My carpool-mate James retired, and he and his wife started cruising, a few years before Dan and I did. We arranged to fly over to Trinidad to visit them one weekend while we were staying on nearby Aruba. I was looking forward to catching up on the kind of engrossing stories and conversation had kept James and me entertained for (literally!) several hours every day of looking at brake lights on the Washington Beltway.
Our plane was delayed by a couple of hours, everything was moving on island time. Unfortunately, James had already left for the airport and we had no way to let him know of the delay because he didn't have a phone. When we did finally arrive, he told us that the three hours he spent getting to the airport and then waiting at the airport terminal for us was the longest time he'd been away from his wife Ellen since his own retirement and the beginning of their cruising 8 months before.
At the time, that kind of startled me. This was my carpoolie, the guy who spent an hour and a half driving to work every morning, then dropped me at my office and continued to his own, only to get me 7 hours later and then drive another hour and half? Ten hours away from his wife, at least, every single workday, and now 3 hours apart were notable? What was this cruising thing going to do to us, when we reached our retirement goal in just a couple of years? Now I know.
I rarely talk in first-person-singular anymore (this sentence notwithstanding); everything is "we." Like our friends, Dan and I are almost never apart. Aboard, we're no further than an arm's length apart. Ashore, we work our volunteer jobs together and explore town together and go grocery shopping together. It's the image of exactly this sort of life that prompts sarcastic comments about wives complaining that their newly-retired husbands are always underfoot. But we -- "I" -- love the togetherness. Maybe I'm just making up for 25 years of starting every day by saying a reluctant goodbye to the person I just couldn't get enough of. But I really think its a byproduct of living aboard.
Living in such close quarters could have resulted in a kind of marital claustrophobia, a need for "space" from each other. Over time we evolved some rules to help us navigate those tactical challenges and keep us in balance. And then we realized that instead of creating claustrophobia and strain, the closeness was beneficial. How could we not be in sync with each other's moods when we're together all the time? In our tiny space, we learned to read subtler and subtler cues from each other and our disagreements, never much to begin with, became even less frequent. The more time we spent together, the more time we wanted to spend together. We'll both get the same idea at the same time, or burst out with the same word simultaneously (remember when doing that got you the right to do a "pinky promise" with your best friend?), and look at each other and smile. Have we become one of those cutesy couples who still get mistaken for newlyweds? Maybe, although I can't think that too much love is a bad thing. One brain in two bodies? It's hard to explain; I still know who "I" am, we each have an independent identity. We just like together better.