I see the way you look at me sometimes. Like you can’t believe I’m here, or I’m me. Like you’ve never seen me before. I suppose you aren’t how I remember you being before either, Bug. I’m not saying it’s good or bad; different, y’know?
Folks sometimes tell me that those like us who marry younger don’t last because folk change so much from sixteen to twenty. They’re half right, from where I look. See, a tree isn’t the same either from when it’s a seed to when it sprouts. With the Spring, it gets leaves shooting tender and soft from its stems. Sometimes it surprises you with flowers, and sometimes it makes you sneeze. Then come Fall, it goes and changes color on you, then it loses all its leaves and turns into dark tracery on the sky. Come Spring again, it’s not the same as last Spring, is it? It’s taller. Stronger. Sometimes older and more gnarled. But see, it’s still beautiful in all its seasons. You want to watch to see what becomes of it, to be near it. Because it’s the same tree as it was at first, even though it’s older.
Anyhow. That’s how I see it. Doesn’t mean I always enjoyed being your husband this past year, or even before. Sometimes the way you used to look at me, like I was this big embarrassment, like you couldn’t stand your Eglan friends knowing you were mine… well, that hurt. Still hurts, real bad. Not that I blame you, mind. Everyone seems to think I’m soft because I don’t fight, because I don’t act like men are supposed to act, all hard and stern and angry. And soft’s bad for a man, I guess. Everyone says so. Anyhow, at least you think well enough of me to stay by me, and since you woke up… well. I can’t help but notice that you’re liking me a lot these days.
It’s like this. It was hard some times this past year. I’m not going to lie. The things the witch made you do, I was afraid. Real afraid. Afraid of you hurting me, though I feel less a man for admitting it. Men aren’t supposed to get beaten up by their women, especially not great big men like me. Times were that I thought you’d kill me in a rage. I was afraid I’d falter and leave for an easier woman; I admit it. I ached for someone to love me when you couldn’t, ached like a man starved for air after a long dive. In the end, I was just afraid you’d die. I missed you. And yes, I kept loving you even when I didn’t much feel like it.
See, it’s like this. I made you some promises, and not because you were pretty or strong or the first girl who stuck around for the ceremony. I did it because I thought you were… like that tree, you know? Like I wanted to water it and see how it grew, because I’d never seen any tree so fine, so strong in ways I’ll never be. I didn’t know there’d be seasons where I didn’t much care for the tree, but a promise is a promise and I meant what I said. See, that’s what promises do. You make them when you’re calm enough to know what you want so that on the days when you’re at your worst, the promise holds you where your feelings don’t. Feelings make you throw away the best things in life for stupid reasons; I’ve seen it often enough. And Bug, every fellow who makes a husband’s promise should keep it. That’s that.
Thing is, the way you keep looking at me like I’m something special, like I did something outlandish by staying close to my sick wife, like you can’t imagine why I put up with it… I won’t lie and say I don’t like the attention. But if I were the sick one, would you have stayed by me? Am I your tree too? Or will this season fade when you find me embarrassing again?
I suppose it’s not fair to ask, so I’ll just go fishing a while.