"EVERYTHING I’M LEARNING ABOUT LOVE AND MARRIAGE AS A WHITE GUY AFTER QUITTING MY JOB TO TRAVEL THE WORLD IN SUPPORT OF MY AFRO-LATINA WIFE'S ACADEMIC CAREER"
There was a morning in Paris where I was awoken by the Saint-Ouen sun streaming through the window of our studio to find a cup of coffee by the bedside table. My wife often does this for me. It may seem like a total act of selflessness on her part, but the truth is that I'm a monster first thing in the morning before coffee. She promises me that waking me up with coffee is purely in her own best interest. Yet, this cup was different.
It tasted perfect.
It was perfect because it was a heightened version of the taste I love. The kind of sweet-bitter spiced-too sweet that my wife hates.
I looked up at her, smiling through an early morning grimace and said, "This is so good. What's in this?"
"A cinnamon stick," she replied, "When we go to coffee shops, you put ground cinnamon in your coffee, so I just put a cinnamon stick in."
The cinnamon stick. The Saint-Ouen sun. These things are measurable. They're easy to understand in their causality. Yet, the affective experience of having desire satiated by something more attuned to my desire cannot be measured.
My wife knows me.That's intimacy.
One afternoon, I was folding her clothes after laundry and I folded one of her sweaters in thirds. I then rolled it from its base to its neck so it was a small cylinder that can fit easily into a drawer or carry on, alongside its five cousins.
She picked up the sweater and said, "You folded it exactly how I like it."
"I remember how you like your clothes folded," I replied.
"Thank you," she said.
I know my wife. That's intimacy.
You see, I could write about strolling Montparnasse, drinking Cotes du Rhone by the Seine, nights spent strolling the Champs-Élysées, kissing on the train from Paris to Nantes with the French farmland rolling by the window, or a (tame) 48 hours in Amsterdam. Those experiences would fit the narrative of a glamorous jet-getting and romantic life.
Yet, only writing about them would be half-truths.
The whole truth is that, amidst this Beauty, we experienced a trauma. That trauma is the worst thing that’s happened to either of us. It's something we prefer to keep to ourselves.
Yet, we endured. We survived.
That’s what makes the coffee and the sweater so important. They are expressions of an intimacy that can only be described in Metaphysical terms. It's an intimacy that exists in a transcendent space, between Object and Form, where Ideal Love becomes something you can feel, taste, and touch.
See, sunsets in Europe won’t give y’all the strength to withstand the kind of real suffering that's beyond your control. Red wine and pretty paintings can’t bind you to someone so much so that y'all are able to be joyful in the face of trauma. The Loire Valley won’t give y’all the ability to help each other up, dust each other off, and press on through life, loving each other through whatever pain comes your way.
The sweater. The coffee. That’s the real shit. That’s what keeps you married for sixty-something years. That’s what lets y’all love each other “until death do you part”.
So, what am I learning as a White guy after quitting my job to travel the world in support of my Afro-Latina wife’s academic career?
...Love is the intimacy that endures.
-Britton Buttrill, (Paris, London, New York City)