Coffee with a Side of Bitterness

Pat, Joe’s aunt, called me the following week and asked to meet me for coffee at the diner near my house.   I nervously left Zach over at my sister’s for an hour while I pulled into the Dice Cafe and looked around for her.

I was trying to remember what Joe had told me about Pat.  She had been married at one point, but had divorced.  She looked a bit like Joe’s mother but harder somehow where Joe’s mother was soft.  Both had been overweight and dark haired.   I couldn’t remember much else except thinking on the few occasions I’d met her that I didn’t think she liked me very much; but then again, Joe hadn’t been too sure that she’d liked him either, so it was hard to say.  In other words, I felt like I was going in very much blind to this meeting.

Pat was already waiting for me, coffee in front of her.  I sat and greeted her and a cup of coffee was put in front of me as well, making us equals.  Well, sort of.

“So,” Pat began, “My mother and I both agree that Zachary is likely Joe’s child.”

I gulped a mouthful of hot coffee, scalding my tongue with the directness of her comments.  I’d coached myself for this ahead of time; don’t get angry, don’t get emotional here, none of that would lead to anything positive for Zachary.  “He is Joe’s child,” I said quietly, simply.

“We literally had no idea he existed,” Pat went on.  “But yes, the resemblence is quite clear.”

I sipped my coffee and waited to see what direction this was all headed in, trying not to let my nervousness show.

“What exactly are you hoping for out of contacting us?”  Pat asked, continuing with her laser sharp direct line of conversation.  At this rate I’d be out of here in fifteen minutes, I thought.

“I want my son to be able to know his father’s family.”  I paused, trying to read her, but her face was blank.  “Barring that, if that isn’t possible, I’d at least like to be able to give him information about his genetic background; half of his DNA is a mystery to me.  Does cancer run in the family or Alzheimer’s?  These are things that, if nothing else is possible, I hope that you’ll be able to share with me for his sake, so he can make smart choices later on in life.”  I’d rehearsed this one, trying to keep it far away from the controversial area of Joe, because I didn’t want to rock any boats.

“Well certainly we can do that,” Pat said, finding the crack in the conversation and diving right in.  “I can write some of this out for you, but for example diabetes runs in our family.  So you’ll want to watch out for any signs of that.  Also lung disease; my father has lung disease.”

“Oh, no.  I am sorry to hear that.  What kind of lung disease?”

“He has emphysema.  He’s had it for a long time, but it is starting to get worse.”  I tried to remember Joe’s grandfather.  I couldn’t remember him at all other than the fact that he was a slight man named Carl.

“See, these are good things to know,” I said, trying to draw her out further with encouragement.  “My mother, for example, died of lung cancer.  To have histories of both in the family make a very strong case to persuade Zach smoking would be a very bad idea.”

“Yes, that’s true.” I could see Pat thinking of what to say next behind her coffee.  “Perhaps we could set up a meeting between Zach and my father.  I’m sure he’d really love to see him while he still can.”

I tried to hide my discomfort.  One second Pat was admitting that it was “likely” Zach was her great nephew, the next minute it was time to introduce him to his great grandfather?  I pondered this.  On the one hand, it seemed like the right thing to do; a dying man would want to see the great grandson he never knew he had.  On the other hand, how would I pose the meeting to my son?  Would we say who the grandfather was?  Or no?

“Pat, I’ll have to think about that one.  Try to think about that from my point of view, just for a second.  How would we introduce them?  Would we say to Zach that this is his great grandfather?  Or would we just say this is a friend of mommy’s?”

“Well we’d have to plan it carefully of course,” Pat answered.  “But I think we could, if you were interested.”

My head was full of questions.  What was I doing?  Would this be the right thing for Zachary, or would it bring about more questions?  Was I being played a fool here or was Pat really interested in building some sort of bridge between my family and her own?   How did I feel about my son meeting an older gentleman who was likely quite ill, and possibly not even divulging the connection between the two of them?

“Does this mean, Pat, that your family is ready to acknowledge Zachary as one of their own?”  I asked, direct meeting direct.

“If you’re talking about Joe,” she said, stirring half and half in endless circles into her coffee cup, “Then no.  He’s made it pretty clear that he’s not going to be involved here.  But my mother and I are willing to stay in touch with you on some level if you’d like, to give you family history, background, that kind of thing.”

The coffee was bitter in my mouth.  I needed to remember that something was better than nothing, and this something was going to be a valuable branch of his family tree to hold onto later in life.  But still, I couldn’t help feeling like I’d just been sucker punched in the gut.

“Thank you for that,” I said carefully, modulating any emotion out of my voice.  “I think that will be good for Zach growing up to know that there is a connection he can hold onto.”

I was smiling, but in that moment, I could feel endless sharp edges of glass inside of me.

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Unexpected Visitors

It was about six thirty at night on a Tuesday night.  I’d come home from work with Zachary, changed into shorts since the early spring day was unseasonably warm, and sat on the sofa while he made a mess of the toys in the living room.  He chattered about while I put smiley faces on coloring pages that my students had turned in at the end of the day.  I was distracted, plowing through them quickly, until I realized that Zachary had fallen asleep on the floor in the middle of his toys.

Zach had always been a napper, and this daycare did try and get the children to nap during the day.  But with so many of them, sometimes i know it was hard for Zach to get any rest.  It happened a few nights a month that Z would just cash it in early and fall asleep around 6 or 6:30.  I put down my papers beside me on the sofa and started gathering up some of the toys; I’d pick up a few things so I wouldn’t trip carrying him up the stairs.

Suddenly, I heard a knock on the door.  I had the front door open, the screen door letting in fresh air and light.  Ralph, my old beagle from my teen years, bolted to the door and began to whine and wag at the visitors.  I looked up, not recognizing the two women at the door.

It wasn’t often we had strangers at the door because of our condo’s no soliciting policy.  Usually knocks on the door came from neighbors who had a question, or kids who knew us trying to sell cookies or popcorn or candy bars.  These women, one in her forties and one in her sixties judging by the looks of them, fit none of the usual categories.

I glanced around the messy room strewn with toys before I took the three steps over to answer the door.  “Can I help you?”  I asked, squinting into the sunlight behind them.

“I guess you don’t recognize us,” the younger one of the two answered me.  She held up an envelope and a piece of notebook paper.  “We got your letter yesterday.”

“Oh.  Wow.”  I felt the sweat start to break out on my palms.  Now, with context, their identities became instantly clear.  These two women were Joe’s grandmother and aunt.   I’d met them both, briefly, in the time that he’d lived there while we were dating.   “Would you like to come in?”

They both nodded and I opened the door.

I tried, for a moment, to take in the scene as they might.  My tiny front room was a complete mess, with toys covering much of the beige carpeted floor.  The sofa was half covered with my work papers and pens and a blanket was haphazardly strewn across the back.  The love seat was free, but they would have to walk past the sleeping four year old on the floor to get there.

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting company,” I apologized, picking up the papers and putting them in a stack on the coffee table.  “I was just finishing up some work while Zach napped.  He fell asleep while playing and I was just getting ready to move him to his bed.”

They were quiet as they both found seats and stared openly at the peaceful boy on the floor.  “I’m sorry to come over unannounced,” Pat, the  aunt, started.  “It was just such a shock to get your letter.”

“I know, and I am sorry about that.  I just wasn’t exactly sure what else I could do.  I felt a phone call would be a little too abrupt.  But I felt it was important that you hear at least, my side of the story.”

The grandmother shifted uncomfortably on the loveseat.  “We hadn’t heard any of the story.”

Oh, lord. I suppose I’d known in the back of my head that it was entirely possible that these women hadn’t heard at all about what had happened between Joe and I; of course, he could have simply not mentioned it.   “Oh…you didn’t know, then.”

“No,” Pat answered.  “We had no idea.”

It was skepticism.  That’s what this was all about.  It all fell into place instantly in my head.  They’d gotten the letter, read the information it contained, perceived it as an accusation.  “Listen,” I said, trying for calm and cool.  “I didn’t write you that letter to try and get anything from you.  I have a full time job teaching, and I am supporting Zachary and I just fine.  My mother passed away last year, so this condo?  It belongs to me now.  I have a job, and a home, and I am able to provide what my son needs.  Me writing to you had absolutely nothing with wanting any money or anything like that.”

The grandmother met my eyes for the first time.  “I’m sorry to hear about your mother,” she said.

“Thank you,” I continued, trying to fill the awkward emptiness.  “I get that this news must be hard to hear.  Your grandson was a wonderful man who I loved very much.  I am not trying to interfere with your family business or anything like that.  But last week, my little boy, my sweet, sweet little boy asked me where his father was.  Now I’ve tried.  Believe me, I have tried to make his life so that he would be grow up and know he was well loved and well prepared anything life will throw at him.  But please, just try to imagine, what it is like for my little boy to wonder why he doesn’t have a daddy when everyone else around him does.”

Pat looked over and Z sleeping soundly on the floor.  He had shifted and half of his face was turned up, shadows of the carpet fibers etched into his red cheeks.  “He does look like him,” she admitted.

“Of course he looks like him.  Why on earth would I send a letter like that if it wasn’t the truth?”  I was indignant, even though I knew I shouldn’t be letting my emotions get the best of me.  This was the one link I had left to creating a tie between Zachary and his biological father; I couldn’t afford to blow it.

“You have to look at this from our position for a minute,” the grandmother started.  “We barely hear from Joe and his mother for the last five years.  They move away, he goes to school, we hear from them sporadically.  Then all of a sudden we get this message from you; we don’t know anything about it, he’s never said a word about having a child.   It’s not that we didn’t believe you,” she concluded warmly.  “It’s that we don’t know you.  Please don’t take this the wrong way; you seem like a good mother with a good head on her shoulders.  But let us have some time to think about this.  We’ll call you in a week or so and we can talk again.”

I stood up.  “I understand.  I do.  This came from out of nowhere for you.  For me, it’s been my life for five years.  I can understand that you need more than five minutes to process it.”

Pat and the grandmother stood.  “We’ll call you next week,” Pat said, holding out her hand to shake mine.

As they sped away, I looked down at Zach.  He was still asleep, blissfully unaware that the world had just shifted a little.

Letters and Late Nights

After I put Zachary to bed that night, I allowed myself to wallow in my thoughts about our earlier conversation.  It had now been over five years since I’d last seen Joe, but it felt like yesterday when he’d walked away from me and never looked back.

I’d been telling myself that I could make a good life for Zachary without his biological father.  That I could fill his life with loving relatives and friends and that he would thrive and be happy.  And that had been true, certainly.  He was a bright child who I could take anywhere and be proud of his behavior.  He was polite, he was kind to other children and I knew I’d done the very best I could for him.

But in these five years, I still couldn’t get over the fact that Joe had never, not once, come to meet his son.  I couldn’t believe that he could look in the mirror every day and not remember that there was a child out there with his DNA.  He didn’t even know how much Zachary resembled him; which he did.  I was blond and pale and blue eyed; Zach had olive skin, dark hair and eyes.   Like an adopted child, Zach would grow up knowing that he didn’t resemble me and my family; he would know every time he looked in the mirror that there was a part of him that was missing.  Would he internalize his feelings and blame himself?  Would he feel like he was not good enough, as I had during my teen years when my father’s absences grew long and pronounced?

The more I thought about it, the more upset I felt at the injustice of it all.  It certainly wasn’t Zach’s fault that his father and I were caught on the wrong side of the statistics of contraception.  It was not his fault that I had raging hormones and Joe had a healthy lot of family issues going on at the time.    I counted all of the times when I should have called Joe while I still had the chance, all the times I’d seen him on campus and didn’t stop him to talk.  It was an avalanche of regret, and I felt like it was time I changed the course.

I knew Joe’s grandparents still lived in the same house they’d lived in five years ago; their name was still in the phone book.  They were the only connection left to him; I didn’t even know if they knew that Zach existed.   But in that moment of anger and fear, I felt like I wasn’t about to waste another chance.  Before it was too late to reach them too, I decided to write them a letter and tell them about Zachary and beg them for help in reaching his father.

By the time I was done with the letter that started, “I don’t know if you remember me…” and ended with, “I again am sorry to contact you this way but I just didn’t know what else to do…”, it was eleven thirty at night.  I folded the letter and addressed the envelope, but left it unsealed.  I decided that I should sleep on it and reread the letter in the morning.   If everything still made sense then, and this seemed like the right move to make, then I would mail out the letter Monday morning.

I dropped the letter in the box at the front of our development on the way to work two days later.

Daddy Issues

“Mommy, why don’t I have a daddy?”

Zachary and I were playing on the living room floor with his Thomas the Tank engine trains.  The windows were open for the first warm day of Spring, early this year in April.   They were his new favorite thing, and we had eight or so of the cast iron trains, plus books and videos.  At first I’d thought they were a little creepy, but then again, anything George Carlin was OK with, I figured I was too.

“What did you say?”  I had only been half listening to Zach’s prattle on about Edward and James and the Conductor, the scenario he was painting of their adventure between the Nintendo Game System on the floor and the stuffed Aladdin.

Zach kept the trains, moving and without missing a beat he repeated, “Why isn’t there a daddy in our house?  Everyone else’s house has two grown ups in it.  The other grown up is the daddy.  But we don’t have two grown ups in our house.  We used to have two, when grandma was here.  But now we only have you.  Where’s the daddy in our house?”

Ouch.  I’d known this day was coming, surely it was coming, but I’d put off thinking about it for many years now.  When Zach was a baby and Joe was still fresh in my memory as someone who might still be a part of our lives, I thought about this day, what would I do if I hadn’t been able to reconnect with Joe and Zach wondered about him?   It was why I’d decided so long ago to file a lawsuit to establish my son’s legal paternity.  But not long after I’d filed and tried to find Joe, I discovered that he’d moved away and left  no way for me to get in touch with him.  I’d finally given up trying to bring my son’s biological father into his life.  I reasoned that if he didn’t want to be a part of his son’s life, that was always going to be his loss and on his conscience. Instead, I’d surround him with people who loved him; he couldn’t miss what he’d never known, right?

Which had sounded great when I was the mother of a one, two  or three year old child who lived in the literal world of what was right in front of him and didn’t really think beyond the here and now.  But Zach was four and a half now, with playmates and playdates, and he was beginning to notice the difference between their lives and ours.   There were men in their houses, and not in ours.  I’d known this day was coming.

I’d tried to prepare for this moment, but in 1994 there simply weren’t a lot of places to go for advice on single parenting by choice.  I had talked to several people who were no longer married to the fathers of their children, and even to one who had never been married to their child’s father, like me.  Most of the consensus said that when a child asks about their absent parent, you had to be honest.  Give as much information as the question asks for, but no more, and follow the child’s lead.  Even more important, though, of everything I read, was to be always positive in your comments about the missing parent, no matter how much anger you might have about the situation.  At the end of the day, the child will interpret anything said as relating to themselves because even while the parent is absent, they are 50 % of that child.

“Well, Zach,” I started, “You do have a daddy.  He isn’t here right now, but you do have one.  Everyone does.”

“Where is he?” asked Zach, looking at me, his attention now on me and not the trains.

“I’m not sure, exactly,” I answered honestly.  I had no idea where Joe was now.  He’d never called, never met Zach, made good on his promise made five years ago.  I couldn’t imagine where he was or how I’d ever find him if Zach wanted to know anything about him.  I could feel my anger rise up looking at my sweet boy asking me questions that I didn’t have the answers to.  “But I know that you’re a wonderful, wonderful little boy that he would love very much if he were here with us.”

“But why isn’t he here with us?”  I could feel a real pain in my chest.  How could I answer this?  I couldn’t let myself look upset; I couldn’t betray my own feelings or emotions about Joe not being a part of our lives.

“Well, Zachary, when mommy got the great news that you were going to be born, your father and I were both very, very young.  We were both very happy and excited, because we loved each other very much.  Your father was a very wonderful, nice person.  But sometimes people when they are young  just aren’t ready to be parents yet.   It doesn’t mean anything bad, it just means that they have to do a little more growing up before they are ready to be a parent.   Your daddy was like that.  He just wasn’t ready to be a parent.”

I could see Zachary, in all of his four and a half year old wisdom ponder this motherlode of information.  He looked down at his trains again, and for a minute I thought that was the end of it.   He started hooking up Annie and Clarabel, the passenger cars, to Edward and I pushed the Troublesome Trucks out of their way.  Finally he said, “Do you think he ever will be ready?”

I sighed; I couldn’t help myself.  I knew this answer wasn’t going to be the easy answer, but I also was determined not to lie.  “I honestly don’t know, Zachary.”

Zachary said nothing else, but I knew his head was full of thoughts.

 

Wrongs, Rights, and The Stuff In the Middle

It was three days after I broken up with Dennis, and the phone was ringing.  He usually called me on Thursdays, to touch base on our Monday evenings in case one or both of us needed to beg off.   I knew it was him, and couldn’t decide whether or not to pick up the phone.

I’d actually kind of surprised myself by breaking up with him.  I had certainly known all along that it was going to be me that ended the relationship when my moral dilemma outweighed my loneliness.   Right from the start, when I’d stood in his living room looking at his family photos, imagining my face in all of the places where hers was, I knew that what I was doing wasn’t right.  But I had been able to talk myself into letting myself be selfish for a while.  It wasn’t often I got to be selfish with the way my life was set up, and for a while, I was able to push the quiet voice of reason aside.

But as I spent the holidays alone, without the man who was dominating more and more of my thoughts, I knew that our days were numbered.   I wanted more than Dennis was able or even willing to give; I was changing the rules.  And so after our usual Monday evening visit, as we lay in bed together,  I told him that I would need to stop seeing him.  That I respected his boundaries and wishes, but that my moral confusion had finally hit a critical level.  I couldn’t bear thinking about his wife and what we were doing to her each time we were together.   That I loved that he’d been there for me at a time when I most needed someone, but I couldn’t continue to be in this thing feeling all of what I was feeling.

Dennis had offered to maintain a friendship with me, whatever it was that I wanted or needed.   Which is likely why my phone was now on its fourth ring this Thursday night, because he wanted to check in and make sure I was OK.

I picked up.  “Hello?”

“I wasn’t sure you were going to answer.”

“I wasn’t sure I was either,” I told him.

“Why?”  His voice was so warm, so kind.

“I wasn’t completely honest with you the other night.”  I sat on the edge of my bed, looking at myself in the mirror.  God, I looked tired.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, here’s the thing,” I started, taking a deep breath.  “The stuff I said about being bothered by all of this, that’s all true.  It bothers me more each time.  But the reason why isn’t because I’m some saint.  It’s because each time I see you,  I’m this much closer to falling in love with you.  I’m so close to it, I might already be there.  And every minute I’m loving you, that makes this all so much worse.  It’s one thing for it to mean nothing, but it’s not nothing anymore.  It’s everything.”

“Oh.”  I knew that he was balking at the emotion I’d just expressed.  I knew the rules, here.  We were both clear on the fact that he was never going to leave his life, and this was supposed to be a fun escape for us both.

“I want to get married, have more children, build a family for Zachary.  And now that I’ve spent so much time with you…God, I want you to do those things with me.”

I could just see his chest rising and falling with the deep sigh that resonated into the receiver.

“I know you don’t want those things,” I continued.  I could see my face bright red in the mirror now.  “You’ve been very honest and fair about the fact that you don’t.  I knew that going in.  It’s not really fair of me to want those things from you when you’ve been so straightforward.  Which is why I have to do this.  I can’t keep wanting more from you and getting mad at you for not being able to give it to me, when that was never supposed to happen in the first place.”

“I understand,” he said sadly.  “I didn’t before, but now I do.”  He paused.  ” I have a confession to make, as well.  I am starting to love you, too.”

I nervously wrapped and unwrapped the phone cord around my fingers, watching it leave marks on them as I twisted it tighter, tighter.  “That’s nice to hear,” I finally said slowly.  “I suppose it doesn’t really matter in the end, though.  Am I right?”

After an endless pause:  “You’re right.”

“I should probably go,” I said, releasing the phone cord and letting it bob back and forth from the release of the tension.

“I’ll miss you,” Dennis said huskily, his voice deep and sad.

“I’ll miss you too,” I said, hanging up the phone softly on its cradle.

Snow Day In School

It was five am in Mid January.  I’d gotten up early to see if the predicted snow had actually appeared.  A glance out of my window confirmed the forecast of multiple inches of snow on the ground, the endless white giving a false glow to the early morning darkness.

Days like today were tricky.  Zach’s daycare opened at seven, and I’d have to be there right on the dot if I was going to be able to get to work on time to teach.  While the suburban schools might call off school on a day like today, the city schools with many more kids in walking distance rarely did.   Unfortunately, on a day like today my twenty five minute commute would stretch closer to the 75 minute mark.

Sure enough, as I clicked the TV on and checked in it after I showered, and again after I dressed, and again after I’d blown dry my hair, I saw that one by one, all of the local suburban districts were closing.  The local news said that it was a good six inches of snow on the ground, with more falling every second.   I carefully maneuvered my way to Z’s nearly empty day care (how I wished I could simply call into work as most of the parents had done because of the snow) and then embarked on round two of Winter Road Warrior on my way down to the school.  Traffic crawled on the highways in the deep ruts of the unplowed roads.  It took me an hour and twenty five minutes to get to my school.

Inside my classroom was warm and bright and welcoming to the students.   But as the opening bell rang, students trickled slowly in.  After ten minutes it was soon apparent that about half of my students had opted to call a snow day for themselves, regardless of what the school system said.

Becky and I met in the hallway midway between our two rooms so that we could hear the students while we quickly planned.  She too was missing about half of her students.   Obviously we couldn’t do any of our normal lessons since so many students would miss the content.  We knew better than to think that we could just send home missed homework and expect it to get done; it never returned.

“Each of us has half a class.  Hey, what do you think about putting them together?  Each of our rooms has enough seating since so many kids are gone.”

“Oh, that’s a great idea!  And we can do all snow stuff today; we can talk about the water cycle, we can estimate what snow weighs, we can predict how long snow takes to melt…”

“And we can do snow artwork, read snow stories and talk about the letter S!”  I answered quickly.

The day passed by in an excited blur.  Becky and I each fed off of each other’s ideas and before we knew it, it was time to send off the children to lunch.  Normally I was watching the clock every minute to see when I would have some small respite.  Not today.  I couldn’t wait for them to come back so we could do more with them.

“So this is what it is like,” I mused to Becky while we sat together over our cold sandwiches.

“What what’s like?” she answered.

“What it would be like to be in a regular school with a normal class size.  It’s been so long I’d forgotten.”

“I thought you were going to say ‘what it is like to enjoy teaching again’.”

I digested her words.  “Is it that obvious?”

“No,” she said quickly.  “I mean, I know that you’re unhappy because we talk a lot.  It’s not obvious to everyone else, I’m sure.  No, what’s obvious today is how much you are enjoying it, and it is nice to see.”

It was true.  It had literally been mid October before I’d had a day that I didn’t totally feel was a disaster in my own classroom, and while those days were becoming more and more frequent as I got used to the pace and flow of my days, every day was still a challenge.    “It is awfully nice to know that I still have it in me,” I answered.  “I wasn’t sure anymore, if I’m being honest.”

“We should do this more often,” Becky responded.  Even when we have full classes, let’s aim to do more things together.  Maybe the big stuff like Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s day and stuff like that.  The kids loved being together today; and they were honestly better behaved because they wanted it to continue.”

I looked forward to more days where I would love being a teacher again.

Drunk Dialing

It was 1:45 am.  I had had my friends over for New Year’s and everyone had brought something to drink.  We’d sat around eating and playing cards, and for a few moments, I’d forgotten about my difficult teaching job, my married boyfriend, my single parent status, my dead mother and my absent father.  For a few minutes, my cheeks had glowed with the false happiness that a few bottles of Zima could induce.

But then, everyone left.  The evening was over, but I was wired.  As I cleaned up the bowls of chip scraps and crumbs of cookies, my mind started to drift.  As it often did when I had had a little to drink, the rose colored, maudlin fairy tales started to pipe themselves into my head.  I wished that the man I’d been dating had been able to be here this evening with my friends.  I wished that I could have rung in the New Year by kissing him instead of my friend Karen’s new beau, on the cheek.  I wished that for once I was the girl that everyone thought was sexy instead of cute.

Suddenly, in the grand tradition of drunk dialers, I had a great epiphany.  Now , while everything was super clear and concise in my head, now would be the perfect time to have a conversation with Dennis about where I thought our relationship should be headed.  No matter that it was nearly 2 am.  No matter that his wife could easily answer the phone and wonder who was at the end of the line.   It was time for me to lay down the law, lay it all on the line.

One ring.  Two rings.  Three – “Hello?”  A drowsy Dennis answered the phone.

“Hey,” I said, trying to sound casual.  “Do you have a minute?”

I could almost picture him looking at the clock that I know was flashing a bright red One Fifty Two AM back at him.  “Um…sure,” he responded.  I could hear quiet creaking as he rolled out of bed and quietly took his cordless phone out of the bedroom.

“What’s going on?” Dennis said lightly, without a hint of anger.

“Well,” I said, a bundle of alcohol induced  self righteousness, “I’m calling to tell you that I’m not sure I’m happy with where we’re at right now.”

“Really,” Dennis answered, in the manner of a hostage negotiator making no sudden moves, “What exactly is your concern?”

“Well here’s the thing,” I went on unselfconsciously, “I just am starting to feel like while what we have together is amazing…and I am talking A – MAZE  – ING,” I intoned loudly, taking a swig of one of the half empties one of my guests had left behind, “I am starting to feel like it’s not enough.”

“What do you mean, exactly, by not enough?”

And just like that, the euphoria from the alcohol and the hours of friendly companionship at my home evaporated, as did my self confidence at making the phone call.  I slumped down into the chair in the same room where Dennis and I had our famous talks and glasses of wine and started to cry.  “I just wish you were here with me, right now.  I wish you could just jump in your car, right now, and hold me until I stop feeling so awfully.”  And there it was.  I was starting to crave Dennis and his optimism outside of our carefully carved out one night a week.  I wanted to share him with my friends, share with him my experiences and my whole self.   Not just the part that we were to each other, but all of it, everything.  I wanted more.

“You know I can’t do that,” came the response on the other end of the line, full of sympathy, but the words were practical, realistic.

“I know,” I answered quickly.  “But the thing is, I want you to just the same.”

I heard a sigh on the other end of the line that said everything that words could not.

 

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