My husband stood in the middle of the room with a tissue in hand, poised for attack. He craved the blood of two houseflies that plague our bedroom with their buzzing.
“Maybe if we didn’t give them the dignity of the name ‘houseflies,’” he said, “they wouldn’t be in our house!”
This week marked our first month of marriage, and we celebrated in small ways. I painted a large portrait of peaches that in the end looked nothing like peaches. Jonathan busked on the streets of Winchester and brought $21 home in his guitar case. While I made dinner, Jonathan read The Old Man and the Sea to me, and we talked about how we wished we could do what Hemingway did. We realized we would have to become journalists to do it, though, which was too big to think about. And every night we waged war against the flies.
I think when we laughingly remember the first trials of our marriage we will say, “Ah yes. The flies.” Jonathan dispatches several of the pestilential visitors each evening with our seven-dollar extendable fly swatter. We cannot seem to keep the flies out, despite sophisticated stratagems. We religiously remove the compost. We turn all the lights off before opening the front door, which lends every advent of company the air of a birthday surprise.
After our honeymoon, we moved into the apartment above the garage of our political theory professor. Dr. Mitchell is imposing in his professorship and makes a congenial landlord. As a professor he is very lordly, his eyes piercing you from beneath his forehead. As a landlord he is a gentle person who delivers you fresh eggs from his Virginia chickens and invites you to play croquet.
Our newlywed friends from college, Amy and Tait, live in the Mitchells’ basement apartment. On the evening Amy came through the rain with brownies to pay us a welcoming visit, I turned off the lights as she arrived at the door.
We sat down in the semi-darkness. Amy glowed thin on the sofa beside me in pajama pants and a hoodie. She has eyes as bright as cinders, and we fell to talking of God right away.
“Why do they say about marriage,” I demanded, “that it is so hard, and miserable, and makes you so holy, as if holiness were hard and miserable—as if being with God were not the joy of our lives?”
Amy, who had heard her share of frightening pre-marital advice, knew what I meant. She had thought of it all before.
“This is our life,” she said. “It’s normal.”
I grew uneasy when I noticed bugs pooling in a corner of the living room ceiling. It looked like a tiny homeschool convention.
“Do you and Tait get flies downstairs?”
“Oh yeah,” she said. “Oh yeah.”
And though not yet veterans in the field of marital sacrifice, we’d had a taste. And we were still happy to be married.