My husband and I play a game that isn't really a game, called "I'm Lost."
The way it works is, I call him from the car whenever I realize I don't know how to get where I'm going, and say, "Where am I?" He asks me a series of questions, like "What's directly in front of you?" and "What's the last road you remember passing?" After considering my answers, he (unfailingly) guides me to my destination. I could just open Google maps and figure it out myself, but he enjoys the challenge and I'm lazy, so the game works great for both of us.
Most often when we play "I'm Lost," my husband is hundreds of miles away from home on a work trip, and I am in Chattanooga where I've lived (and driven) (and gotten lost) for 30 years. But sometimes we are both in distant cities. One time, he was at dinner in Chicago and I was on a highway somewhere in the Midwest with a tornado bearing down. I could hear his friends laughing and the clinking of dinnerware on his end as sirens blared on my end and yellow highway lights flashed off and on in the slash of sideways rain.
"Where am I?" I yelled into the phone.
"What's the last thing you remember passing?"
"An overturned semi," I yelled.
"You're in Kansas," he said.
The last time we played this game, my husband was in Mexico traveling with another couple, and I was on the golf course at home, walking the dogs. As someone for whom a golf course makes about as much organizational sense as a corn maze, it had taken me many weeks of walking it with my husband to understand its layout. I had mostly mastered the task by the time he left for Mexico, but when I found myself on the front nine in advance of a fast-playing twosome, I panicked. I walked faster and faster searching for egress, only to find every way off the course blocked by houses and private fenced yards. Finally, I called him.
"I'm lost!" I yelled when he answered. "Which way do I go?"
The voice that came back was not his, but his friend's. Turns out my husband was in a clinic in the tiny beach town of Mazunte that he would later describe as a doorless, one-room structure with a blood-spattered floor, receiving an IV infusion for a parasite that left him mostly unconscious for two days. In other words, he was unavailable to me in my time of need.
Recently we were discussing the "I'm Lost" game and other ways in which he helps me and I help him.
"I helped you quit smoking," he said. Which was true. Twenty-five years ago, when I decided to quit my 17-year habit, he was very supportive. He financed my new Red Hots and Lemonheads habit, and every night for a month drew me a hot bath with copious amounts of bubbles. But he was not, I reminded him, the one who sat in the tub hour after hour, weeping the nicotine out of my body long after the water had gone cold. I did that myself.
"I got you to eat better," I said. Which was true. He'd come to me a biscuits-and-gravy boy, hopped up on pork and with a rabid appetite for all things sugar, but all that changed when I took us down the (mostly) vegetarian path and cut off our access to dark chocolate M&M's, which had become something of an obsession for both of us. I also made him stop tugging on his own collar and cut back on Diet Coke and introduced less TV time and more dogs.
"What you actually did," he said, "was take away all the things that occupied my mind, so that neurosis could rush in and fill the void." (Only he said it like it was a bad thing.)
Most recently, my husband "helped" me by organizing a trip to New York, where, along with seeing an Andy Warhol exhibit at the Whitney and "Mephistopheles" at the Metropolitan Opera, we also took in "Hamilton" on Broadway. It was his attempt to infuse me with a little culture, as I spend a good part of my life doing things like cleaning poop out of the dog yard and researching recipes with no intention of following them.
Of the three activities, I was most excited to see "Hamilton," although when I got there I suddenly remembered I did not know who Hamilton was or why he had his own musical. In fact, most of the political references were lost on me, rendering the majority of the show a puzzlement. Which hardly mattered, because the next day I was already on to something else.
"I think I'd like to learn stand-up comedy," I said, as we passed by a club on the Upper West Side.
My husband glanced over at me. "Maybe learn American history first," he suggested helpfully. "Then move on to stand-up."
Yet another instance of him giving me good direction. After which I perhaps suggested where HE could go.
Dana Shavin is the author of a memoir, "The Body Tourist." Her website is Danashavin.com. Email her at dana@ danashavin.com.