“Okay, now picture a horse.”
The beautiful, witty, charismatic red-headed girl and I have just finished hosting our first Christmas party in our new home. She has always enjoyed bringing people together. She was sitting next to me with a green wig hiding her red hair. The dress she wore looked like something one of Santa’s elves would have worn in a claymation Christmas special, except covered in Christmas icons like candy canes, presents, and lights. The rest of us were all wearing out ugliest Christmas sweaters. Earlier in the evening, we all voted that she should have won the “Ugly Christmas Outfit” contest, but she had refused to win a contest she was hosting and had passed the prize she had prepared to the runner up.
The stragglers in our after party consisted of the couple across the street who have offered to “cube” us. This has been an experience that has been talked up to us for quite some time. Supposedly it is quite the taboo to cube a wife and a husband together, but they had decided that we had demonstrated enough security and commitment in our relationship that we would be okay.
“Describe to me what you pictured” requested the woman running our session to our solo guest. The last guest at our table besides the other couple and us is a friend who came alone. His family were out of town, but he knew he would be welcome to join us solo, and with nothing else to do with the evening or the next day, he had stayed for the Cube Test.
He describes a palomino. He discusses it’s strength, almost intimidating. And he feels that it is also warm and compassionate. He feels comfortable with it, and cares about it strongly. It is concerned about the coming storm, and he wants to comfort it.
“Very nice,” the wife administering the test says warmly. “She turns to me, and what does your horse look like?”
“Out of place.” I say.
She looks at me quizzically, a bit of concern on her face. “Can you elaborate?”
“Sure,” I continue. “Like, the rest of the image we have been drawing has been so dramatic and realistic, and when you asked me to add a horse, I just thought ‘there’s no place for a horse in this picture.’ So instead of a real horse, I have this cartoon horse.”
“What do you mean by a cartoon horse?”
“I mean it looks like it’s cell shaded, like a cartoon. And it’s features are all exaggerate. I also think it’s a dumb horse.”
The couple start laughing nervously. “Why do you think it’s dumb?”
“Well, it’s eyes are pointing in opposite directions, it’s tongue is kind of hanging out, and it runs all gimpy. Like it’s barely able to keep running, like it’s awkward and constantly tripping over itself.”
The couple are laughing harder now, their faces turning red.
“Ok and what about your horse?” She asks, turning to the red-headed girl.
“My horse is dead.” She declares.
The couple break into riotous laughter.
After a few clarifying questions, the couple begins to tell us the interpretations behind the images we imagined.
“And the horse I asked you to envision,” she continues hesitantly. “This… well, this could represent a lot of things — and bear in mind it’s up to you interpret the meaning of this — The horse represents your spouse. Or your marriage. Or maybe just your view of marriage.” The last two sentences she adds quickly, as if softening a blow. As if it’s more acceptable if my wife views all marriages as being dead, rather than just ours.
“Oh my gosh!” My wife says, mocking a distressed expression. “You think I’m a dumb horse?”
“What are you talking about?” I respond defensively. “I said I pictured a sexy unicorn with a golden red mane. Now I understand why I was a little aroused by it.”
“Why can’t you love me like our friend here loves his wife? Strong, and loving. What does the fact that it was a palomino mean?” She asks our cubist.
“Uh, it means he finds her fair and attractive.” The couple is looking at us nervously.
“See?” My wife says, backhanding my shoulder lightly. “Why couldn’t you say that about me?”
“Hey! At least my horse wasn’t dead!”
After sharing some interpretations that allowed us to put a positive spin on our sorry horses, we said goodbye to our guests. The couple who had done the cubing speaking to us gently — as if we might be deeply wounded — and passing each other nervous glances before excusing themselves.
There were a few seconds of awkward silence after I returned from walking the guests out. “So,” I started. “Do we need to talk about the dead horse in the room?”
“You didn’t take that seriously, did you?” She asks incredulously.
I smile widely as I wrap my arms around her, and she raises her chin for a kiss. “Of course not. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t either.”
“You already know what I think. Even if you decided to leave me, I know we’d just end up back together again after a few years.”
“Oh, I know.” I always respond when she tells me this.
Believe me, I know.