If we married folks are going to watch this Johnny Depp trial like a bunch of freeway gapers, it seems obligatory that we remember the worst fights we ever had, with our spouse.
My wife and I have been married 28 years. In that amount of time, there are bad moments.
There was the time when we were very young and she laughed at me after I’d accidentally demolished a hundred handmade ice cream cones in a Florence, Italy pharmacy and I raised a clenched fist near to her chin in teary humiliation.
Another time, we were so angry at each other, we told our eight-year-old daughter to stay in the house so we could have it out in the garage.
But only once have the cops come. (Well, twice; but the first time was because we were playing music loud, and the woman next door complained. The responding officers were amused to hear Karen Carpenter crooning, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.”)
On our worst night, the two of us had been out with some friends, drinking. We were about 30, and going through a bad time for a number of reasons mostly having to do with careers that were taking us in dramatically and incompatibly different directions. The tension was thick all the time, everything was about everything, and anything could set off a fight. It wasn’t the seven-year itch, more like the six-year bitch.
Which was exactly what she was doing to me as I remember it, all the way home from the El Taco Veloz taqueria, where I had acquired a burrito to cap off the night. The unpleasantness continued upon our entering the domicile, and kept up as I sat on the couch with a can of beer at my elbow and my burrito before me on the coffee table.
As I remember it—and I am quite sure I do not remember it at all accurately (neither of us has any recollection of the content of the fight)—I was on the receiving end of a hard and pulsating stream of invective, and was quietly awaiting its cessation before unwrapping my burrito and bringing the evening to a calm and caloric conclusion.
But my wife’s lungs were still full, and at some moment I lost hope that a doldrum would ever come. I wrapped my right hand around that magnificent, foil-wrapped food log. Maintaining my seated position, I raised it up to my right ear like Slingin’ Sammy Baugh. And I chucked it with all my enraged and drunken might, straight across the living room, into the empty fireplace.
Having surrendered my burrito dream, I was now free to storm about the apartment, returning rhetorical fire. There is a difference between trying to win hearts and minds with words, and trying to injure eardrums, with high-decibel syllables. Let us simply say, we were not making an effort to understand.
We were entering the door-slamming phase of the evening when the buzzer sounded.
In my boxer shorts, I answered the intercom.
Still in my boxer shorts, I descended the stairs and answered the door, apologetic—feeling like such a heel for inconveniencing these guys with our stupidity, and knowing that domestic calls are often the ones that get cops injured and killed.
I assured them that in this case the only injury was to a steak burrito. They weren’t taking my word for it. “We’re going to need to see the missus.” I had a feeling that wasn’t going to go well, and sure enough, when they got to the top of the stairs, my wife was using our kitchen island like Mussolini used a balcony. Her first question concerned what (in the fuck) the cops were doing there. And before they could answer, she asked a more philosophical follow-up: “Can’t anybody have a fucking fight anymore?”
There was no third question, as the officers both looked at me with the precise combination of pity and contempt I knew I deserved, and told us to take it easy as they retreated back down the stairs, me apologizing after them abjectly.
The next morning, as my wife went sheepishly down the back stairs to work (and I covered my face in the pillow), the neighbor narc called out to her: “Dave reminds me of my ex-husband.” And she added, “He needs to love you for you.”
Or as Johnny Depp and and Amber Herd call it—Wednesday.
A note to them both, and to every other couple who can’t count incidents such as the above on one hand: You’re both supposed to be deeply traumatized and troubled by such savagery between the two of you, even if it’s only verbal. And you should be mutually determined never to let such a thing happen again, no matter what.
(In fact, you should still be embarrassed to cop to it, more than two decades later.)