wife was on the computer and telephone making all of the arrangements for our trip. That is to say, when I looked up and noticed what day of the week it was and realized that our plans needed attending to, my wife had already taken care of the entire mélange. I was, as usual, left pacing around the room looking for some way to be of use for a situation that was completed.

Imagine this. Imagine a clown at the circus. The show is in full expression and he, this clown, is in the back dressing room trying to decide which shade of red make-up to apply to his fat cheeks. This done, he then spends several minutes trying on different pairs of big, slapping, wagging clown shoes. He chooses the right pair. Maybe the blue ones with the wide, white stripe down the middle. These always get a laugh, although he’s unsure why. Then, maybe, he takes a phone call. Not an unimportant one, but one that probably could have waited until the show’s completion. Now, he’s ready and waddles out into and under the big-top only to discover that, not only is the show over but, the crowds are gone and the big-top is being dismantled for the next show down the road in the next town. “Nice job, clown!” a stagehand might yell, sardonically. The other clowns sneer-having been left to perform on their own.

Of course, I am that clown. How many times have I emerged from the fog of my own thoughts and machinations to discover that the house has been cleaned, the laundry washed, ironed and folded and the dishes put away? Not just once, after completing a few of these pages, have I found dinner steaming on the table- having appeared as if by magic. These things, and many others besides, are done by my wife daily, hourly in fact, to the soft, strumming melody of matrimony. She states that she does these things because she loves me-because the perfection of these chores comes as easily and naturally as waking. She tells me not to worry- that she does these things because she enjoys taking care of the house and those things in it, our son and myself included.

And then, we’re overseas. My wife has booked a car rental and it is the first time we have done this. Frequently, we have taken students to Europe as supplements to their educations. Many times we have taken ourselves there to augment our own education. However never, although we thought and spoke of it often, have we rented a car to drive ourselves around. And then, here we are leaving the airport in a kitchen appliance with a standard shift- a Citroën about the size of a Mr. Coffee machine. And, we’re in a town we have never experienced. We (she) have printed driving directions showing the route from the airport to the hotel and the papers demonstrate that the hotel is very near and should take us about 10 minutes to reach. The illustration shows a path that resembles a block-U turn. Easy. But, ten minutes becomes a half hour, then a full hour. I’m shifting between first and second gears so repeatedly that you would think I’m trying to teach the car a new dance step. We pass the same middle-aged, open-shirted, beer-swigging man so many times that he begins to wave as we pass. All at once, to him at least, we’re locals.

Then a fatal moment arrives. We must perform tasks that my wife and I abhor- me, to ask directions and she, to translate that information. Time after time my wife leaves the car that I have parked on the sidewalk to ask directions from someone unfortunate enough to have placed themselves within striking distance of our ignorance. Oddly, no one has heard of the hotel. The street the hotel is on, likewise, is a mystery to the town’s residents. We think of calling but we don’t know where we are to offer as a starting point. In the end we become very familiar with a section of town that is miles from the hotel. Turns out, we passed it about three times and it was, in fact, just outside the airport. Throughout all of this, a sequence of events that normally would have broken me, a series of happenings that normally would have seen me ranting like Basil Fawlty, my wife smiled and laughed and mollified my melting temperament.

I tell you all this to show that from the trip’s inception, the planning, booking and execution, my wife handled the logistics with an enviable alacrity. To hear her tell it, she undertook all of these tasks solely because she wanted to-she wanted to make the experience less stressful and more enjoyable for me. However, I’m not sure that the whole business was totally altruistic. She may extract some satisfaction from placing herself in charge of details. As an artist she is comfortable either arranging the minutiae of hundreds of pieces of broken, colored glass into a mosaic or sewing stretches of cloth of varying sizes and textures into something extraordinary. Perhaps she simply has a predilection for creating order from chaos.

Whatever the reasons (I suspect it is a combination of things) for her managing all of these challenges, I am still worried that she is not quite right in the head. The housework, the trip planning, her classes and students and my son and me are all orchestrated with a smile. Also, she seems to sleep just fine. Something’s not right.

I’d tell you more about her incredible character-because there is more to tell-but she has just called me to dinner. It was her usual announcement to me when I’m back here writing: “cena est· lista, mi payaso!” Payaso. It’s one of her terms of endearment for me. It means clown.

Copyright Byron Browne
Notes From Over Here
October 2, 2009 Column
Byron Browne can be reached at Byron.Browne@gmail.com

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