Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Twenty Years Later

I had a wife once. I’ve never spoken of her in any depth. She is the mother of my son, and she was a very good mother to a little boy. She was generous and affectionate and gentle with him. She was ideal. Ideal as a mother to a little boy. She was an artist -- I think of her entirely in the past tense. Absolutely brilliant. A genius, truly. Would I be attracted to anything less? Even I could see it, and I can hardly hold a pencil. Australian.

We had our problems. I will not blame her. I’d still be married, if it had been up to me. Just stubborn. And I have only a minimal need for happiness. Or respect. Or loyalty. Or sex. ... I might be exaggerating. But not about the happiness. For her part, whatever she needed, I didn't have. How could I blame her for that? Neither of us had what the other needed. Well. I guess things like love and steadfastness don't enter into a discussion like this. We'll say they don't.

When my son got to be a teen, he had his moods and needed his space. I understood that. She didn't. I remember her telling me that when he got older, he'd rebel against me. I was strict, in my way, you see. I had one unbreakable rule: no disrespect. Everything else was negotiable. It's how you teach independence. But she saw my unbending demand for respect, and said he'd never want to be around me. Ironic, huh? I was his refuge.

She still blames me for alienating him. She actually believes, and says, that I poisoned him against her. It's not fair, but how can I blame her? She thinks she's right. Any correction would just feel like an attack. I finished, a long time ago, participating in her hurt feelings.

Now, she’s hard to be around. For my son. I never see her. She's in a distant land. Not Australia. But if he visits her, a day is enough. More is too much. She never stops talking. And her conversation focuses around all the bad things that people -- male people -- have done to her. Hard to be with. Especially, I’m told, when it comes around to me. My son, you see, has as little patience for disloyalty as I do. We learn by example.

So here’s the point. I was thinking about her laughter. In those days I was much younger (of course), so not as many horrifying things had happened yet, and I still thought I needed to argue. That is, I still thought I needed to talk ... same thing, with me, in those days ... loved to argue. You would not be wrong in believing that I was a sarcastic guy. I’m not anymore, hardly at all, except here. So I believe. Certainly nothing like I used to be. But FP can get just a tiny little bit sarcastic once in a while -- maybe you’ve notice? So back in the day, if I was arguing and being sarcastic and winning an argument -- what, you think I’d lose? -- guess who she’d laugh at … laugh with? Guess who she’d root for? Guess whose side she’d take? Every time.

It was inevitable. It was unfailing.

Is she loyal to my son? Or is he one of the males who've done her in, or will?

Loyalty is like love. It’s not about the person you give it to. It’s about the kind of person you are.

That's where I'd end, except that I haven't been fair. How could I be? Divorce breaks your heart. The part of it that breaks is the part that remembers. Here it is, twenty years later, and ten, and five, and I wish her well. If I ever got rich, I'd buy her a house. In another country. The old idea that the brain cannot remember pain is a lie. Maybe it's that we cannot forget the memory of pain. No matter. It works out to the same thing. So I've tried to be fair. But I can't be.


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