- All My Little Deaths
I was a year into a relationship with the man I'd eventually marry when I leaned over to him as we lay falling asleep and whispered, "One night, I will kill you in your sleep." To this day, he thinks it's the funniest thing I have ever said, even funnier than the time we walked past a group of teens loitering outside Barnes & Noble late on a Friday night and I announced, "What a nice shopping center. Hard to believe all those violent murders that happened around here."
My mother found it less endearing. I mentioned it to her at dinner while we were visiting. She paused, leaving the roll she'd been carrying to her mouth hanging in the air. In truth, she was probably more horrified that I had admitted to being in bed with my now spouse, then boyfriend, even though we were living together.
"Why would you say that?" she asked.
"It was funny!" I said. "I guess you had to be there."
Michael claims that he knew he was in love with me early on, but I think that was the moment that really sealed the deal. It's funny, I thought later, because it's true. I could kill you in your sleep, and you could do the same to me. That is what it means to lie down next to someone. That is what it means to turn yourself over to love.
I grew up in a household wherein my parents were always threatening to kill each other, not so much with words but rather through furious silence and caustic stares. I don't think that they hated each other, and perhaps there were times that they loved each other, but they didn't seem to like each other. My father decided early on that marriage worked better for him if he also [End Page 119] maintained a healthy dating life. My mother was none the wiser for about thirty years, though I think deep down, she knew. We all knew; we just didn't want to acknowledge it, because acknowledging it would have meant dealing with it, and dealing with it would have meant processing the messy emotions intertwined therein. So we buried it in the backs of our minds and pretended like everything was fine, just fine, when everything was actually on fire and rolling off a steep cliff the whole time.
My parents married young. They had known each other for less than a year. I think they mostly wanted to live together. The way that I grew up and the way that my parents grew up, you were supposed to wait until you were married to live together, because living together implied sex, and sex sat up on a high pedestal, kept under glass and locked away as a Pandora's box of evil sin, ready to destroy your life should you so much as brush up against it.
It didn't take much study of my parents' marriage for me to realize that that tactic didn't work. As a teenager, I decided that I was going to have sex as soon as I was an "adult," which I defined as being someone who had both her own place and access to birth control pills. My mother, however, was convinced that I was one of those wild, sexually active teenagers she saw on Lifetime original movies, and so she spent large swaths of her time finding new ways to casually mention the horrors of pregnancy and AIDS, both of which seemed to be inevitable conclusions to premarital sex. What she did not understand—what even I did not understand—was that I was not into many of the people I went to high school with, and in the cases that I was, half of them were other girls.
My mother looked at me and saw a ticking time bomb of a uterus, a vessel just waiting to grow an infant that would consume me and the rest of my promise-filled life. I don't blame her for this, just as I don't blame myself for the years...