I had been in this strange little relationship for 15 years. It wasn’t bad. No passion, per se, but it beat a sharp stick in the eye. We were just cruising along on automatic pilot, probably because we were both afraid of being alone.
And then we were at this backyard bar-b-cue and he decided to tell everyone the story of how we met. It was so romantic, he said. We’d met at church and she slid over on the pew to be closer to me, he said. We looked at each other, and the rest is history, he said.
That kind of made me blink. I mean, yes, the facts were true, but the conclusions drawn from them? Not so much. I slid over on the pew because as usual he was mumbling through his untrimmed mustache, and I couldn’t figure out what he was saying. And once I slid over, I simply couldn’t be bothered to slide back.
Could this be his version of our relationship? Did he think it started off romantically, was love at first sight, and was still romantic? That made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. We hadn’t even touched each other in any intimate way in well over a year. Was he happy? Seriously? Can you really survive when you’re deeply buried in such a steaming mound of pure fantasy?
He always had funny ideas about women. He thought his mother, one of the most flawed individuals I’ve ever met, was a saint. When he’d write stories, the female characters always seemed to need rescuing, and they often wore pillbox hats with veils, and would bite their nails through their gloves when they were afraid, which was often. They giggled a lot. They liked lace. They were easily shocked. To me they always seemed kind of like ideal mannequins stuffed with artificial emotions.
Suddenly I felt very sorry for him. And I felt even more sorry for myself, because he didn’t know me at all, and had no idea what I was feeling. It’s hard to be passionate about someone you pity. With hindsight, I realize that that was the beginning of the end. I wanted to live with someone in the real world. I wanted to be understood.