Last week, while Holly and I were having drinks with another couple, Holly stated that she and I never argue.
"That's not true," I said, "We argue every day."
"Don't lie," Holly responded, "that's not arguing, that's just you being a dickhead."
As such, I've decided to write down every argument that Holly and I have this week - to prove, contrary to Holly's statement, I actually display an impressive degree of patience, self restraint, and logic when presented with the exact opposite...
Holly can't cook. She's capable of the process of cooking, but Holly can't cook in the same way that an octopus can't ride a bicycle; it has enough arms to reach the pedals and handlebars but the result will rarely be a successful journey from A to B.
I once looked over Holly's shoulder to discover her crumbling Alka-Seltzer tablets into a meal she was preparing because, "They're salty and we ran out of salt."
Friday night, Holly stated that she was making nachos for dinner so I was surprised to be presented with a bowl and spoon an hour later.
"What's this?" I asked.
"The nachos were a bit runny so I added a few cups of water," Holly replied, "It's nacho soup."
"Is there even such a thing? What are these bits in it?"
"They're the chips," Holly stated defensively as she sipped a spoon of nacho soup and made a long "mmmmmm" noise, "I put it all in the blender so there shouldn't be any big bits."
"I'm ringing for pizza."
"Typical," replied Holly, "You never appreciate anything I do."
"That's not true," I responded, "I appreciate everything you do but if I ordered a hamburger at McDonald's and they handed it to me in a cup with a straw saying, 'Sorry, it was a bit runny so we threw it in the blender and added two cups of water, it's Big Mac soup', I'd assume the restaurant was staffed through some kind of special needs employment initiative. If they asked me, 'Do you want fries with that?' I sure as fuck wouldn't reply, 'Yes, mix them in.'"
"It would probably be quite good," stated Holly, "but you'd never know because you're too much of an asshole to taste it. Even if the cook at McDonald's spent an hour in the kitchen making it and burnt their thumb on a saucepan."
"Fine," I relented, taking a scoop and raising it to my mouth, "I'll taste it."
Sipping at the brown and yellow puree, I felt an intense burning sensation not unlike having a mouth full of red ants. I swallowed with effort and said, "It's a bit spicy."
"Yes," agreed Holly, "We were out of Cumin so I used Curry instead. It's like an Indian version of Nacho soup."
On Saturday afternoon, Holly and I argued about gardening despite neither of us being seventy. Earlier that morning, she'd announced she was going to build a rock garden on the bare patch of lawn in our backyard. Within twenty minutes, I was consigned to carrying rocks and piling them a few metres from where Holly planned to build her rock garden.
"Wouldn't it make more sense for me to place them where you want in the rock garden?" I asked.
"No," Holly replied, "then when someone visits and says, 'I like your rock garden', I wouldn't be able to say, Thank you, I built it myself."
"You're not building it yourself," I countered, "I'm the one digging up rocks and carrying them, you're just pointing at which rocks you want."
"If I had some kind of machine that could lift the rocks for me then I wouldn't need you," she argued, "you're not contributing to the design, you're just a tool. Like a shovel or a wheelbarrow."
Slightly annoyed at this, I left Holly to it. A few hours later, she declared her rock garden complete and that I should come marvel at it and shower her with praise. In the middle of the lawn stood a small pile of rocks. I saw a documentary once about Vikings and it showed them burying their dead by piling rocks on top of the body. The rock garden looked like a Viking grave for a cat or small dog.
"Wow," I said, and meant it, "So, no ferns then?"
"It doesn't need ferns," Holly replied looking annoyed. "It's a rock garden, not a rock and fern garden."
"I'm no gardening expert," I ventured, "but I'm fairly certain rock gardens are allowed to include plants. Perhaps just one or two to counter the whole 'Viking baby grave' thing..."
"The whole what?"
"Don't take this the wrong way, but don't you think it looks, just a little bit, like a Viking grave?"
"What do Vikings have to do with gardening?" Holly spat, "It's not a fucking boat."
A few days later, Holly's parents visited and as they walked into the backyard, her father asked, "Why is there a pile of rocks on your lawn? Are you going to make a rock garden?" and her mother added, "You should be careful when you move them, snakes like living in places like that."
I bought a dirt bike recently. A YZ250F for those interested in such things. To justify the purchase, I told Holly that it was for her.
"If you learn to ride," I said, "I'll buy another and we can go riding together on trails."
On sunday, Holly and I drove to a secluded trail nearby and unloaded the bike.
"What's this button do? asked Holly as she hopped on, "Is that to start it?"
"That's a bolt. You have to kick start it," I replied, showing her how to put it in neutral and start the engine.
"Where's the accelerator?"
"You twist the right-hand grip," I answered, "And it's not called an accelerator on a motorbike, it's called a throttle."
"Well that's just stupid," responded Holly, "I'm going to call it an accelerator."
"If you're not going to take this seriously you probably shouldn't..."
"I am taking it seriously," Holly cut in, "You're not the boss of names. Just show me how to make it go. If you can ride a motorbike it can't be that hard."
"Fine, squeeze the clutch and put it in gear. No, you press down for first..."
"So the clutch is called a clutch and the accelerator is called something stupid? Why didn't they just call the clutch a squeezer?"
"It doesn't matter what it's called, you have to squeeze the clutch and release it slowly as you increase the thro... the accelerator. It's exactly the same process as driving a manual car."
"I'm going to call it a squeezer," stated Holly, "So I just twist the whatsit and let go of the squeezer?"
"Yes, but you have to release the squeezer slowly and twist the accelerator at the same time otherwise the bike will stall. And if you give it too much accelerator and let go of the squeezer too quickly, it will take off and you'll probably crash."
"Okay," said Holly as she twisted the throttle to maximum and let go of the clutch to give me a 'thumbs up'.
The bike tore forward and Holly, horizontal and screaming, travelled almost a hundred feet with the throttle in a death grip before developing speed wobble and being thrown off. The bike flipped a few times before coming to a halt.
Running towards her, I saw Holly climb unsteadily to her feet, hold out her arms as if doing an impression of a plane caught in turbulence, then fall over again. Kneeling at her side and asking if she was okay, Holly turned to me, focused, and said, "You're a terrible teacher."
Earlier this year, while doing a live radio interview with NPR to promote my book, the presenter asked if Holly found my antics annoying or amusing. Answering that it was the latter, Holly yelled from the living room, clearly audible to the presenter and listeners, “Don’t fucking lie.”
The presenter asked me, “Was that Holly?” to which I replied, “No, it was the television,” and Holly yelled out again, “No it wasn’t.”
On occasion, I have to work late due to the time difference between the United States and Australia. On Sunday evening, Holly was watching a television program called Breaking Bad in bed while I was working in the next room. Not realising I was on speaker phone with a client, she swung open my office door and proclaimed, "We should build a meth-lab in the garage."
Four whole years ago, Holly asked me to laminate a news clipping of a cat that had adopted a mouse. Inserting the clipping, which featured a photo of a cat and mouse sleeping in a basket with the caption 'Purrfect Parenting' as Holly watched on excitedly, it came out the other end of the laminating machine with a dead fly between the layers. Apparently I had done this on purpose.
On Monday morning, I walked into the kitchen to find Holly making toast. I generally feel safe eating toast that Holly has made because it requires minimal ingredients to forget, replace, or experiment with, but this toast was a bit thin and soggy.
"It's a bit thin and soggy," I said, "what bread is this?"
"It's the same bread we always have." Holly replied, pointing to the bag.
"I didn't even know we had any brea...oh my god," I exclaimed, "it has a best-before date of January 2009."
"It was in the freezer," Holly said defensively, "The best before date doesn't count if the product is frozen."
I held up a slice of bread consisting almost entirely of permafrost, "I'm fairly sure there's a limit."
"No there isn't," Holly replied, "I saw a show once where scientists found a mammoth that had been frozen in ice for millions of years. They thawed it out, cooked it, and ate it. "
"That didn't happen. You told me once that you saw a show about a man who ate his own head and it turned out to be an animated gif. Why would scientists eat a mammoth?"
"Because they're scientists," said Holly, "And they know a lot more about science and how long things can be frozen for and still be eaten than you do. You don't even know how to use a laminating machine."
Once, more than three years ago, I wore a pair of Holly's underpants because I had run out of clean pairs of my own. I will admit to wearing them the next day as well because they were all spandexy, but that's twice, only once, a long time ago.
While having dinner with Holly's parents Monday night, her mother stated, "I was watching a program about Hitler last night and apparently he liked dressing up in women's clothing."
"Really?" Holly replied, "David likes wearing my underpants."
On Tuesday morning, Holly and I argued about where the milk carton should be kept in the fridge. I work from home often and while I don't need a desk or filing cabinet, as I work from a laptop, I do have one working requirement: Coffee. I drink around twenty cups of coffee per day and I have milk in my coffee.
My logical suggestion that the milk should live in the door, where it is readily accessible to the person who uses it most, was countered by Holly's anarchic opinion that, "The milk doesn't have a special milk spot in the fridge. Its special spot is wherever I put it."
The fact that I drink a lot of coffee was also quickly hijacked. As we own a Keurig, which uses little plastic coffee buckets that work out to around a dollar-fifty each, Holly calculated that my daily consumption of twenty cups amounted to forty-five dollars. She then used an actual calculator and admitted it was closer to thirty dollars but that it was still "a ridiculous waste of money."
Ignoring my justification of coffee being a 'tool of the trade', Holly began pounding keys on the calculator and spouting numbers such as "That's two-hundred and ten dollars per week... eight-hundred and forty dollars per month... ten-thousand and eighty dollars per year... We could buy a car with that money."
"Yes, to live in, because without coffee I wouldn't get any work done and I wouldn't get paid; we should probably buy a camper van. Even then it might be cramped, what with the dog and..."
"I work as well," Holly countered, "It would only be you living in the car, the dog would stay here with me. You can take the Keurig."
"Fine. I'll live in a car by myself and within a day you'll call and say, 'Im bored and want to play Trivial Pursuit. I was going to watch television but the garage door keeps opening when I try to change channels. Please come home.' and I will reply, 'No, sorry, I like living in the Waffle House carpark.'"
"That won't happen," Holly responded, "I'll be way too busy putting the milk wherever the fuck I want."
Also, while on the subject of Keurigs, when it's out of water, I take the reservoir out, fill it, and replace it. This way there is enough water for the next person and several more coffees. On the rare occasion Holly finds the Keurig empty, she fills a cup with water, takes the lid off the Keurig machine, pours the cup in, and makes a single coffee. When I was at school, I was taught that 'good manners are contagious' but this is clearly bullshit.
I arrived home Tuesday afternoon to discover a framed photo of our dog on our living room wall. I like our dog but when I'm home, so is the dog. I don't need to see photos of it. Especially if the photo shows the dog sitting on the couch that is immediately below the framed photo and the dog is actually sitting on that couch at the time.
Sitting down next to the dog, I grabbed a magazine from the coffee table and flicked through until I came across an interview with actor Liam Neeson. The facing page featured a photo of Mr Neeson in a suit, sitting on a chair with one leg crossed over the other, holding a glass of red wine. Ripping out the page, I replaced the photo of the dog in the frame with it.
Arriving home a short time later, it took Holly less than fifteen seconds to storm into the kitchen brandishing the frame and demanding, "What the fuck is this?"
"It's Golden Globe award winning actor Liam Neeson."
"Yes, I know who Liam Neeson is," Holly responded, "Where's the dog?"
"Probably sitting on the couch. It's always sitting on the couch. And having a photo above the couch of it doing so is weird. We may as well put a photo on the wall of all three of us sitting on the couch and then sit on the couch and look at it. Or put up a mirror."
"It's not as weird as having a photo of Liam Neeson on the wall."
"I like Liam Neeson."
"Well I like the fucking dog. If you love Liam Neeson so much, why don't you marry him instead. Then you can put up hundreds of photos of him."
Which is a ridiculous statement because if I was married to Liam Neeson and saw him everyday, I wouldn't need photos of him on the wall to look at. Also, if I was married to Liam Neeson and we had a bare wall, we could probably afford a professional interior designer who knows what they're doing.
Our shower cubicle contains around three hundred items. Two of these items, a can of shaving cream and a razor, are mine. There are bottles and tubes of various shape, colour, and size, containing moisturisers, gels, scrubs, masks, body wash, face wash, and things with mysterious names like Pro-X. Even though the shower cubicle is fairly large, there's actually only about one square foot of space in which to stand.
While I was shaving in the shower Wednesday morning, Holly walked into the bathroom and stared at me with a shocked look on her face.
"What?" I asked.
"Just how much shaving cream do you use?" She demanded, "I could hear the 'pshhhhhhhhhh' noise going on for about ten seconds. Even people with normal sized heads don't use that much."
Halloween isn't really celebrated In Australia. While dressing up is common, it has nothing to do with pumpkins and mostly involves changing quickly in panic as your partner pulls up unexpectedly in the driveway. Decorating your front yard is another thing that isn't done in Australia because if it isn't bolted down, it won't be there in the morning. I once woke up to discover someone had taken my lawn.
For my first Halloween party in America last year, I went to some lengths to make what I thought was a reasonable Ron Burgundy outfit, but was asked several times, "Are you meant to be Borat?" This year I will probably just wear a hat or something.
On Wednesday afternoon, Holly reminded me that Halloween is only a week away and that we still haven't decorated. It was decided that my suggestion of "sticking the plastic skeleton we bought last year on the porch again" was a "piss poor" one and that I should drive to the supermarket and buy three pumpkins instead.
Returning and carrying the pumpkins inside, Holly stared at them in horror and asked, "Is this a joke?"
"What's wrong with them?"
Holly threw out her hands towards the pumpkins like an angry Price is Right model, "Look at them," she declared, "That one is all bendy, that one is a squash, and that one looks like a bird has been pecking at it. What am I supposed to do with them? We can't put them out the front of our house, people will drive past and say, 'They obviously don't give a fuck.'"
"You could make soup out of them."
A few hours later, I stepped outside to have a cigarette and discovered the plastic skeleton sitting in a chair on our front lawn. It was wearing my good suit, had one leg crossed over the other, and was holding a glass of red wine.
This morning, Holly woke me up yelling that someone had stolen our plastic skeleton. "We should call the police," she declared.
"Yes, probably," I replied, climbing out of bed, "I've no doubt they have a special task force dedicated to tracking down missing Halloween decorations. Make sure you give them a detailed description of the plastic skeleton and tell them you want the front lawn dusted for fingerprints."
"We could drive around and look for it," suggested Holly.
"Okay," I agreed, "I'll check the bus station while you post missing plastic skeleton posters on poles."
"Did you know that whenever you say something sarcastic, you do this little thing with your mouth as if you are repeating what you said silently? It's as if you think what you said was so fucking hilarious, you want to run through it again."
"It's in the fucking shed," I replied.