Failing in Marriage Does Not Mean Failing at Marriage

By the time Deb kicked me out for the first time, she had already given birth to our first two children. I moved into a duplex on East Washington in Iowa City. The inside of the place reminded me of a rustic hunting lodge. The shiplap walls and ceilings were stained dark brown. I remember sliding into my Coleman sleeping bag that first night, settling myself on my camping mat and thinking, “Ah, yes, this is how I’m meant to be. Alone.”

We reunited after a month or two. Then we had the twins.

Saturday nights we would walk down to George’s, where, three beers in, Deb would once again accuse me of not loving her enough. And I would do my best to drum up the old enthusiasm, but I wasn’t fooling either of us.

Over the 32 years of our marriage, she has kicked me out five times. One time, I sublet a basement apartment across the street from a small park with a basketball court, which was a big plus. The basement was crawling with little white worms, which, when they died, curled up like pill bugs.

Another time, I moved into Le Chateau, a low-rent apartment complex. There was an outdoor pool on the property, but it wasn’t open when I lived there. I don’t think it had been open for a long time, hence the black mud and leaves at the bottom. There was a laundry room, which was my favorite room in the place. A single coin-operated washing machine and a single dryer. It was always warm and brightly lit, and there was a metal folding chair and the air always smelled clean.

The last time, the sixth, Deb didn’t kick me out. I left. Weary of our accusation and outrage routine, I rented another duplex in a quiet neighborhood on the south side of Iowa City. I shared the place with little red ants. They really liked the sponge I used to clean my dishes. I would boil water and soak my sponge in it to kill them, then dump the floaters down the drain.