Two people take up a lot of space living in the same house. Doesn't matter if the house is a multi-tiered mansion or a New York City hot-pocket - we spill like water and sound through walls, claiming our corners. And without even noticing it with time you start finding ways of noiselessly maneuvering that tit-for-tat - like two invisible octopi entangling their legs you squeeze over and under, around one another, claiming what you can. Every tentacled bit accounted for, but stealthily so.
This is what a long-term relationship becomes. Personhood management. A quiet negotiation of where one person's borders end and the other's begin. They say two become one but it's way more complicated than that - two stay two, but they get affixed like a shut-in whose skin's become attached microscopically to the fabric of the sofa cushions.
Microscopic concessions, day after day, year after year - that's romance! Exclamatory sarcasm aside, for real though. It is romance as I've come to see it, going on eighteen years into a working relationship of my own, and Paul Thomas Anderson seems to get it too, at least judging by his phenomenally knowing new film Phantom Thread. The titular Thread is a delicate noose of scavenged lace looped around the throats of Reynolds (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Alma (Vicky Krieps), and for all of their growth spasms they clearly wouldn't have it any other way. Choke me awake every morning, my love.
It's like an art-house remake of The War of the Roses in reverse - a darkly comic emotional vomitorium of our bad thoughts burning brightly and beautifully, like ball gowns on fire. Two alpha souls (Alma might seem blushingly acquiescent but the joke's on anybody reading her that way, most especially the man ostensibly in charge) wrestling for dominance, finding splendor in the dance. Nobody needs to scrape toast that noisily just like nobody needs to side-eye asparagus with such mad dripping venom, but we do what we do, we drive each other absolutely batty, and with a gleam in our eyes we place one another's futures like crystal chalices perched precariously on the palm of the other's hand. Knock me senseless, mi amore.
Just think how easy it would be to be murdered by the person sharing your bed. Anyone who's been in a long-term relationship has had this thought more than once. I walked into the kitchen last week while my boyfriend was cooking and he turned around holding a knife in his hand and there it was, the entire scenario spilling across my brain that I've pictured a thousand times, my life-force oozing in between the pitch-black marble tiles. But we give that piece of ourselves to the other - our safety, our sleeping breath - in exchange for theirs. Where we meet. That's trust. That's love, man.