The struggle is one eternal and relentless, the one of woman and man versus house and finance, versus each other, versus children and laundry and summer vacation, versus unfinished manuscript.
In an attempt to strike a cease-fire, my husband takes me to a blues club. We watch a middle-aged man with bright blonde hair and BBQ joint t-shirt stretched over rounded belly belt out songs from south Florida. I squint, narrow my focus so I can’t see the jeans and fleece on the patrons around me, try to pretend that it’s not a Thursday night in Seattle where suddenly it’s rainy and cool even though we just hit the ides of August.
My husband orders me a bourbon on the rocks, coos platitudes. Lean on me. I’ll be the glue that keeps you together. You can count on me.
“Leaning is the last thing I want to do right now.” I sit with stiff back, stiff shoulders, unmoved by his warm hand on my back. “I just have to get stuff done. I don’t need you to hold me. I need you to stand up.”
A couple at least fifteen years older than us, maybe more, slink and side-step across the dance floor. They press close together, pause on cue, move again, dip, separate, join. Both keep their eyes closed. We’re all watching them. Even the band is watching them. The lead singer gives a signal and the bass kicks in low, thumping, dominant. The couple dip a little lower, no longer separate and join, just join.
I look back at my husband, his face warmed by candlelight. He’s giving me that smoldering look. Damn, I think, and take out my phone to snap a picture.
He can hold a mood even when faced with a lens. I cannot. I become aware of people not in the room. People I can’t talk to, people that will make a judgment on me from a single, immutable frame. Not my husband. His smolder deepens, a tiny smile playing on the edge of his lips.
I snap a few photos and sit against him so he can see me scroll through the results.
“You always take such good pictures of me,” he says.
“Hm,” I say, sigh, and drop my phone back into my bag, turn my attention back to the stage.
The drummer is the only woman on the band. She’s also the only black person. I wonder how in the world she hooked up with this group of aging Parrotheads. Cock-sure, the blonde front man struts the length of the stage, howls, asks the audience to howl with him.
“I’m ready to go, “ I say. “I have a 9am meeting. Sorry.”
“Of course, love. Whatever you need.”
We’re halfway to the door when the drummer starts to sing. The blonde band leader has pocketed his harmonica and brought out a saxophone. Music that pounded, beat on the door, hammered the planks, gives way to melody that slides, that runs fingers across bare necks, that moans. And over it all, the woman sings, these blues will get me through.
Without speaking, we slide into empty seats. The woman’s voice lifts high in twirl, then flattens out wide and deep. Her fists pummel the drums, sticks flying, yet her face remains still and drenched in thoughtful calm. My husband slides his hand over mine, squeezes. I squeeze back, do not release.
No one is watching the dancers. No one is drinking. It’s eternal, this struggle, this one of woman and man versus moment, versus the last the bar of the song, versus the sun that will no doubt rise again.