"Don't come into this room," Skylar commanded me one evening last week.
These sorts of directives are usually for my own good, or so he says. "It will just stress you out to see this," he has sometimes explained, vaguely referencing whatever messy project in which he happens to be engaged at the moment.
A younger version of myself would ask questions at times like these. But with age has come the wisdom and the trust that if Skylar thinks I'm better off not knowing something, then I'd really rather not know it. I called him once earlier this year and asked him what he was up to. "I'm not going to tell you," he answered. I could hear the sounds of farm animals in the background. "It will just stress you out."
I moved onto a different subject.
Last January he texted me while I was out running errands. "I need you to be prepared. I'm working on a project and there is a mess in the house that you won't understand. Just ignore it."
Sure enough, I returned home an hour later to find plants scattered about the dining room, an alarming number of unattended active hot glue guns, and, most curiously, a colander sitting atop a pot and filled with wax. Instead of wondering anything at all, I turned around and left the house for another three hours. When I came back home, the mess had been cleared. I still have no idea what the end result was and I've never felt compelled to investigate.
I like to think of Skylar as an ambiguous creative. He doesn't engage in traditional artforms. No painting. No musical talents of note. "I'd take a pottery class if I could guarantee I'd be instantly talented," he told me once. "I don't want to pick up a craft if I have to be bad at it first."
Instead, he focuses his artistic impulses on activities that are weird or completely unmarketable. His efforts are usually intended for only an audience of one, if that. It all feels so antithetical to the way most of us are programmed in 2023 thanks to social media that allows us to blast our activities to internet audiences. It's quaint, and charming in a way that both confuses and captivates me.
When we first started dating I ended up on a family cruise where I had no cell service. I returned home to find a stack of letters he had written to me on scraps of paper as if I was fighting in World War II and he was a daydreaming damsel longing for my return.
He censored the letters with a black marker as if they had been intercepted by the government. They were tied together with twine and sprayed with a feminine perfume.
Not two years later he threw a surprise funeral for my birthday, decorating a friend's house to look like a morgue. "I really tried to make the ironing board topped with cardboard boxes and pillows resemble a coffin but I'm not sure it really worked," he self-critiqued on the drive home, as if trying to decide how to improve for next time.
The attention to detail is the most impressive part of this side of him. "Does it really matter what color the thread is on the napkins?" I asked him when we were planning our wedding. He gasped before I even finished the question. "The fact that you just asked that disqualifies you from making any decisions here."
I think this is one of the ways in which we're a good match. I've never been all that detail oriented when it comes to design. Every December I'm the one who gets the Christmas tree erected and the decorations brought up from the basement. I'm dismissed from the process once it comes time to place the ornaments. "I'll take it from here," Skylar will say. "You just sit and keep me company."
"May I enter the room yet?" I asked Skylar an hour after he commanded me to stay away last week.
"Yup," he said. "I just finished."
I walked into the living room to see what he had been up to. "Just wrapped your Christmas presents," he told me as he placed an immaculate stack of professionally prepared boxes under the tree.
Noticing that the gifts I had already wrapped for him and certain family members had been shoved to the back of the tree and almost completely out of sight, I asked him about this.
"What's that?" he said.
"Why did you hide all of my gifts and place yours in front?" I inquired again.
Skylar looked at me, with such pity, and put one arm around my waist to give me a sympathetic side hug.
"Not everyone is good at wrapping presents," he said. "And that's ok."
~It Just Gets Stranger