Today, my husband set our kitchen on fire. From the other room I saw the smoke pouring off the stovetop where my favorite blanket—placed strategically to protect the glass top during a microwave installation—was smoldering. I immediately sprang into action and told him to open a window. I raced toward the front door in an effort to welcome in a gust of wind to push the smoke away from the fire alarm. After propping the door open with a pail of pet-safe sidewalk salt, I ran back into the kitchen to find that my husband had opened the window and then closed the blind back over it, essentially blocking any smoke from leaving through said window. After yelling at him to pull up the blind I ran from room to room on the main floor opening all the windows. I came back to the kitchen to find him just standing there. I ran over and scooped up the smoldering remains of my blanket and threw it outside in the snow, yelling at him over my shoulder to get a fan. Which he did. And then he plugged it into an outlet in the living room nowhere near the kitchen or a window. I was now starting to lose my shit. Who was this person I married? How is this his response to a crisis? HOW AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO IS FREAKING OUT THAT SOMETHING WAS ON FIRE IN THE KITCHEN?
I tell him to get a trowel to scrape the melted polyester off the stovetop. He comes back with a plastic trowel. FACEPALM is the only way to describe my reaction. When I point out to him that the still hot stovetop will obviously melt the plastic trowel as it did my blanket, he replies that he’s going to wait until it cools. Which I not so kindly point out is stupid because if it cools it will harden and be impossible to get off. This is the point where I begin to yell at him for not doing anything. And he says I’m freaking out for no reason. And I respond that a fire is a reason to freak out. And he responds that technically there were no flames.
And I seriously reconsider whether I can have a child with this man.
Because I suddenly feel very unsafe. I feel unsafe that he didn’t take precautionary measures like taking the knobs off the stove or unplugging it after he admittedly noticed that he was pushing the knobs down as he screwed in the microwave. I feel unsafe that he didn’t spring into action when he realized something was on fire in our home. He stood there as I frantically ran around the house trying to keep it from filling with choking black smoke. He stood there as I coughed from the fumes. He just stood there. I felt so insecure. What if I was unable to do these things I am doing because I am passed out from smoke inhalation or asleep? What if this happened with our dog in the house and he didn’t think to put him safely outside? What if this happened with our child in the house and he failed to act as I would?
Marriage requires so much trust. Including trusting that the other person will do their best to keep the house from burning down. Trusting that the things that must be done to respond to a crisis will occur to your partner. The grown-up things. The things my dad instinctively knew how to do. The things I watched him do. The things I trusted he would do. The things that reassured me that I was safe in our house. The things I do to make sure I am safe in my house. The things I need him to be able to do to know that I will be safe in our house. That our dog is safe. That someday a child will be safe.
As the smoke cleared, I sat back down at my computer to submit an assignment that was overdue. He sat in our kitchen on his phone after I explained to him that he would need to wait for the stove to cool down before continuing with the microwave installation. I tried to tell him how I was feeling. How much this scared me. It sounded like I was just rubbing his nose in it. I was rubbing his nose in it. But I need to know that it scared him enough to get him to spring into action next time. I didn’t get the response I was looking for. His eyes never left his phone screen. I’m not sure where this leaves our marriage. I do know that tonight, I am going to bed with my trust in him a bit damaged, and my future a bit less certain.