Tuesday, February 26, 2008

There Should Be Some Secrets


I suppose some married couples share everything. For important stuff, there is no question that this is just good communication. For other stuff, less pleasant stuff, a little mystery is probably for the best.

If I want to drink the last of the coffee cooled to room temperature but still in the pot from hours ago while leaning over the sink, I try to have the decency to make sure I'm alone in the kitchen before letting my caffeine addiction unleash its terrible wrath on my good sense.

For over a decade, Shana and I have established a pretty well-defined system for our finances.

She balances the checkbook and mutters about how I never write anything down, and I feel bad about never writing anything down.

She pays the bills and property taxes and Home Owners Association fees and places the paperwork in a location in the house which is a mystery to me.

And every February, I do my part.

Generally, I request the documents and then Shana and Gwynyth leave the house while I go about doing our taxes. I never realized how vital this bit of mystery was until this past weekend, when we did without it.

In years past, I've set up in the office upstairs with the papers fanned out around me. I've used the dining room table and semi-orderly piles. I've sprawled on the floor with a single stack of documents and an internet connection, me against the IRS. In each case, I had several hours of seclusion in which to do my work.

I never really realized how important the mystery was until it was gone.

This year I placed the laptop across my knees and splayed out the paperwork in bed. This year it was cold and crappy and Shana decided to balance the checkbook while I worked. . . . Right there. In the same room.

This year she saw the process in its entirety, not just the printout at the end.

She watched as I frantically typed in our information. God help her, she was there for my questions.

"What did we pay in property taxes?" . . . "No, don't break it down I need the total." . . . "What? Are you freaking serious?" . . . "For what?"

She was there as I cursed like a drunken dockworker with Tourette Syndrome and then cackled (Cackled!) as though I'd created new life in some eerie mountaintop laboratory.

At one point, when there was an error in form 2441 which could not be corrected (Could not be corrected?), the software advised me to delete form 2441 completely. I developed a stutter. The profanity wanted to come out, and it haltingly did, but this inability to vocalize my wrath resulted in a sub-human scream of pain and fury as I repeatedly completed the grim work of the IRS by slamming my face into the nightstand.

"Is Daddy okay?" came a frightened voice from the landing.

"I . . . think so, Sweetie," Shana was moving towards the kitchen for coffee at that point. Medicinal. "He's just doing our taxes."

"What do they want from me?!?" I was degenerating into a sobbing snotty mess.

There was real concern in Shana's voice as she asked if I was okay.

"There is no form for this! They want this information but they won't freaking take it!"

She passed the mug into my shaking hand and coffee went all over the checkbook register. Precious coffee.

"They have our money already! They've had it all year! Why do they have to make the task of proving they can keep it so hard?!? And why, since they have our money, do I have to do this paperwork at all?!?" The cat had long since fled her spot on my shins for another spot, less warm but probably not as loud and pathetic.

With a final click on "Submit" (A web term never more accurate than when paying one's taxes), it was finished.

I could breathe.

The stutter faded away.

I began to get back my use of civilized language.

"I had to correct our Daycare issue, since Gwynyth was never in Daycare, by deleting her from the family. I suspect she will be back next year."

"Is it like this every year?" Shana looked at me with a mixture of pity and genuine sorrow at the thought of my having done this ever in the past, let alone every year for our whole relationship.

"No," I answered honestly,"This year was pretty mild, actually. And I toned down my reaction because I didn't want to freak you out."

I think next year they may leave the house, because a little mystery can bring people closer sometimes.

1 comment:

Jane said...

I'm really sorry that you had to delete Gwynyth. I hope she's happy in that big recycling bin in the sky.