When it comes to long-term relationships, it’s important to surprise each other every once in a while. If you’ve been together long enough, this can be done as easily as accidentally listening to your partner when they’re talking. Which is how I heard the following last night.
“If you weren’t so scared of spiders, I’d take you down into the sewers by my mom’s house.”
An actual sentence uttered by my husband of ten years. I haven’t listened to a damn thing the man’s said in at least three years (the “Hamilton” soundtrack just blaring in my mind every time he opens his mouth), and yet, somehow, this is the one thing that got through. Blame it on the pandemic and our isolation, but so help me, I heard it and I couldn’t unhear it, which meant I was about to get to know my husband better whether I wanted to or not.
“Say what now?” I replied, as the sound of a record scratch reverberated through my head.
“Yeah…have I never told you about when I used to hang out in the sewers?”
“You have not,” I responded, while looking around futilely for anyone else who could corroborate that this was happening.
“Yeah, you know the drainage ditch across from my parents house? If you follow that down to Farmington Avenue, there are these two concrete tunnels, side by side. You know the kind I mean?”
“I do not. I did not play in the sewer as a child,” I said, unable to hide my smile. “But by all means, continue.”
“Well, one was big enough you could crawl through and after about hundred yards, you came to a room down there. It was a roughly seven square foot concrete room, with a bunch of drainage pipes. My buddies and I, we’d go down there with flashlights and hang out.”
You think you know someone. You think you know all their stories. Only to find out that their childhood was apparently written by Stephen King.
“What is your life, dude?” I asked after a long pause.
“Oh, that’s nothing. We once made a hideout out of an abandoned foundation for a house.”
“Hang on,” I said. “I’m going to need another beer.”
I grabbed two. If Stephen King has taught me anything, it’s that stories that begin with children in sewers tend to be long.
“It was about three feet down, with steps built in and a dirt floor. We made a roof out of broken down tree limbs so it was hidden from view. We’d steal cigarettes from the Circle K and go down there after school,” said the man I formerly knew as my mild-mannered husband. “We had a little radio we’d play. Our one buddy, he had a rough home life, he’d go there when he needed to get away. It was great for about three years and then some high school kids discovered it and kicked us out.”
“Please tell me at some point you guys poked a dead body with a stick.”
“Did you pull a gun on the high school punks? Because they tried to steal your dead body?”
He let out a long and well earned irritated sigh.
“But we did build a treehouse one summer,” he added.
“Of course you did.”
“Well, what was your childhood like?” he asked.
“Normal. Not some combination of ‘IT’ and ‘Stand By Me.’”
“Like I already said, there was never a dead body. Seriously, what did you do in the summers?”
Oh, because apparently we were getting to know me now. I took another sip of my beer.
“You know,” I said, “running around feral in the woods and cornfields. Minimal adult supervision.”
“So you were ‘Children of the Corn’?”
I laughed hard. Which might also have been because I was now on my third beer.
“I was also prom queen,” I snorted.
We both started laughing. We laughed so hard, in fact, that we woke up our young son. He shuffled out of his room in that terrifying way small children have late at night.
“‘The Shining!’” we both shouted while pointing at him.
“What are you guys doing?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.
“Nothing,” said his father.
“Redrum,” said his immature mother.
He very wisely turned around and went back to bed.
And so, the point of all this is that, one, the world was a Stephen King novel long before 2020. And two, I think I’m going to start listening to my husband more. Especially while we are living through this diet version of “The Stand.”
Turns out getting to know your family is worth it. They have lives worthy of books.