The Marriage We Learned in the Apocalypse

“These are the things we had before the apocalypse: a country home, middle-class appointments, 2.5 jobs, four children, a couple of dogs, a cat, and a marriage swimming in the blithe love of American ease.”

This is the sentence I spoke two nights ago in a dream. It was a dream of a scorched-earth America, an ash-gray version of our Land Of The Free whose capitulation to a strong man had worked a great ruin. I don’t count this dream as something prophetic (at least not as some count prophecy), or as any sort of comment on the current political climate. Instead, the dream was the offspring of an over-active imagination and a conversation with Amber about The Walking Dead. Perhaps a late-night apple and peanut butter contributed, too. Did a sinus infection amp up the scene? Who knows.

It was only a dream.

It was only a dream. 

It was only a dream.

Right?

The next morning’s news was its own exercise in dreaming, with some pundits calling our President “unhinged” and others calling him “unparalleled.” Social media was on fire (as social media tends to be) and every status update was an unmoderated call for either impeachment and enthronement. That’s when it struck me–everyone has an opinion and a gun these days (and if not a gun a knife, and if not a knife an ax, and if not an ax a frying pan) and they’re not afraid to use either. And our Commander in Chief? He has an opinion and a nuclear arsenal, and according to his own presser, he’s not afraid to use either of those, either. 

Lord have mercy.

This is not a piece on politics. I swear it. But here’s what I know: the division of this country has grown long in the tooth, its appetite for destruction insatiable. And how hard is it to keep a marriage together in this divisive, destructive atmosphere? Pretty danged, I’d say. I sat in my morning chair, scrolling the news, the social media feeds and wondering: how do you build an apocalypse-proof marriage? Control, comfort, security, leisure, endless activity, maybe even the vote–these are the things that so often bind our marriages, if only by scotch tape and stitches. What’s left when the illusions afforded by privilege burn up and blow away? What would it take to keep a marriage together after the sky has burned to ash? 

I tried on a few answers. Love? Yes. Sex? I sure hope. (Let’s be honest: Don’t humans always find a way?) But these didn’t seem quite sufficient. Wouldn’t it take more? Maybe it take these things: the shared toil against inhospitable soil, the work of composting new, more forgiving stuff; a shared mission, like a common resistance to the powers of apocalypse; the wisdom that came by living through the fire; the shared responsibility of teaching a better hope to the children of our children; an understanding of the ways anger, distrust, and hate are buried in every human heart, even our own; a collaboration in building institutions that fight to unearth all that anger, distrust, and hate. I considered these qualities, played them out against an imagined dystopian future, and that’s when it struck me–the qualities we’d embody after the fire, what if we embodied them before?

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