how i found you

How I Found: Nathaniel
February 13, 2009, 2:46 am
Filed under: my husband

You were away when this happened; lost, maybe, even as I was finding you. And when I say “found you,” I don’t mean for the first time. I mean how I found that you had changed the way I understand the world. How I found that my perspective had been altered without my even trying, just by knowing you.

I walk our dogs a lot, even more when you’re gone (though I don’t know if you realize that part). And often, as on this particular morning last summer when you were off camping with your father, I find things when I walk. I find keys, coins, jewelry and lists. Once, three credit cards in the space of a week and a half. Long before I met you, I came across a whole head’s worth of hair, a single thick braid, foot-long and held fast with an elastic band. I remember the braid vividly, photographically, because of the chilling back-story it suggested to me at the time: shears wielded, cries of protest, a sound like paper tearing and a hand flying up to a suddenly-naked nape.

But back to that morning, walking the dogs while you were away – lost, perhaps – deep in the wilds of the northern Rockies, performing atavistic feats of masculinity. Just you and your father, and no evidence of another human for miles and days, only logs hurled viciously onto the trail by unseen creatures with razors for claws and enough power in a paw to kill a man instantly (or so you will tell me later, when you return). But I am safe, if only a little lonely, and I fill more hours than normal taking walks with the temperamental opposite of a Grizzly Bear: a pair of docile, friendly, middle-aged dogs, their windshield wiper tails swishing aside the morning sun as they lead me down the block.

The dogs pay no heed to the unfurled roll of drywall corner tape lying by the curb. Of course they don’t: it likely has no smell except chemical newness, something that fails to excite them, perhaps doesn’t even register on their amazingly vast olfactory map. They blithely trot along by, radars poised for ordure. But I notice it, and momentarily consider rolling it back up and bringing it back home (I don’t, heeding our recently-imposed injunction against this sort of behavior, this bringing home of projects).

In that moment of casting my eyes down onto – and then off of – this roll of white tape, I realize that you have taught me what corners are. And I do mean “corners” in a literal sense, not as a metaphor for turning points, or for moments when different opinions come together as one. I mean corners as in the places where two physical planes meet. I mean ninety degrees worth of drywall and screws.

Before I met you, I saw corners as something that simply “happened” when a house was built: walls come together to form corners, and with enough corners you get a house. But now I understand how corners are built. I have watched you build them, in our own home and others’, and have watched you watch me build some of my own, spreading the thick white paste to hide the lines of the tape, waiting for it to dry and then sanding it to the closest approximation of a straight line, but not so much that the seams of the tape are exposed (and, in that case, starting the process over again). You have taught me that corners and houses and all other built things – no matter how simple or complex – don’t just spring to life like fully-formed Athenas, but come together through steps, through a concrete and logical process, through patience and levels and lots of dust.

When you returned from the wilderness I found you as a bearded mountain man with stories to tell of vistas untouched by human enterprise. You showed me pictures of you and your father, your matching whiskered visages foregrounding landscapes like movie sets. And in my enthusiasm to have you back, I never knew how or when to insert the information about what I realized in your absence. That you taught me about corners. So I’m telling you now.

Emily Freeman is a writer living in Minneapolis. She has a short story forthcoming in Best New American Voices in 2010.


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