Most of us enter marriage hoping that the honeymoon lasts forever while knowing that it won’t and that there will be hard work ahead, frayed nerves and a little dislike between many bouts of love. I certainly didn’t enter my marriage to Rolf with blinders on. I loved him despite his lack of whimsy. I figured whimsy could be cultivated, brought about with time, aged like wine or as a result of wine, whichever came first.
Seven months into our marriage, I learned that he and Collette had once been lovers. I shrugged off the knowledge the way you do when life is good. Collette appeared settled in her marriage with Teddy. They seemed to like and value each other, even if passion never seemed apparent.
And this is how I found myself vacationing with them at a lake in the mountains during the third year of my marriage to Rolf. Lately he and I had acquired more frayed nerves and dislike, but I wrote it off to me being frustrated with my stagnant composing. It’s difficult to feel relaxed when you can’t feel notes or hear music inside. I’d never entered such a barren period before. I felt like I might explode. I didn’t. What happened instead was that I sniped at Rolf when he came home late, which he had been doing a lot recently.
“We are vacationing with Collette and that husband of hers in her cabin,” Rolf said. He never referred to Teddy by his name. That should have raised a flag to me, but Rolf rarely likes to deal with the “talent” as he calls Teddy and me. There have been days lately when I’m surprised he deigned to marry me.
He sighed as if I were a child asking “why” several hundred times. “Because we need a break from the city. It might do you good. You barely leave the house.”
I pursed my lips to argue but felt too tired. To the mountains we would go. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps I needed a change of scenery. Perhaps I needed to walk in the woods and convene with nature.
Collette’s cabin was not a cabin. It was a mansion in the middle of the woods with floor to ceiling windows that seemed to bring the trees and lakeview inward. I was captivated and could imagine spending all of my days in this haven.
The moment I stepped on the deck that overlooked the valley and had a view of the range of mountains, I felt myself relax. The anxiety of the past few weeks, months, melted away. I could even feel my lips curve into a smile, unbidden, but welcome.
Disregarding propriety, I placed my keyboard on a table and began piecing together a melody I heard in my head and in the world around me, something that rose from the trickling flow of the stream, the merry call of the birds, the hum of unseen insects. There was nothing more invigorating than creating and nothing more isolating. I tuned out the people around me to tune in the music.
At dinner, Teddy and I conversed about the music process. He possessed the whimsy so lacking in Rolf. Neither Rolf nor Collette took any notice of Teddy and me. They were rapt in each other in a way that gave me just a moment’s doubt before I swept it away. Rolf was, if anything, an honorable man.
“Maybe you and me can collaborate on a song this weekend,” Teddy suggested.
I nodded. “Sure. I love that piece you did for the Guthrie sisters. So powerful and aching.”
He smiled in an “aw, shucks” way, cute and unpracticed. I blushed because my thoughts created a path I didn’t want to take.
We turned in early. I was a night owl, especially when bitten by my music but acquiesced because I thought it would be rude to keep everyone awake while I made music. I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned until around 4 am when I finally fell to an exhausted deep sleep.
Something woke me. Perhaps the fingertips of sunlight spilling over the mountains. Rolf’s side of the bed was empty and cold. I rose to look at the sun, its golden light kissing the earth, shadowing a couple who stood on a slope, embracing. I watched them. I knew who they were: he so tall, slender, she nearly as tall, her blonde hair gleaming as the shadows lifted. His hands caressed her face, followed by his lips. I knew passion when I saw it. I knew I had never experienced it with Rolf.
“Did you know?” Teddy’s twangy voice is reverently quiet.
I shook my head. “Did you?”
“I guessed. We can either kill them or leave them.”
I glanced at him. He smiled, shaking his head, although his brown eyes were glazed with rejection, pain, emotions I didn’t feel to the same extent.
“I’ve got too much music making to do to end up in jail,” I said.
“Same here. I thought us musicians were supposed to be the fickled ones.”
My eyes watched them, the tender way they touched, comfortable in believing they were not viewed. “They’re not fickle. They just tried to make do and found they couldn’t.”
My feelings surprised me. I was not as upset as I thought I should be. I was not raging and angry, foaming at the mouth. I supposed a part of me had always known that Rolf with all of his stoicism, implacability, would never be the love of my life. That part was already moving on, ready to make plans. Maybe I’d been making do, too.