I woke up to the sound of a frustrated human being throwing something at a wall. Blinking against the early morning sunlight, I sat up and discovered I was alone in our king-sized bed. Oh no.
I jumped out of bed and threw on my robe, trying not to trip over the string as I hurried to Chris’s office. The door was slightly ajar, meaning that I was free to walk in without interrupting something.
"Baby?" I asked cautiously as I pushed the door open.
I saw my husband sitting in his favorite chair, a script placed on his lap and his face hidden in his hands.
"Honey, are you okay?"
"No. I just can’t get it right."
I knew what he was talking about. We’d been through this before. The night before at a special showing on Broadway, Chris had skipped a line. No one noticed it. The only reason I did was because I’d heard him say it for me a thousand times. But he noticed. And he was, once again, sitting in here studying it over and over again to make sure he had it down perfectly. I didn’t want to know how long he’d been punishing himself this morning.
"Sweetheart, when did you come in here?"
He looked up at me with sleepy eyes. I could tell he didn’t want to tell me.
"Right after you fell asleep," he answered sheepishly.
I sighed. “Honey, that was nine hours ago. You know I don’t like it when you do this to yourself.”
I sat down on the floor next to him and took the script out of his reach.
"Give it back, please," he asked.
"No. You need a break," I ordered.
"But I can’t take a break. I messed up and now I have to make sure I won’t do it again. It has to be perfect."
I rolled my eyes and stood up.
"You can’t do this to yourself. You need sleep, sweetheart," I pleaded, brushing his hair from his forehead.
"I’m fine. Just let me be. I have to be perfect."
I cupped his chin in my hand and brought his face upwards.
"You said ‘I’ that time."
He looked away and sniffed. He was breaking my heart.
"Come on. Get up."
"No buts. I mean it, Christopher Robert. Get. Up."
He reluctantly let me pull him to his feet and remove him from the office.
An hour later, Starbucks sitting in the cup holders, I was driving us towards Central Park. I knew exactly where he needed to be right now.
Once we had parked the car and walked past the main fountain, I took his hand and led him to an especially secluded little area of grass next to a giant oak tree. I sat down on the ground and took a sip of my latte, patting the grass next to me as an invitation. He parked himself next to me.
"Okay. Now set your drink down and lie back," I ordered, placing mine on a relatively flat area of grass next to me.
He did as I said and looked up.
"Okay. So, it’s the sky. I could have seen the sky from our balcony," he deadpanned.
I smacked his thigh. “Behave. Don’t look at the sky. Look at the tree. Tell me what you see.”
He squinted and stared at the branches for a few minutes.
"I see a tree," he answered finally.
"What about the tree?"
He sighed deeply. “I don’t know, babe. What about the tree?”
I pointed to its trunk.
"You see there? All those knots and patches of missing bark?"
"And those branches at the top that are sick and missing all of their leaves. That one tiny hole that has a mystery flower growing out of it. And there’s the limb that has the names of two lovers carved into it."
"I don’t get it."
I sat up and looked at him.
"I love this tree. This tree has clearly been through some rough patches. And also some happy ones. So tell me. Does this tree look perfect to you?"
He shook his head. “Not really.”
I pulled him up and cupped his face in my hands.
His eyebrows drew together in confusion before understanding lit up across his face.
"I get it," he whispered. "Thank you."
He burrowed his face in my neck and wrapped his arms around my waist.
"You’re welcome, baby. Now stop trying so hard to be perfect. You already are."