Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Portrait Of An American Family

For all of it's trappings of Cold War politics, 80s settings and technology, and espionage, at it's core, season one of The Americans revolves around one central question.

How much can I trust the person I share a bed with?

Spycraft and marriage have things in common. Theyre both games of trust, of making decisions in the face of uncertainty and ambiguous evidence, games where reliable information is the most valuable currency.

Phillip and Elizabeth have been together over 20 years. But things keep coming up from new developments to old flames. Passion ebbs and flows.

And the questions keep coming up:

To what extent can one of us make unilateral decisions for what he/she believes is the others own good?

What is the statute of limitations on old lovers and the road not taken?

Can a lie told 20 years ago be used against us today?

What are you telling people outside our relationship about us? About me? Do those people have our best interests at heart?

Do the years we spent together count for something when things arent working now?

In a relationship where both of us are having sex with other people, what counts as a betrayal?

What do we tell the kids?

Perhaps the biggest question is this one:

What makes a marriage a marriage anyway?

Phillip and Elizabeth have made no official vows, gone through no ceremony.  Their commitment is a professional requirement, not a personal commitment. They report to different bosses, have different priorities. They sleep with other people.

On the other hand, they live together, raise their children together, work together. Officially, they are married. They live a married life.

Is their marriage real? Some days it seems like it is. Some days it seems completely false. There are times they both believe what they have is realbut they dont always both believe it on the SAME days.

Like Syrio Forel, theirs is Schrodingers Marriage, not a lie, but not completely true either.

Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings spend their lives being pulled in many different directions. They are constantly trying to serve the demands of multiple masters from their bosses, to the other relationships in their lives, to each other, to the demands of their own conscience. They are two individuals trying to make their way in the world, juggling and balancing their needs with the conflicting needs of those around them.

And theyre trying to do those things while both depending and being dependent on another person who is walking a parallel, but different, tightrope of their own.

Which, I suppose, makes it as real as any other marriage out there.

Thursday the 12th

The axe was an old friend, and Jason spent the morning with it, chopping firewood until his shoulders ached. He stacked it neatly by the cabins and when he was finished, he lay in the sun on top of the picnic table. When the sun got high enough and bright enough that he could feel it even through his closed lids, he draped one arm over the eyeholes of his hockey mask to shield his vision.

It was a beautiful day.

His favorite time of year was the week before the counsellors arrived. He had the camp all to himself. There was enough to do to keep him occupied, but not so much to do that he ever had to rush. He could work leisurely and enjoy the stillness, the solitude.

In the afternoon he went through the campsite, testing the light bulbs. When he was done, he put the new bulbs on a shelf in the supply shed, as close to the back as possible.

As he left, he noticed the door wasnt closing right. He inspected the latch, the frame. A rusted hinge was the culprit, he decided.  It needed replacing.

He tested the door again. It was okay, just a little sticky. Good enough for this summer, but he made a mental note to look at replacing it next year. As he rose, he stretched out his back, circled his shoulder a

He spent the rest of the afternoon wiping down surfaces, taking special care to with the kitchen. When he was finished, he put his cloths and bucket away and went through the camp, gathering up any dirty dishes he might have inadvertently left, washing them and putting them carefully away in their place.

With nothing to do in the evening, he sat on the dock with his machete on one side of him and his battered copy of Birds of North America on the other. He dangled his toes in the waters of Crystal Lake and watched the sun set. On the other side of the lake, loons warbled.

He watched them land on the water until it was too dark to see and then he rose, picked up his boots and machete and stretched out his back before lumbering towards the woods. It was still early, but he wanted to get a good nights sleep , for tomorrow, the counsellors would arrive.

It was going to be another beautiful summer.