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Home > All Fall Down(6)

All Fall Down(6)
Author: Jennifer Weiner

“It’s not even asking them to like the stories,” he’d complained. “It’s asking them to like me.” He hadn’t even smiled when I’d said, “Well, I like you,” and embraced him, sliding my hands from his shoulder blades down to the small of his back, then cupping his bottom and kissing his cheek. Ellie was engrossed in an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba!; the chicken had another thirty minutes in the oven. “Want to take a shower?” I’d whispered. Two years ago, he’d have had my clothes off and the water on in under a minute. That night, he’d just sighed and asked, “Do you have any idea how degrading it is to be treated like a product?”

It wasn’t as though I couldn’t sympathize. I’d worked at the Examiner myself, as a web designer, before Ellie was born. I believed in newspapers’ mission, the importance of their role as a watchdog, holding the powerful accountable, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. But it wasn’t my fault that newspapers in general and the Examiner in particular were failing. I hadn’t changed the world so that everything was available online immediately if not sooner, and not even our grandparents waited for the morning paper to tell them what was what. I hadn’t rearranged things so that “if it bleeds, it leads” had become almost quaint. These days, the Examiner’s home page featured photographs of the Hot Singles Mingle party that desperate editors had thrown, or of the Critical Mass Naked Nine, where participants had biked, nude, down ten miles of Broad Street (coverage of that event, with the pictures artfully blurred, had become the most-read story of the year, easily topping coverage both of the election and of the corrupt city councilman who’d been arrested for tax fraud after a six-hour standoff that ended after he’d climbed to the top of City Hall and threatened to jump unless he was provided with a plane, a million dollars in unmarked bills, and two dozen cannoli from Potito’s). “A ‘Like’ button is not the end of the world,” I’d said, after it became clear that a sexy shower was not in my future. Then I’d gone back to my iPad, and he’d gone back to watching the game . . . except when I looked up I found him scowling at me as if I’d just tossed my device at his head.

“What?” I asked, startled.

“Nothing,” he said. Then he jumped up from the sofa, rolled his shoulders, shook out his arms, and cracked a few knuckles, loudly, like he was getting ready to enter a boxing ring. “It’s nothing.”

I’d tried to talk to him about what was wrong, hoping he’d realize that, as the one who’d gotten us into this mess—or at least this big house, this big life, with the snooty private-school parents and the shocking property-tax bills—he had an obligation to help figure out how we were going to make it work. Over breakfast the week after the “Like” button rant, while Ellie dawdled at the sink, washing and rewashing her hands until every trace of syrup was gone, I’d quietly suggested couples therapy, telling him that lots of my friends were going (lie, but I did know at least one couple who had gone), and adding that the combined stress of a new town, a sensitive child, and a wife who’d gone from working twenty hours a week to what was supposed to be forty but was closer to sixty would put any couple on edge. His lip had curled. “You think I’m crazy?”

“Of course you’re not crazy,” I’d whispered back. “But it’s been crazy for both of us, and I just think . . .”

He got up from the table and stood there for a moment in his blue nylon running shorts and a T-shirt from a 10K he’d completed last fall. Dave was tall, broad-shouldered, and slim-hipped, with thick black hair, deep-set brown eyes, and a receding hairline he disguised by wearing baseball caps whenever he could. When we’d first started dating we would walk holding hands, and I’d try to catch glimpses of the two of us reflected in windows or bus-shelter glass, knowing how good we looked together. Dave was quiet, brooding, with a kind of stillness that made me want nothing more than to hear him laugh, and a goofy sense of humor you’d never guess he had just by looking at him. Still waters run deep, I’d thought. Later, I learned that silence did not necessarily guarantee depth. If you interrupted my husband in the middle of one of his quiet times, asked him what he was thinking about, and got him to tell you, some of the time the answer would concern the latest scandal at City Hall, or his attempts to confirm rumors about a congressional aide who’d forged his boss’s signature. Other times, the answer would involve his ongoing attempt to rank his five favorite 76ers.

Still, there was no one I wanted to be with more than Dave. He knew me better than anyone, knew what kind of movies I liked, my favorite dishes at my favorite restaurants, how my mood could instantly be improved by the presence of a Le Bus brownie or a rerun of Face/Off on cable. Dave would talk me into jogging, knowing how good I’d feel when I was done, or he’d take Ellie out for doughnuts on a Saturday morning, letting me sleep until ten after a late night working.

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