1) If train A is leaving from Chicago to Cleveland at 2:30 pm MST and train B is leaving from Philadelphia to Cleveland at 2:30 pm EST, and if each train is traveling at 155 mph, with a total of 760 miles between them, how long will it take Tom, riding train A, to realize he shouldn’t have married Amber right out of high school?
2) Amber has a full-time job and so does Tom. Amber cooks after work, does laundry, manages bills, and Tom takes out the garbage and fixes things around the house. If each unit of labor, on average, takes an hour to complete, which person works more hours?
3) Tom was sick last year and had two surgeries totaling $47,541.87 after insurance, and is still in recovery. Amber has arthritis in her knee and has to walk with a knee brace when it’s cold out. If both of them, with these health factors, move at an average of 2.5 mph, how long will it take them to complete a five mile walk at the lake, wishing they had the courage to talk to each other about what’s wrong?
4) Tom and Amber have a cumulative $86,454.23 left in unpaid student loans, and each year they make a combined payment of $12,488. If their interest on the principal adds an additional $17,234 a year, how long will it take them to realize their only hope of making the relationship work is to enter couples therapy?
5) Amber has eight brutal arguments she regrets, and Tom has seven. If Amber apologizes for four of Tom’s seven, and Tom apologizes for three of Amber’s eight, who is more in the wrong?
6) There are two people in this marriage. Each person has two good friends, three siblings, one living parent. How many people will Tom and Amber have to break the news to when they decide to have a trial separation?
7) The sum of two people is finite. One of them is twice as hurt as the other. If the other person decides to make things right, but the hurt person isn’t ready to forgive, how long can that process go on until the only answer left is subtraction?
8) If Tom wants to catch Amber, who leaves for her mother’s at 2:45pm, and his friend’s apartment with the lumpy couch he’s been on for six weeks is 2.4 miles away, and Tom runs at 3.3 mph, what time should he leave to tell her he loves her, and only her, that it’s been rough, but it’s only ever been her, that they got here wrong, but he doesn’t want to have a life without her?
Answer 1: Tom realizes that he got married too young just as his train is pulling into the station. He should’ve gone to a different college. Taken more risks in life. He texts his co-worker Lynda, who arrived at the conference before him, and says yes, I would like to meet up for that drink.
Answer 2: Amber, factoring in household labor, works eight more physical hours a week than Tom. Tom listens to Amber as she works, and puts in more emotional labor. They work an equal amount. Neither of them feel that answer is correct.
Answer 3: They never finish the walk. They find a blue-lacquered bench with peeling paint under a willow tree that Tom proposed under when they were 19. Tom weaves his fingers into nervous knots and unravels them over and over as he tells her about Lynda. They both cry. Amber tells him she hates him, and hates that she doesn’t fully mean it, and walks away.
Answer 4: It takes two months, fourteen days, and eleven hours of stilted silence and “how could you”s and “I don’t know how we got here”s and a final “I’m unhappy” from both of them before they realize they need a third person to lift the weight of the undefinable quiet expanding between them.
Answer 5: Tom, Amber says to her therapist. She will not budge. He cheated. He should be the one to move out.
Answer 6: Tom and Amber have to break the news to twelve people.
Answer 7: Amber misses Tom every day. He leaves her a voicemail every morning to say sorry, to tell her he loves her, but she can’t help but feel like his infidelity became a stop in a track that she would’ve followed indefinitely had it not been for this. She clings to his betrayal like it’s the promise of dawn after a cold, starless night even though his absence feels just as cold and empty as the thought of the unchanging life they would’ve had if Tom hadn’t met Lynda for drinks.
Answer 8: Tom leaves days before Amber’s flight. He doesn’t wait for the last second. As soon as he receives her text that she’s leaving Friday after work for an extended leave and doesn’t know when she’ll return, he gets off the lumpy couch he’s been sleeping on and runs out of his friend’s apartment. It takes him 47 minutes to walk and run the miles that have separated him from Amber these last six weeks. When he gets there, he finds Amber crying over photos of their last fourteen Christmases. He falls on his knees in front of her. They take 7.5 hours to cry together, to anoint each other’s arms in tears, to baptize themselves into a new beginning, to talk about trying again.