Less than a year before I left for New Zealand on a yearlong working holiday, I had purchased a darling little 2001 Kia Rio. I left the car with my best friend, who then bestowed it on my parents, who used it until I returned with a husband three years later. Though the thought had crossed my mind to sell it from overseas, I am so pleased that this economical little vehicle was waiting for us. Unfortunately, while gratitude seeps from both our pores to own a properly acceptable automobile, my husband insists that “it’s a perfectly fine vehicle…for you”. Ben, at 6’9”, has to get into the car using a specific, two pronged attack–he has to jut his head and upper body in first, and use the arm rest to leverage himself before twisting himself and then swinging his long legs into line with the rest of his frame. Time and time again, he reminds me that when I (at 5’3”) use the car, could I just push the seat way back. Time and time again I forget, and my absentmindedness threatens that my husband may tear a muscle trying to wedge his body behind the wheel.
Until recently, I was catching a ride to work with a neighbour. Her working hours suddenly changed, and I was to find a way to get to work at 5am. I come home and tell Ben the news. He shrugs his shoulders and says–“Okay then, I guess we’ll have to get a truck”. To which I then roll my eyes. Boy oh boy, does that man want a truck–it’s his Canadian dream. “When I get my permanent residency, I’m getting a truck and a decent cell phone plan”, he proclaims. I think the worst part of the car for Ben is finishing up a day on a construction site, lumbering to the parking lot with all the other sweaty builders, watching them jump into fat, bad ass trucks, while Ben either pretends that his truck has been stolen, or lingering behind so as no one will witness him shoving himself into the tiny red Kia like Santa Claus down a clogged chimney. And while he’s being emasculated by the car, I am stuck on a day off without my wheels. I know that marriage is all about sharing, but this is ridiculous. But at this point, things really can’t be helped. I have to walk down to his work office to pick up the car if I need it, and he has to get up for 5am to drop me off at work. That’s sharing, that’s making it work when choices are limited. Baby, that’s marriage.
For three years, we have shared the tiniest of spaces, so sharing a compact car and a Queen sized bed is nothing new. (Can I add that to the post-permanent residency list? A bigger bed? A friend popped by recently, saw our bedroom and asked where Ben slept). We have come across a lot of tiny beds in our time together. In our flat in Australia, it was an actual Murphy bed and Ben’s feet and ankles dangled off the edge every night. And while Ben argues it can be helped what one does with their sleeping body—it can’t! I do have delightful little nocturnal habit—I sleep on my side and as the night progresses, I tend to jut my ample bottom out and slowly move into a pike position. Ben is often woken up in the middle of the night by the feeling of my forceful arse pushing him off the edge of the bed. If ever I go to sleep before Ben, I am always woken up when he tries to climb into bed. He’s like a lumbering Kodiak bear pawing at the blankets and sheets, trying to make space in the dark around my body—which is splayed out in slumber like Pac Man’s open mouth.
But we remind ourselves that these inconveniences are temporary; in three years and three countries, our whole life has been about temporary conditions. We will just keep getting in each other’s way; we’ll get frustrated and argue. Ben is so tall and stubborn and sometimes makes me so crazy that I’ll raise my voice and shake my fists, which annoyingly makes him laugh, as apparently I don’t look scary, I look and sound like a pygmy goat bleating in pain. We may not be able to fit in the kitchen (which is, strangely enough, smaller than our bathroom) at the same time. I will always be like a new puppy getting under Ben’s feet, and I will always have to share that inch or two extra of space in the car, on the plane and anywhere else for that matter. (Except when I’m sleeping, that can’t be helped!) But when I grab my special stool (Ben christened them my ‘baby steps’), climb up to hug and kiss my husband—big bear that he is, I wouldn’t trade him for the convenience of that extra bit of space, I’m perfectly contended to be so very crowded.