In another installment of “Love, Recorded,” Matt Salesses gets himself in a little trouble with Cathreen. Fireworks ensue.
We’ve been watching the World Cup. Cathreen follows the Korean team in a nationalistic frenzy. I somehow get caught up in the American team. It’s the last-minute finish, the goal everyone is talking about.
Whenever I accuse Cathreen of nationalism, she says it’s about “blood.” Maybe she says this to include me. I wonder, what if our countries had met in the quarterfinals? Who would I have rooted for? That is, would I have made her happy?
Instead, Ghana loses to Uruguay in a stunner. The kind of loss that couldn’t happen in any other sport. Imagine a basketball game where the buzzer-beater is goal-tended, except the basket doesn’t count. Instead, the shooter takes a free throw. He misses. Then the two teams shoot more free throws to determine the winner. The team that would have had the buzzer beater loses. Now imagine those two teams are playing for their national honor.
People get killed for their mistakes in World Cups.
I have never seen anything like this loss. I call Cathreen, but she doesn’t share my shock. I come home in a daze. I feel as if someone famous has died. I know this is ridiculous.
I’m lying on the couch. Cathreen comes out of the bedroom to ask about the translation of some Korean phrase. She says this is something all couples go through. The translation she has found is a “period of lassitude.” I wonder where all this has come from.
She asks me if I ever feel this way—and since the question is wrapped up in an explanation of the translation, I somehow get trapped in a description of how this feels to me, when I feel it. Everyone feels this way sometimes, I tell her. Sometimes. Everyone. Never.
“I can’t believe it,” she says.
Boise, our cat, meows and circles her leg.
“Let’s go out,” I say, trying to cover up my blunder.
The temperature rises. My mother calls to say it will hit a hundred, today or soon. She says she will come up for a visit. The past four days, I’ve been having sinus headaches. I wonder, after how long should I see a doctor?
“What’s wrong with you?” Cathreen asks.
“Maybe I have a tumor,” I say.
She says not to say this. She says something, I think, about jinxes. I knock on wood, not sure whether this is the correct response. I think about possible solutions: alcohol, allergy medicine, sleep. I buy pills from CVS that seem to work, but I have to keep taking them every four hours.
Independence Day. Last year, I took Cathreen and my brother to see the fireworks. We sat for hours along the Harvard section of the Charles, waiting as a crowd swelled around us. Unfortunately, the fireworks were around a curve in the river. “Why haven’t they started yet?” I remember us asking. They should have posted a sign or something. We saw nothing. “How could so many people be wrong?” I remember giving as my excuse.
This year, I promised, would be different.
We brave the packs of tourists in the North End for dinner, then walk over to the Esplanade. People everywhere. I can smell the heat on them. We sit in the middle of the sidewalk. This time, I think. I see the same on her face.
When the fireworks start, we get up and run to a better spot. Then everything stops. We are sweating, holding hands intermittently, twisting uncomfortably amidst the crowd, afraid to lose out again.
It’s just a commercial break.
Cathreen is in love with gardening. I can’t see myself ever liking putting plants in the ground, making sure they are watered, waiting for them to grow. All for something to eat—though Cathreen says the eating is not what gardening is about. “In a general way,” I tell her in Home Depot, “I care about plants surviving. But I don’t want to make them survive.” I’m not sure why I put it this way: make.
We buy three bags of potting soil, four pots, a miniature shovel and rake, gloves, sticks to help the plants grow straight, wire, tomato and vegetable food, and an indoor tree. “Satisfied?” I ask. She smiles and bites my shoulder. Biting is a Korean thing. I once saw a woman on a flight to Seoul biting her daughter’s chin. The little girl kept laughing and laughing.
When Cathreen bites me, she is showing me love.
At home, I watch previews of tomorrow’s soccer games, giving my wife time to garden. She talks to the plants, she says, as she raises them.