It’s this past Sunday.
Michael and I are in the truck headed back from the dog park in the midst of our regular, hostile silence. We’re mad at the distance between us, we’re mad that the other isn’t who we need them to be. We’re mad at the way things aren’t working out.
I’d been reading the signs for weeks: more time on our laptops, he’s at his brother’s, I’m out with the girls, both of us no longer assume we’ll be spending the day together but in separate pursuits. We stop talking at dinner. Then we stop eating together. The ever-present elephant of his job search sits between us rather awkwardly no matter what we’re doing. Just the weekend before I’d gone with him to Naples to have dinner with his family, and, if a woman has anything, it’s a keen sense of knowing when people have been talking shit about her. So, I understand what is happening, and I have this one question that I need him to answer. I just didn’t realize I’d be asking it today.
“Would you be happier if I wasn’t in your life?” I say.
We’re at a stoplight. Michael doesn’t answer me. The light turns green, he takes a deep breath, and carefully mentions that it seems as if we just don’t get along. An hour later, he still hasn’t answered the question, but he has finally confessed that my life–the dancing, the writing, the Everglades, the going places–doesn’t interest him. Yes, I say, his life–the video games, the internet news, the endless remakes of Sherlock Holmes classics–well, they don’t interest me, either. In the day to day, he says, we are just grinding each other down.
He’s right, and I know it in my gut. I finally have to accept that Michael and I made a classic mistake: it’s the classic mistake of romantic relationships for my entire life, which is saying a lot because I’ve had boyfriends off and on since I was five years old. We based a commitment on the feelings of intoxication of love. In the sober light of daily life, we saw each other for the grossly mismatched adults we really were. Ever-after turns into a lost canoe drifting to the horizon. We are holding the tow rope in our hands.
And here I am, yet again, watching the love of my life transform into a stranger before my very eyes.
Beloveds, I have been tricked by this illusion more times than I care to admit, but I believe now I have finally mastered this humbling and embarrassing sleight-of-the-emotional-hand. At the dawn of middle age, I seem to be coming around to the idea that 1) I should get to know someone before deciding to be together forever 2) if a man needs help emotionally or financially, run the fuck away 3) the phrases “you are the one,” “you are my soulmate,” and/or “you are the woman of my dreams,” are not romantic–they are teenaged fantasies that end in bank trouble, lawyers’ fees, and unexpected test results from the doctor’s office and 4) relationships aren’t the right answer to the wrong state of being single. Yes, I understand “normal” people figure this out in their 20s, but at that time in my life, I was much too busy cultivating alcoholism and trying to figure out how to become famous. So, I’m a bit johnny-come-lately on the basic parameters of normal adult relationships.
But, Michael and I have been in this rodeo before. Any of you who have known me a year remember the dramatic finale of our first attempt at being soul mates which happened last June. So, we’ve agreed to part peacefully and with as much ease this time as we can manage. He’s taking care of Buckley while I’m in Brazil and did offer to cart me back and forth from the Miami airport, which is a 5 hour round trip. He is wonderful in many ways including the fact that he enjoys cleaning and washing/folding laundry, and he can throw out a one-liner so funny that will make you spit out your romaine lettuce.
As for me? Well, because of this relationship I live in paradise, I work in my favorite wilderness on earth, I hold alligators all the time, and I have time to write. I’ve hunted Skunk Apes, held a wolf, and been adopted by a cockatoo and an African grey parrot who leans into my ear and whispers “I’m a gorgeous boy.”
Tomorrow I start packing for Brazil, to meet the orixas, to stand on the slave trading grounds and sing the songs of Africa, and to wear a bathing suit so small I should be arrested. I leave on Saturday, and I will set foot in Bahia as a free woman. I did not expect that, but “Lord, whatever.”
What a long road it’s been to get to Saturday.
Axe, beloveds. Night night.