One one hand, the ER was not where I’d imagined spending the evening of our 9th anniversary. Sure, the colored reflectors on the operating room lights scattered a certain romantic sparkle through the air, and we had some special moments answering the doctors in two-part harmony. “Which one of you is Bassett?” “We both are.” “Yes, but which one is here for treatment?” “We both are.” Still, we probably wouldn’t have handpicked the emergency room for our anniversary getaway.
On the other hand, how better to commemorate this perpetual adventure of a marriage than to get matching stitches for our matching arm wounds which will be matching badass scars by this time next year?
Yeah, I’ve got nothing either.
It started at midnight, the first moon-slivered seconds of our anniversary, with a tremendous crash just beyond our bedroom door. We (I) were still skittish from the night before when our television had started blaring in the opposite end of the house leading us (me) to imagine burglars hiding in every sock drawer, so I felt totally justified in jumping up and brandishing the first weapon available. Which was… our sheet. I must have looked very fierce indeed, terror-frozen at the foot of our bed with a fistful of linens.
Dan, possessing all of our collective presence of mind and movement of limb at that moment, dashed out of the room to investigate and soon reported that, contrary to popular opinion, we were not under mortar attack. I surrendered my sheet and came out to see what would only ever under those exact circumstances be considered a welcoming sight—a bathroom covered wall to wall in foamy brown liquid and shards of glass.
To those of you still reading, it’s not as gross as it sounds. Promise. My husband brews artisan beer as a hobby and had recently bottled a batch of lovely dark stout to finish fermenting on a bathroom shelf, not realizing that the temperature would creep up to dangerous levels. A bottle had exploded, and despite making a royal mess, it smelled delicious and wasn’t a grenade-launching burglar. I’ve never been so happy to scrub down a bathroom at midnight.
We crawled into bed an hour later, kissed sleepily, and closed our eyes just in time for another explosion to rock the house. Crap. We checked on the damage—at least three bottles this time—and decided to just cordon off the crime scene for the night. By the third explosion, we barely even stirred on our pillows. Any number of home invaders could have blown down our door that night without encountering so much as a single belligerent bedsheet. Prospective villains, take note.
We didn’t really want to spend our anniversary cleaning double malt off the bathroom ceiling, but sometimes life requires maturity. Which is why we waited until nearly suppertime to start. (Why else did God invent second bathrooms if not to allow for slovenly cleaning habits?) Now, some people might have reasoned that walking into a room full of spontaneously exploding glass necessitated flak gear or at least a healthy sense of caution, but then again, some people don’t get to experience unforgettable 9th anniversary bonding moments like the one just ahead.
It happened while I was kneeling over the bottom shelf of bottles hosing away glass chips and yeasty goodness. I didn’t realize that the shelf above it was getting nudged off its pegs until I suddenly found myself trying to catch a dozen beer bottles as they exploded. In my face. Demonstrating the same quick reflexes and superior thinking that I had the night before, I froze in place… that place being a front row seat to my own dissection.
Fortunately, survival of the fittest is trumped by survival of the married, and Dan yanked me onto my feet and toward the door. Just as I was registering that my arm kind of maybe really hurt, he made a sound indicating that some part of his body kind of maybe really did too. We stumbled into the other bathroom where the following half hour remains a bit of a blur. At some point, a pair of blood-splattered jeans ended up in the laundry, and we found a red scatterplot across the mirror the next day, so you know it had to be fun.
My arms, legs, and shoulders were peppered with tiny nicks, but there wasn’t a single splinter of glass lodged in my skin—a mercy. Even more remarkably, my face was untouched. Not a mark. I didn’t recognize the miracle of this until much later because that was about the time Dan realized that a few Angry Birds Band-Aids and wishful thinking were no match for the slices on our biceps. Always a people pleaser, I myself was reluctant to head to the hospital. In my mind, the ER is for head injuries and heart attacks; wouldn’t the doctors frown on us for taking up their valuable time with something as mundane as cuts?
As it turns out, there’s a generally accepted rule of thumb about this very situation: If you can see your own muscle, get thee to the ER.
A mere hour and a half later (I know!), we were sewed up and headed back home, five stitches apiece and gratefulness all around—for the neighbor who took in our girls with thirty seconds’ advance notice, for the friend who cleaned up every bit of broken glass in our absence, for the spouse cracking jokes and grimacing in sympathy across the triage room, and for the divine current of goodness carrying us not only through our 9th anniversary but to it as well.
This last year has been one of our hardest as a couple, and I know that probably sounds worth an eye roll or two in light of the marriage letters and the Dear Nearlywed and the happy Instagram feeds. None of that is an act; we are happy, but some days, it’s a happiness hard won. Some weeks, life pressure turns into a geyser under our feet and we jump in opposite directions without meaning to. Some months, we can’t really tell whether the intensity we’re channeling is primarily push or pull, both instincts being so strong and our minds so weary. We’ve spent so much of the last year facing obstacles and scanning for miracles that we’ve often forgotten how to look at each other, how to look and really see.
This is why our 9th anniversary came as such a gift. Fresh out of the emergency room, twinges of pain reminded me of the pain avoided—the deep mercy of an untouched face, of blood beating soundly inside our two skins. And then this interpersonal rawness after an intense year… it floods me with gratefulness for the new bonds we’ve forged throughout, the promises kept, and the sacred still of forgiveness.
I’m not used to picturing us with scars, and my mind keeps reverting back to the way we used to be like a dog who can’t understand its owners have moved. I can never adjust to new realities without a ridiculous amount of head-swiveling. However, the new us is quickly growing on me. This is the year we start rocking the scars, and honestly, I love that we share these testaments to coming undone and being restitched. Even the ones on our arms.
(All pictures by Dan, who had the presence of mind to take them)