The space between us

“Mommy and Daddy, are you best friends?” Our son issues the question over breakfast. I chew my Kashi cereal and shoot a glance at Jay, who’s busy draining his coffee. He raises his eyebrows over the mug and for a second, I think he’s leaving this response to me alone.

Best friends, huh?

We certainly hadn’t been acting like it. A recent dinnertime squabble had led to finishing our veggie burgers in icy silence, which led to raised voices in the kitchen and the finale: me sulking in the bedroom. What were we even fighting about that day? I cannot remember.

Bit by bit we’d built up walls — a terse comment here, tasks left undone there, feeling unseen and under-appreciated amid parenting our son.

Last Saturday, I’d gone so far as to grumble, “Why did we get married again?

I needed to remember.

//

Jay and I met sophomore year in sociology class. He, the laid-back genius, was late to class on the first day. I, the driven student, had arrived early. When he strolled into the classroom, there was one spot next to me.

He took it.

It became his permanent spot.

Jay was everything I wasn’t: low-key, low-stress, able to hang out for hours on end without accomplishing anything. He made me laugh. He was kind. He listened. When we were together, all my worries and stressors melted away.

We talked for hours into the night. Time together was one long exhale.

//

Hours led to weeks, led to 14 years “officially” together this month. Seven years married. Three years with our son.

Later that Saturday night, as we settled in to our respective sides of the bed, I put down my novel and asked him a question usually reserved for our preschooler. “What’s wrong?” And out it came — all the worries and fears and annoyances, his and mine. We talked for hours into the morning, crying, laughing, kissing. We found each other’s arms, closing the space between us. Just before sleep arrived, I sighed.

//

Are you best friends?

Our son’s question drifts the air. I swallow my cereal. Jay sets down his coffee.

My husband and I lock eyes and smile. We answer with one breath: “Yes.”

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