At 26, I was married, living without a trace of domesticity. My British husband and I trekked the globe. Give him a rental car and map in a far-flung place and he popped the clutch without hesitation. Traveling was our oxygen, our marital glue. Maybe the only thing we had in common. This became patently obvious when on the cusp of our divorce I flipped through worn photo albums filled with Bedouins and Buddhist temples instead of barbecues or babies.
This marriage-made-in frequent-flyer-heaven wasn't short. Our rootless, peripatetic life lasted a decade. Most of our time spent together was on exotic trips because when he wasn't traveling for pleasure he was scouting for diamonds in Bombay, Antwerp and Russia. He was rarely home. I was busy too, reporting for newspapers, living in Manhattan, more single than married.
Then the seven-year itch hit me like a case of the shingles. I went bonkers with desire for furniture, a dog, a baby. I wanted to eat dinner with him, not by myself watching Michael and Hope's quotidian life on Thirty Something. I begged him to curtail his traveling. He wouldn't. To console me he surprised me with a ski trip to British Columbia. I was sick the entire time with an upper respiratory infection.
As we became unglued there were spasmodic efforts to save the marriage.
"Let's buy a house in New Jersey," he said.
Nothing could have frightened me more than moving out to suburbia with a man who was never home. While I loved old houses, and could imagine what it would be like to putter around in a plant-filled conservatory on a Sunday morning, I was too young and jaded to picture myself in the isolation of a commuter town.
I remember his suggestion made me think about how his brother, also a jet-setting diamond dealer, left for a business trip five days after his wife gave birth to their first son. She and her baby looked so small in their big house.
What would life look like out there? Eating alone in Red Lobster? Going by myself to movies at the mall? Wandering aimlessly in my backyard, muttering to myself? Even if we were to consider bringing the essential suburban accessory -- children -- I was not hearing the siren song.
Moving to suburbia was not going to save the marriage; in fact it was never part of my plan. Though I admit once in a blue moon -- or less frequently -- I'd close my eyes and imagine myself living inside one of those grand turn-of-the-century farmhouses with a stone wall, the kind you see close to the road in older suburbs.
What was needed to complete that dream was true love; forever-love.
He showed up unexpectedly on a late July afternoon in 2000. He was familiar and new, an old friend from childhood and college days; a boy who'd grown into a man with a complicated past, blue jeans without holes and much shorter hair. He moved into my Upper West Side apartment. On a trip to Simon Pearce he said, "you know, when we get married, we should register here." That was his marriage proposal and I accepted.
After living with this man for a couple of years I realized this was my first and only marriage. This relationship was filled with crossword puzzles, meals at our table and a warm body next to me every night. We traveled to upstate mountain towns for lazy weekends. In my mind's eye, I could see us sitting on the wrap-around porch of the pale yellow house in that town we had passed through.
Many trips to the country set off brooding for wide-plank floors and the sweet perfume of burning wood but every time my husband suggested we leave the city vestigial fears rose up and got me around the throat. The most visceral fear of all was sleeping alone at night in a house, which of course my husband pointed out wouldn't be necessary because he would be there with me.
I grew up in a house in Brooklyn. The ground floors had bars to deter intruders. My father kept a gun in his night table. I last lived in a house when I was 17. I felt very safe in Manhattan apartments, hermetically sealed boxes guarded by an army of doormen.
In the nine years I've been with my husband we have never spent a night apart. I'm at ease when I lay my head on my pillow in our darkened house on a desolate road atop a mountain. Sometimes we listen to the rain, sometimes to silence. I yank him closer when we hear the blood-curdling yelps of a pack of coyotes making a kill. But I'm never too afraid because I know he's there next to me.