A new insertion for Fragments of Fiction:
“In a world of doubt and fear
I wake at night and reach to find you near
Lost in a dream, you caught me as I fell
I want more than just a dream to tell”
Happy– Bruce Springsteen
The telephone call came from out of the blue. I can’t tell you how long it had been since we had last spoken, could have been months or it might have been years. People get busy and live their lives. It is not personal, it is just life. Hell, most days I have trouble remembering my own name.
Our conversation began in the usual manner with small talk about our jobs and other little things about life. Slowly it progressed into some more serious matters sprinkled in with a couple of jokes here and there and then she hit me with the bombshell.
“I don’t love my husband anymore.”
For a moment I was silent, unsure of how to respond I let the words linger in the air. I said that I was sorry and asked her what she was going to do. She told me that she wasn’t sure. She thought that she’d try to hang on for a few years, until her boys were older.
I said that sounded like a good idea. This time the silence was her doing. I felt an obligation to try to help so I asked her a few questions about how she got to be where she was. She told me that he wasn’t a bad guy, that she had made a mistake in marrying him. I told her that I didn’t want to be rude but I didn’t understand why she had children with him.
So she explained that she thought that they were going through growing pains and that she always figured that they would work through them, but they never did. So here she was ten years later wondering how it was that she had come to be trapped in a life she no longer wanted to live.
When I suggested that she consider getting out sooner than later she grew agitated and told me how it was different for mothers. Mothers have different standards than men. I wasn’t sure if I was being insulted but chose to remain silent.
So I asked her a few more questions and suggested that maybe it wasn’t so bad. He sounded like a decent guy. She snorted and told me that I was being a man. I asked her what that meant.
“You don’t understand what it is like to be intimate with him. I feel like I am being violated. I hate kissing him, it makes my skin crawl.”
I was more than a little surprised by her candor and told her that I didn’t understand how she could equate intimacy and kissing. She snorted again and told me that I was a man and that I probably wouldn’t understand. I agreed with her, I didn’t quite understand how it was easier to have sex than to kiss him.
In an exasperated voice she told me that men could just stick it in anywhere and that most of us saw kissing as a means to an end which was why I didn’t understand.
She probably wouldn’t have liked the way I rolled my eyes, but she couldn’t see that. I told her that they would take my man card away for suggesting that she not be intimate with him and she laughed again. It wasn’t a happy laugh.
He wouldn’t put up with that.He didn’t demand it constantly, but he was a man and if she didn’t work to meet his needs he might try divorcing her. I told her that was the most backwards thing I had heard in a long time and received another long sigh.
“Mothers are held to a different standard than fathers. And I would feel such guilt if my children were hurt by me doing this. They love their father.”
There was more silence and then the conversation resumed, but it was different.The moment of sharing was gone and I knew better than to bring it back up again. We said our goodbyes and hung up the phone. As I sat there cooking my dinner I thought about what she had said, echoes of “I don’t love my husband anymore” playing through my mind.