There are some people on the bus some mornings that I see over and over again and their behaviour screams “BLOG!!” to me.
There are two women and two men. They all have accents and are darker skinned, perhaps West Indian or Caribbean. The women sit together and the men sit together but usually across and back a row or two. They are all going to work. I get off the bus first, so I don’t know where they work, but they all carry lunches and dress in blue collar attire.
The women are obviously very good friends, possibly sisters. They seem quite close; they are familiar with each other tone and word, and sit physically close, bordering on intimate but without crossing the line. The men also seem to know each other, but not as well. Their conversation is friendly but slightly less familiar. It is obvious that they are not as close to each other as the women are.
The two couples know each other. Often, one or the other of the women will toss back snide or derisive comments in the direction of the men. I have not eavesdropped closely enough to hear actual words, but the tone is obvious. This is pretty much all the factual information I have about them. The rest is blanks that I have filled in from my own imagination.
I imagine that the women are each married to one of the men. Perhaps one couple emigrated here and then sponsored her sister and husband. They are all struggling financially, socially and culturally in their new home. The sisters have an expressive approach to dealing with these stresses; they live their shared experiences together. They are emotionally connected and not afraid to share their frustrations with each other. The men are emotionally more reserved and less comfortable confiding in either their wives or each other. So they talk about sports and superficial things, and endure the bond their wives have with each other, since it is painfully obvious to even the most casual observer that the women prefer the company of each other to that of their own husbands. What may have been strong and loving relationships prior to the move that uprooted them and brought them so far from home have warped and bent under the strain, and may now have some serious structural flaws.
The couples live, I imagine, in two apartments next door to each other in the same building, and spent all their social time together. I expect that the sisters will conspire to get pregnant at the same time. As soon as they leave their apartments for work each morning, the women pair off and gratefully hand off the men to each other, compatibility be damned. The men put up with it because they don’t mind each other’s company, really, but also because to protest would be to risk incurring the wrath of their women, which would be by no means worth the effort. Forced together through the circumstances of their wives’ bond and their own mutual heritage, they grin and bear the situation with little complaint.
The only times the couples are alone in their own homes, as couples, is for bed, and it is then, only occasionally, that the men make tentative and hesitant forays into the forbidden territory of expanding the couple’s social horizons, maybe suggesting an outing Friday night with the guy from work and his wife, only to be shot down by her standing plans with her sister. Every once in a while, tempers flare, and give ammunition to the women’s snide and derisive comments on the bus, although more often than not, the men bite their tongues and suffer in silence, knowing full well that every word of the conversation will be reported to the other sister in a tearful midnight phone call.
I imagine that one day, one of the men will grow tired of his secondary role and will leave. Maybe to go back to his country of origin. His leaving will disrupt the balance of this little community and eventually the solidarity of the sisters will force the other one to cut his losses and leave as well. At first, the sisters will barely notice the absence of the men and will move in together and raise their children as siblings. The men will go on to mature, happy relationships with other women back home; the women will become bitter and frustrated, and spend the rest of their years not acknowledging that all they needed to do was the required marital work of recognizing husband as friend and partner, and valuing them at least as highly as they did each other.
It’s all about give and take… sometimes, often, I get all wrapped up in my own tasks and my own stresses, and forget for the briefest of moments that I have a friend and partner that needs to be acknowledged and appreciated. And thankfully, he keeps me grounded, brings me back around to the realization that it’s not all about me anymore, it’s about us, all four (and more) of us. He reminds me daily, just by the little things he does, that all that required marital work is worth every ounce of energy it takes. I love you. Thank you.