In 23 years of working together Chris and I have only had one serious disagreement on the job. Until Belgium, that is. If you were wondering what that mushroom cloud on the horizon was back on Feb 10, well, that was us exploding in thermal nuclear marital meltdown.

Not that the work suffered, oh no. Note the lovely lighting.

It was the perfect storm of marital disputes. We had been on the road for over 45 days straight without a break from work pressures or each other. The only time I couldn’t see Chris was when my eyes were closed. And between a brutal shoot/travel schedule and time zone hopping, my eyes were not closed nearly enough. Rapid blinking didn’t seem to help.

EVERYTHING is sacrificed for The Work, including body, soul and marital stability.

Central to the problem (and the reason I eventually may forgive him), Chris picked up a nasty cold in India. It’s not the first time he has gotten sick on the road while I remained well. For his sake (and mine) I wish he would quit biting his fingernails. Hands are the FedEx of germ distribution. I mentioned that fact once or twice in India as he was coughing up what sounded like parts of his lung. I wasn’t certain he could hear me over the hacking, so I thoughtfully repeated it several times just to make sure.

Adding to the anxiety, his computer, second only to the cameras in important equipment on the road, began alarmingly shutting down for no reason. The screen would just spontaneously go black and everything that was done since the last save would be lost. I kindly tried to offer assistance by standing over his shoulder while he was editing and reminding him over and over ‘Jesus saves and so should you’. For some reason he didn’t seem to appreciate my repeated help or clever humor. Obviously tensions were rising along with his temperature.

Before leaving home, Chris had wisely spent a few minutes packing the startup disc for our software programs in case of problems on the road. He also spent about 3 full days prepping his ipod music. I guess with the pressure of getting all his latest music ready for the road, he forgot to pack the two programs we use the most. I quizzed him briefly if a bit loudly about his packing deficiencies, and between coughing fits he confessed that he also forgot to pack any short sleeve shirts even though we were scheduled to spend nearly 2 weeks in Africa. But music, yes sir! He could leave his ipod playing for 3 months and never repeat a song! I wasn’t as thrilled with that information as he thought I would be.

By the time we arrived in Brussels, his fingernail biting induced illness was full-blown and he was making no attempt to curb his irritability and fussiness. God knows I love the man but I found myself drifting off when he talked and I began day-dreaming about someone else to, eh, talk to. Really, after 45 days of total intense togetherness I think I would grow weary of Brad Pitt. Well, after 60 days for sure. I mean, I dearly love fried chicken but eating it every day for every meal for over a month? Liver and onions would start to look good. Let me put it this way - if Belgium had been an episode of Survivor, Tribe Salvo wouldn’t have been voted off the island, we would have been thrown off of it. Or Chris and I on Dancing with the Stars? We were so out of step with each other, sweet Carrie Ann Inaba would have scored our performance a zero. The Amazing Race? We didn’t arrive last at the Pit Stop, we never ever reached the mat.

February 10th, Ground Zero.
His fuse was short, but mine was even shorter. It was my birthday.

I believe it falls on the same day just about every year. By my calculations, that means he had had 364 days or over 8,000 hours to do something, anything to acknowledge the date. He had done nothing. Let me repeat that: He had done NOTHING – he had not taken even one minute of time to buy me a present or even a birthday card. Nor did I get a funny/cheesy token gift picked up from an airport shop, and god knows we had spent a zillion hours hanging around airports. Granted, Chris was working extra hard this trip. Or has he put it, “I’m (cough, cough) f*ing shooting or editing (sneeze) 18 f*ing hours a day. I’m (wheeze, pitiful look) f*ing sick, and I’m f*ing tired (small extra cough for effect).” The ‘of you’ was implied. By that point I totally agreed. We had reached togetherness saturation. Correction: we had reached togetherness Hell and High Water rampaging flood stage.

So I got no dinner ending with a candle stuck in the dessert or even a shared drink and a birthday toast at the hotel bar. I ate dinner alone in the hotel restaurant on my birthday while he stayed in the room coughing and editing. Correction, I DRANK dinner alone.

After my refreshing liquid birthday dinner, things finally erupted. Krakatoa was less noisy and did less damage. Let me put it this way, there is a little town outside of Brussels with a quaint but thin walled inn that we can never ever be seen in again. Hell, I wouldn’t blame them if we were banned from ever entering the whole country as I’m sure the entire nation heard us.

Next stop Nigeria, the one place on the planet we really don’t like. Surprisingly things got better…