I get it. I really do. Marriage is hard. It’s messy, annoying, challenging and I don’t care what anyone says, working at a marriage is harder than most jobs. I don’t envy you…it’s also why I’m not married. I’m known for saying that a ring doesn’t tell me a man is married, his actions do. If you’re married, I want you to look at your ring and then look at your actions. Do they match? Because darling (married) boy, there’s something to me that just doesn’t add up in the scenario below:
“Want to meet for coffee…? Can’t meet for coffee, let’s go to dinner. I’ll call you…”
I wasn’t invited to your wedding. In fact, if memory serves no one from your family (except your brother) was invited, because they didn’t agree with the religious conversion that came with the wedding. Your bride you had told me about…young (younger than you by a decade), so sweet and kind (innocent), and beautiful…oh so beautiful in both body and spirit.
I met her a year or two after your wedding, when your brother invited me to his. She was very pretty, sweet as candy, quiet and (in my opinion) a little too soft for the likes of you. In fact, you made her cry at one point in the evening. You weren’t cruel or harsh; she just didn’t get it. Knowing your personality all too well, I silently hoped that she’d be able to “handle” you and your moods. Years went by, your brother divorced and you stayed married. You explained that your new religion prevented you from speaking to women who were not family, so our sporadic communication had now been reduced to hellos and goodbyes should I be invited to a family event (i.e. your sister’s wedding, her baby shower, your mother’s birthday). That was fine; long gone were the days when spoke to each other twice a day. You had chosen your life and I had chosen mine.
“I don’t know how she’ll react if you call. My religion doesn’t really allow me to talk to other women. So, it’s best if I call you, okay?”
It had been at least 2 years since we last spoke. You wanted to look me up and chose to go online and search for me. All you could find was a LinkedIn profile. You called me at my office and were surprised that I recognized your voice right away, and all I could wonder was “what did you want?” I decided to nip this in the bud and although I knew it would be on the DL, agreed to meet you for meal. I knew this wasn’t to be happy reunion…I told a few trusted friends and promised I’d check in after. It’s kind of sad that you were once a person I trusted with my life and now, I no longer trusted you to have a meal.
“You look good…did you let your hair grow back? Is that all yours? You smell good…”
“Yes, it’s all mine. Thanks. So…how’s _______?”
(You may not want to talk about your wife, but I will)
“You know when a bird needs to leave the nest, but refuses to fly? Yeah. That’s what it’s like right now with her. She’s like what, 26? 27? She looks at me like I’m some sort of father figure! She’s home with the baby…I’m not working right now, so she just depends on me to do…everything!”
“Well, you did marry her when she was 20…”
As we walk, he reaches around my back, pulling me closer to him the process, lifting the sleeve on my cardigan. I jump three feet in the air and away from him.
“What’s what? Oh yeah. That.”
“Awwww…Did you tattoo my name on your wrist? That’s so sweet!”
“Ouch! Shot down, just like that?”
We arrive at our destination and order our meals. I have no appetite. For someone who had a lot to say, he’s not saying it. I know it’s serious, because whenever he has something important to say, he can’t make eye contact and gets really fidgety.
“I’ve been thinking a lot. There are so many things I want to say to you…”
“Say the first thing that comes to mind…”
He tells me that he’s unhappy in his marriage. That his wife not only refuses to grow up, but has become cold, unresponsive. She’s no longer…romantic. He doesn’t know how long his marriage will last. He wants his family, but he can’t take it anymore. I ask if things changed after she had the baby (who is only 15 months old). He says maybe, but that she had a lot of insecurities going into the marriage that he can’t fix. It’s not like he’s out running around with a bunch of different women…
(Except you’re out now. With me. But she doesn’t know that.)
These are insecurities he can’t fix. He can’t be the hero any more…he has things to do in your life. I nod. I listen. I wonder. I ask.
“So why did you look me up?”
“I’m beginning to realize this sense of… freedom. I gave up a lot of friendships and people. I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. I think back to our friendship and I just remember….”
“You make me feel good. When I’m around you, good things happen. You like things that I like…I’m exposed to new music. Art. Ideas. You’ve always had a life that was interesting…”
“I make you feel good…? Really?”
He continues…“I’ve been hurt by a lot of people. You’ve hurt me…”
“I’m pretty sure I have.”
(I can’t remember a single occasion, but I’m playing along…)
“I weighed the pros and cons of contacting you and the pros outweighed the cons.”
“What were the cons?”
“I don’t want to focus on the negative. The point is we’re here talking — ”
The phone rings. It’s his wife. He ignores the call and I arch my brow.
The phone rings again. It’s her calling back and he says, “I thought I turned this to silent” while setting the phone to vibrate.
I suggest that she’s calling because maybe there’s something up with the baby. He shrugs and says, “No, she just wants to know what time I’m coming home.” I give him the “are you serious expression” which he chooses to ignore.
He talks about his newfound sense of freedom. Explains that his marriage is on the decline and he needs to reconnect to people who matter. I ask about other people from his past that he’s connected with…he’s contacted no one else. He tells me about his work (or lack thereof due to an injury on the job), his son, the books he’s been reading. He asks me nothing of my life, except to ask where I’m living. I say “downtown”. He asks if I live alone. I tell the truth and say yes and he replies, “I miss that, being alone. You have a good set up…”
The phone rings again. It’s his wife. He waits for the ringing to stop and shuts off the phone.
Again, I suggest that maybe there’s something happening at home, and he replies that he doesn’t “want to hear her mouth right now”.
“You said you had a lot on your mind that you wanted to talk about…”
“Oh, that’s way too much shit to lay on your doorstep. There’s so much, but it would just depress you.”
“I’m here. You wouldn’t have asked me here if you didn’t want to tell me.”
“Y’know. I never realized how cute your nose is! Did you do something to it?”
“No. Are you suggesting I had a nose job?”
“I just want to reach out and squeeze it! Can I?!”
He laughs, tells me how cute I am when I’m annoyed and how his misses my expressiveness. Our meal is finally over, we make our way towards the subway and he turns his phone back on. I decide to be an instigator.
“Stupid question. But won’t it anger her more that you’re ignoring her calls?”
“I don’t care anymore. Are you taking the subway?”
“No. That’s the beauty of living downtown…anything south of Bloor is within walking distance.”
“We might be moving downtown too. There’s space in her mom’s co-op. So, we could be there in a couple of months if it all works out…”
“What? Moving or your marriage?”
(We stare at each other…)
“Listen it was really great seeing you again. Maybe we can meet up again? I don’t have your cell number though. I would say call me, but if _________ answers, she might get upset…but I could call you sometime?”
“Sure. You can call me. When you’re allowed to.”
“YOU can call me, at my office, when YOU’RE allowed to call me. When YOU can make calls in front of your wife and accept calls from me in front of her. Then and only then you can call me, because I’M going to choose to respect the rules of your religion and your marriage. Go home to your family. Have a great life, whatever you decide…”
He nodded. Smiled. I walked away.
In telling this story to another male, he thought I was being too harsh. What say you dear readers?