In the Honda, on one of our rare times together in the same car, Monica finds her way back to the same old thing. Separated, living apart, fast-tracking ourselves toward wherever the hell we’re headed, she ends up bringing it up again and I want to reach over and open her door and let her do a shoulder roll into the cornfield to her right.
Monica, my wife of ten years, brings up dating.
As in, other people.
I think she mostly brings it up in an effort to try and wrap her own head around the inevitable idea of moving on with another person. But it sucks regardless, that’s what I’m telling you. For me, anyway.
I’m not sure. I’m really not.
When I listen to her speak, I know she’s right about so much, about how we sucked at marriage. In so many ways though, looking back now, I still think we hardly even tried. And I wonder if it’s all just too late. And I wonder if it isn’t. Between you and me, I think I still wish we could save us. Hell, I know I do. I wish that I could figure out the way to rescue us somehow before we go over the falls for real. Because you only take that dive once, you know? After that, you’re on your own and chances are you’re not going to wash back up on the same shore holding hands and smiling.
So when I think about either one of us seeing another person, of Monica or me actually dating somebody who isn’t Monica or me, that seems like Niagara Falls under our Vans, a sure and sudden end to whatever chance we might’ve had. Hell, the whole notion of any kind of romantic future for me seems shocking. It seems, I don’t know … rude. We have kids together, for God’s sake, three of those suckers, and so what would they even think about mom or dad leaning into their ear one night at bedtime and gently sticking that kind of snake tongue in their tender innocent ear holes?
“Hey sweetie, Daddy can’t wait for our big picnic this weekend! We’re going to swim and fly kites and eat delicious sandwiches and you’ll finally get to meet Daddy’s new friend Helga and her three sons! They’re your age, kiddo! And Helga is a supermodel and a brain surgeon so you and her are going to have so much to talk about, I just know it!”
Ugh. I puke in my mouth.
I puke in my mouth from the nauseating tidal wave of how devastatingly finite it means my old vision of our life together will eventually become. Kissing somebody else seems like a death sentence coming down for the best dream I ever dreamed. Some would say that all that potential for love and hot sex and intimacy and companionship and trust and morning sex and laughing over coffee with another starry-eyed human being who makes your heart do a Michael Jackson dance across your rib cage coming back into my world, that all of that stuff ought to be something that makes my blood race faster through my veins, but it doesn’t really. Everything about it still slams my soul in reverse.
Cruising along in the Honda, carting the kids somewhere fun, I lie in wait for the ‘dating’ thing to fall down out of her pretty little mouth and when it does I hate it so goddamn much. It’s kind of like I’m standing over in the corner at some house party, sipping my cup of beer, and I keep noticing this muscle head dude staring at me from across the room. He’s wearing casual beach jeans and flip-flops and I have no idea why, probably it’s the fact that I’m wearing one of those over-sized black button-up shirts with bright hot chili peppers all over it, but I can tell from his stare that he really wants to put my head through some drywall before the night is over.
Besides all that, who would we date anyway? Who wants to go out with someone like us, with two people with a bunch of kids and a very blogging public record of taking a banged-up marriage and grinding it up into hamburger? You’d have to be a narcissist to want to go out with me, I figure. In my heart of hearts I believe I’ve changed a lot for the better over the last year, however the jury is still way out on that one and even I’m deathly spooked by the thought of waking up next to someone shiny and new and watching her open her sleepy eyes in the filtered sunlight streaming through the blinds.
‘Coffee?,’ I’ll murmur, in a hushed lover’s tone.
“No. You’re a giant asshole,” she’ll mutter, her morning breath stabbing me in the face. I don’t know what exactly I did or said to earn her disdain, but chances are, judging from my past, I’ll find a way, right?
Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll fall in love again. Anythings possible even if you spend half your life trying stop it.
I know that a lot of people will probably tell me that it’s way to soon in the game to even be thinking about meeting someone special, or even just having a drink and splitting the Maximum Nachoz with someone in T.G.I.F some Saturday night before long. They’re probably right, too. You need time to sort your crap out. You owe it to yourself and to the rest of the world. Even so, Monica rightfully mentions dating as some futuristic absolute, an unavoidable force of nature barreling down on us like a tornado. She’s spot on about that, I guess, and so it’s there whether I like it or not.
When you break it all down, there are a lot of reasons a newly-single parent, even the strongest and most impetuous ones, might run the other way from the prospect of any kind of romantic future. The kids come first and we throw our hearts at them when we’re heartbroken, that’s a fact.
And even if we do allow our semi-shattered selves to fantasize about our own grown-up happiness coming back to us someday, a pair of shining eyes locking up with ours across a room or a bar or whatever, there is still the whole idea of the person who we spent so much time with, our ex/the kid’s mom or dad, finding new love too. That can be a psychological Jawbreaker even if it is a pretty natural way to feel. Otherwise, you’ve probably been on the wrong track for a lot longer than you think.
For now, I’m just moving through my days the best that I can and I suspect Monica is doing the same. We had a thing and seemed to have lost it, and maybe that’s a good thing no matter how things shake out. People in our shoes, we need to breathe, as cliched as that sounds.
People in our shoes need to try and just breathe and chill and spend a bunch of nights alone, sipping a wine or slurping down some Ben & Jerry’s, watching our dumb shows on the satellite TV when the kids finally hit the hay.
Well, I mean, if you even have the kids that night.
Image: Bielankos Private
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