This Is All I Have

“So how many of your students got the Thanksgiving basket?”  Dennis poured me another glass of wine as we sat together on my sofa.   It was Monday, our night to be together.  Which meant that he went to his regularly scheduled bowling league with teachers from school at seven, he bowled till 8:30 or so, and then told his wife he was going out for drinks after.  Which was not technically a lie, because he always swung by the liquor store and picked up a bottle of wine for us to share when he came over.   By the time he knocked on my door, Zach was in bed, my lesson plans were done, my papers were checked and the house was quiet.

“You couldn’t believe how many.  I don’t even know.  So many of them were talking about ‘what came in the basket’ during my story time yesterday that I finally had to ask them about it.  And Derrick, DeShante, Daniel, Ricardo, one after another they talked about it.   I mean, how many do you think would get a basket in your class this year?”

This was what I loved about my evenings with Dennis.  The intimacy of our conversations, how he refilled my glass as we talked, how he understood everything I was saying and responded with questions, clearly having valued and listened to what I had to say.

“Out of my five classes?  I’d say maybe two per class, so ten altogether, out of probably 150 or so.”  He was lazily touching my forearm, tracing patterns that gave me goosebumps as we spoke.

“See, and if I had to guess, I would wager it is likely two thirds of my thirty eight kids.  What would that be?  It’s a good thing I don’t have to teach anything above first grade math.   Then again, maybe it’s the wine that’s making it harder.”

Dennis leaned in and kissed my neck, nuzzling the curve of it.  “Roughly 27 or so,” he said, the words breathing his warm breath onto my skin.

“It just is so disparate,” I kept going on, pretending to ignore him and his attentions.  “And I mean, this is a school in the decent part of town.  What’s it like in the schools further south?”

“It’s bad,” he said, moving up to my hairline, towards my earlobes.  “Really bad.”

I knew I should be feeling worse about this, and in my more lucid moments, I did.  I knew I was feeling things about this relationship that I had no business feeling; Dennis was very honest about the fact that he had absolutely no intentions of ever leaving his wife.  That he loved her, and did not want to hurt her.  But all the while he felt certain in his belief that no one person could meet every need of a single other person, and that made what was happening between him and I make perfect sense.

I knew that I was enjoying too much our educated conversations on teaching and the disparity of public education, politics in the United States and the finer points of various wines.  I knew that none of this was going to end in the fairy tale ending  I knew I wanted for myself.  In these lost, lonely months where all of my energy went into being a single parent and an inner city school teacher, I knew I had nothing left for a relationship that demanded equality and nuturing to grow.   I didn’t have the time or energy to go hunting for a boy my age who then would need some sort of gold medal for wanting to date the orphaned single mother.  I didn’t have it in me to cook meals or to look sexy every day or engage in pillow talk on the phone every night.  I was willing to swallow the bit of bile that crept up every time Dennis got up from my bed at 11:30 to go home to his wife, because what he was willing to give me and what I needed at that moment intersected.  Even though I knew it wasn’t right, even though I knew that someone could be hurt, even though I felt empty after he left.

“Are you ready to go upstairs?” he whispered into my ear as his hands kneaded my shoulders.

I took his hand and silently led him towards my bed.

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