By Bob and Claire Rogers
“You don’t fu….. care about me!” It came from a young woman sitting in a car beside Turtle. “You don’t treat me like you did before. You don’t treat me the same fu….. way you did before we got married.” A young man, stood tall beside her window, hands at his sides, outer calm mirrored in his desert camouflage uniform, defending himself in an even tone. “It’s not me. It’s you,” he said.
His tone and demeanor seemed to make her even angrier. The recriminations continued, she shrill and emotional, he controlled, uncommunicative.
Claire and I looked at each other. We both had tears in our eyes. It was our twentieth anniversary, and we were witnessing the beginning of the end of a young marriage. It didn’t take words between us to know what we would do. We held hands and walked around the motorhome to them.
Claire: I was really nervous about this type of encounter; domestic disputes are one of the most dangerous calls for police, but we could tell from the vague, repetitive accusations that they had reached an impasse.
Bob: “It’s our twentieth anniversary,” I said. “And we just had to say something. We couldn’t help but overhear.” I nodded toward Turtle. “I hope you don’t mind.” He acknowledged us, “No.” She quickly put the car in reverse and said “It’s okay, I was just leaving.” But she didn’t.
I looked at him. “You don’t understand her emotions. You will when you are older, but for now, just listen. She’s hurting, and you need to hear her” And to her through the window I said, “You don’t understand why he’s so calm, so unresponsive to your hurt.” She nodded, still looking down. “He’s just doing what men are taught. We’re not supposed to show emotion. Fathers and football coaches,” I acknowledged his uniform, “the military, none of them reward a show of emotion.” I clapped him on the shoulder, there were still tears in my eyes, “When you are 66 you will know that it’s okay to cry, but not yet. I understand.” “But you have to understand her need to see you show her your love.”
She stole a furtive look at him, her mascara left marks of her tears. “You’re being a man, and she’s being a woman.” He smiled just a tiny bit.
Claire: “It’s what men do, it’s called freezing up, it happens when they are feeling bombarded, so they just clam up. Trust me, this happens to men and women all over the world, but it just causes the women to yell more because they think they’re not being heard.”
Bob: “You gotta work together. That’s the hard part of marriage, but it’s the rewarding part too.” I turned to him. “We travel, just the two of us, on our tandem bicycle all over the world.” His eyebrows went up. “Last year we rode over the Tibetan Plateau, through Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, three thousand miles.” He was really listening now; man stuff I guess. “A few years before, we went from Beijing to Istanbul.” I touched his arm. “Across Central Asia; I hope you don’t have to go there.” I didn’t expect him to be as attentive as he had become; he was really hearing what an old man (to him) had to say. “A couple doesn’t do something like that without knowing how to work together.” I smiled at what I’d just said. “There’s nothing like it.” “But, it takes some time, and a lot of listening.”
Claire: The writer in me spoke to her: “If you aren’t able to communicate what you need, try writing it down, write what’s wrong and write what you think would fix it, but don’t give up.” She cracked the window a bit more and went back to twisting the beautiful wedding and engagement rings.
Bob: She rolled her window down further and looked up at him, he down at her. “Touch each other,” I gently insisted. They slowly reached out to touch hands and lock eyes. “We’ll go away now.”
We hurried to Turtle, threw things where they wouldn’t fall and started the engine. As we drove away, he was leaning through the window and they were kissing.
We could have gifted ourselves a cruise to Alaska, celebrated at the Captain’s table with expensive Champagne, and seen Alaskans at a safe remove. Instead, we had leftovers and box wine in Turtle in a library parking lot, and maybe, just maybe, made a difference in two young lives. No contest.