CONNECTIONS | MAGAZINE
Here for a Harvard fellowship, a couple finds their temporary quarters aren’t quite big enough when tempers flare.
Anne-Lise Boutin for The Boston Globe
“Don’t call me,” I yelled and stormed out, pulling the door shut behind me. It was our first intense fight in America. The door must have closed with a bang, but I didn’t hear it over my own screaming voice. Breath heavy, cheeks radiating fire, I climbed down the pitch-dark stairs. I was too angry to care about turning on lights. It was half past 9 at night and 2 degrees outside (being from India, I do my temperature measurements in Celsius; that’s 36 Fahrenheit). I was comfortably warm. I had taken time to prepare, to layer myself before making a scene and storming out. Innerwear, sweater, jacket, jeans, socks, boots, cap, phone, wallet, headphones, a book. Just like that, I was standing outside of the house taking deep breaths, feeling better.
The person I was storming away from is my dear husband. My irreplaceable-piece-of-my-heart husband — no sarcasm intended. And the reason I was running away was a fight that began when one couldn’t concentrate on a book because the other was watching a funny movie. One’s giggles were annoying the other. I am aware that it might seem like too tiny a reason, but allow me to shed some light on the situation, and you can see our plight.
He and I are in the United States temporarily, for 10 months. He is on a fellowship at Harvard, I on our hard-earned savings in Indian rupees. Managing a nearly yearlong stint in one of the costliest cities in the country, we have been able to afford only a bedroom with an attached bathroom to ourselves. While the room is big enough to hold a bed, a desk, a chair, and a small space to stretch, at 10 feet by 12 feet, it is too small to contain our individual routines, habits, and personalities. Back home, in our sufficiently big house in
Dehradun, India, we would spread out into our own spaces and pull close to be together. We hardly ever needed to walk outside when not seeing eye to eye.
Here, I have already tried stomping off to the bathroom when upset. But not only is it not a very comfortable place to hang out for more than 10 minutes, we can also still hear each other breathe through the wooden walls. We share the rest of the house with a family of four, making it impossible to find an unoccupied space.
So now we often find ourselves taking turns heading to a Dunkin’ Donuts when things start to feel too tight. It’s safe to say that this has become as frequent as walking out of the room would be in a regular setup.
The night I yelled “Don’t call me” and stormed out, my husband did call after 20 minutes. I picked up after letting the phone ring for a while. He said some sweet things and asked me to come home quickly. I responded with some bitter words about needing more space, physical and mental. We talked about the confinements of our queen-size bed and the recurring ordeal of “Will you eat? What will you eat? I will eat what you will eat.” We talked about independence and interdependence.
And after some sourness, we made up. We decided to let each other be and not get into each other’s way all the time, to act invisible for a few hours every day. I started gathering my things, missing him already, hoping to go back and find my own corner in our cramped little haven.
But just as I was stepping out, the phone rang again.
“Baby, please get me a hot chocolate and something to eat on your way back na!”
“Too soon, honey. Too soon.” I decided to give it another hour and settled down again.
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