It’s time I focused a little more, tweezed a miniscule piece of my life with Oso and scrutinized it under the microscope. Relationships aren’t my forte, but I have a lifetime of experiences with them for comparison’s sake. For example, my life experiences with my parents have taught me that a (married) couple will spend its Sundays together. They might choose to drink coffee and read the paper, trading sections silently as the need arises, or they might disappear into the bedroom for an afternoon nap, while their children squabble with boredom and wish it weren’t raining for the purpose of running outside, playing baseball, or riding bikes.
It doesn’t rain nearly as often here in the Silicon Valley as it does up in our home state, but by the time our daughter Sara turned three months, Sundays had already fallen into the same distinct pattern of laziness and lethargy, to the point that the grocery store looked like great fun, and I occasionally dared to leave Sara with Oso and rush to the store for anything–ice cream? Coffee? Bagels? Oso didn’t enjoy being left alone with his baby daughter. Too bad for him. I didn’t particularly enjoy grocery shopping, but it was a marvellously exciting time on a Sunday afternoon, and one that brought good things into the refrigerator and cupboards. How efficient I was!
The shade on the window flapped. It was a lazy Sunday of the usual pattern. Oso and I sat at the breakfast table, our toast and eggs long since eaten. The coffeepot was almost empty, and not owing to me, either, since I nursed the baby on a schedule of approximately every three hours and didn’t want her little heart jumped up on caffeine. As a compromise, I settled for half a cup and watched jealously as Oso sucked down the rest.
Oso didn’t read the newspaper, and that left out the sectional trade part. I read the letters to the editor and the funnies before giving up to boredom. Oso read all manner of business and tech magazines, as well as online news sources, a feat of word-pounding he accomplished only on Sundays. He didn’t read much of anything the rest of the week unless the words pertained to his personal business and finances.
You see, I knew all this about Oso because he had moved himself into my apartment after Sara’s birth, had carted over his pressed shirts and pants, and there he remained. Recently, there was a look in his eyes–the distant look he gets when he’s considering the diminished horizons of his world. I didn’t recognize the look, then, but I recognize it now.
Sara fussed, and I picked her up from the bassinet, only to realize her diaper had leaked. I set about to change it right then and there because I was efficient. I kept spare diapers on the shelf underneath the little wheeled bed.
Oso didn’t look up from his laptop screen. “Do you have to do that here? I’m trying to drink my coffee.”
“Why don’t you try changing it yourself? Then you can do the job wherever you want.”
“I didn’t take on that job in our role division plan.”
“I didn’t know I had, either.”
Finally, he looked up at me and gave me his glassy glare that instantly expressed his dislike of me. It hurt. However, in a way–even though I was annoyed–he was right. After moving in, he took it on himself to cook or wash dishes or sweep–just never, ever to change a diaper. And, by the way, he was the one who planned the role division. I had nothing whatever to do with it. In fact, when he first brought over all his neatly pressed button-downs, he demanded that I iron them for him. When I didn’t get the collars just right, he sent them back to his laundry service. But, still, I had nothing to do with it either way, even if I wanted to iron his shirts. And I tried to iron his shirts. I really did. My ironing wasn’t good enough for Oso.
I hid behind Sara, kissing her little cheeks, and cuddling her in her newly clean yellow sleeper. Yellow–that’s right, because Oso wouldn’t allow me to divulge the sex of our child before she was born. He said it wasn’t right. I, as a scientist, valued technology, and asked the ultrasound tech to whisper the secret in my ear. Since our babe’s sweet feminine side was a secret until birth, I graciously accepted the neutral colored clothing our friends sent us. Culture is what it is, and I wouldn’t have my Sara mistaken for a boy because of ill-chosen blue sailor suits.
I clung to her sunny, yellow-clad self, and I sensed something big. I waited for Oso to break the lethargy of my Sunday. I tried to hold the break back–I needed to hold it back for my sanity. Maybe my efforts were as bad as my ironing, never getting the details right. I tried to be normal, and those were the details that were wrong.
“I might walk to the grocery store later. Do you want anything?”
“No. Get what you want. I’m going to move back to my apartment for a little while.”
“I need space,” he said. “As do you, so don’t try to tell me you don’t.”
I opened my mouth to speak, to remind him that we could rent or buy a much larger abode–multiple bedrooms!–for the price we were paying for two one-bedroom apartments.
“Don’t argue with me, please, Julia. I have some big business deals coming up, and I don’t need the stress. I’ll visit when I get a chance.”
And that was that. His word was final. He expected to be obeyed–always. I picked up Sara with a gentleness I didn’t feel inside and walked to the store, Sara in her tummy pack, safe for the time being from adults and their hurtful ways. When I returned, Oso had vanished, his laundered shirts with him.
He needed his space. If he wanted to make money, which was still his primary goal, he needed private time for thinking. That first time he left, he avoided Sara and me for a month, and then visited sporadically for the next two. The following month after that, he moved back in, happy as could be, bearing flowers, groceries, etc.
I threw his flowers in the trash and put the groceries away. Why was he so happy? How could he whistle as he hung his crisp shirts in my closet again? He had made a deal–that was the reason for everything. Money. The game of it. The game I wouldn’t play, that I couldn’t understand.
Oso bears things well, and I apologize for the pun. He bears gifts, annoyances, hurts. I bear the children, but still–he bears life for the both of us. That’s Oso. That’s why we can live together and not live together at the same. It’s not all that complicated. I just can’t explain it! If you’re reading this Cecilia, how would you write about Oso? I honestly don’t know how. (Cecilia told me later that she writes humorous middle grade books so that the antagonists are campy rather than complex. Ha! So Oso is my antagonist. Good to know.)