I have been playing with words lately……and practicing writing character sketches and narratives. This is a little offering of some fiction. I am trying to practice and come to a place where I can decided if writing is something I can do more frequently. I enjoy it and wonder if perhaps someday……I may write a story that fills pages and pages. Perhaps……but until then…..little vignettes fly out of my brain and onto a keyboard with enough rapidity that I can still get my lesson plans and mothering done in between.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
She sat across the table from him and felt a little nervous. He had friended her on Facebook out of the blue. Sure, they had lots of common friends and he probably just wanted to get to know her, but he had sent her a message and begun a conversation…..because he had read something she had written.
The conversation was interesting….at least interesting enough to bring her to the coffee shop late on this Saturday evening after she had looked through his online activities, profiles, and anything else she could find. He seemed interesting enough to share a cup of coffee with because it was what she did with people. She listened to their stories. Collecting stories was a way of healing….of becoming….of finding out more about the world and about how she fit into it.
He sat down, and she noticed right away that he had fiery eyes. They were full of passion about the world and about whatever he was discussing. He was tall….. taller than her but not so much that she was put off by it. His muscular frame was athletic, and he was in pretty good shape for someone her own age.
He sat down and began by thanking her for coming out to meet him. “I just needed to meet you,” he said. “I loved what you wrote, and I wanted to know more……..You are more beautiful in person, by the way, than even in your pictures.”
She took a sip of her tea trying to process that statement.
She was someone who didn’t always feel beautiful in any sense of the word, and it always took her aback just a bit when a man told her right up front that he found her beautiful. She could never tell if she liked it or was repelled by someone only seeing a physical appearance and not her mind, personality, feelings, and spirit. But she let it go wondering what else this conversation would bring out.
She began with a simple request…”So, tell me your story. What made you write to me?”
He leaned forward and smiled. His hands came together, and he looked at them as he gathered his thoughts. “I loved how you captured your feelings around your divorce and the betrayal you went through. I just wanted to meet you. My story? My story is a little different. I married a woman I really didn’t know for that long. We met, and I thought she was terrific. We began playing tennis and going on long bike rides. I loved that she would get out there and do all the outdoor things that I loved doing. I am a very physical guy. I need physical activity. We began dating and having so much fun together. I think I fell in love pretty quickly. She is a wonderful woman……” His voice trailed of as he paused for a bit and took a sip of coffee.
She sat across the table giving him space to continue as she stared behind his head out into the night at the gorgeous full moon that was rising. It was a lovely harvest moon. She began to drink in the romance of that gorgeous moon.
“But something changed shortly after we were married, ” he continued. It was like I was tricked. She didn’t want to play tennis anymore. She didn’t want to go on long bike rides. She became somewhat emotionally distant. It was as if she couldn’t identify with my feelings anymore…..it ….it felt like she was someone with Asperger’s or something. I can’t explain it. We had children, and I tried. I tried so hard to connect……..but it was like living with a roommate. Don’t get me wrong…she is a good person. She is a good mother. We simply didn’t connect emotionally, and I felt like I was dying.”
The moon was getting higher, and she tried to put her emotions in a box as she listened to his story. It was becoming a very painful story, and she didn’t want to cry right there in front of a stranger. Not only was he not seeing her discomfort….he had apparently no concept at all of what her writing had actually been about.
He continued after his pause, “That is when I started the first affair. It was so simple. This girl I worked with was sweet and kept making sure she was on the committees with me. It was just so natural. I didn’t want to hurt my wife…..but the loneliness was killing me. At first we just talked and then…..the affair was full-blown before I knew it.”
He looked down at his hands and drank some more coffee while she swung her legs for a minute and then got comfortable in her chair. A new couple had just arrived at the coffee house and were chatting quietly as they walked past to take a table on the other side of the courtyard.
In a moment he continued. “After she found out about the affair….we tried counseling. I tried. The counselor tried. We worked hard and there were a few times when I felt a glimmer of hope. There were a few times when we would connect emotionally but then…..it would return to feeling like she was simply not able to connect. She was simply not emotional and couldn’t identify with my feelings. We went downhill after that, and I traveled abroad for a few months. I had been in contact with a woman over the internet who worked with my company, and we really hit it off. We talked for a long time every day about projects and things. It was not an affair. She had a boyfriend. We just connected….you know….emotionally.” His eyes were so sincere. She could almost feel the depth of his anguish as he recalled those months. “But when I was there…..it somehow turned physical. I just….needed a connection. I hated myself. I hated that I was the cheater and yet……I couldn’t stop.”
She was beginning to feel sick. Her stomach was turning and her nails were digging into the soft flesh of her wrist in an effort to control the tears that wanted to spill out. He had no idea what she was feeling…..and it struck her that even if she cried….he would have no way to empathize with her. She wanted to scream and run away, kick over the table and tell him he was a monster…..but he wasn’t. This man was hurting, and she would hear him out.
“I went downhill after that. I realized that I needed love….I was addicted to love. I loved the romantic attachment and the feeling of being in love. That is not a bad thing. I needed a wife who could feel and give me a connection. I so longed for connection…….” The words trailed off, and he breathed a deep sigh. “We finally divorced after counseling failed again. She found out about all the affairs, and I couldn’t believe I was that man. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be this man. I wanted to be the father my children could look up to and a husband who loved his wife. But I just couldn’t connect. ……Asperger’s……it felt like that.”
His story ended, and he looked at her. “My divorce will be final in a month or two. We are in the process of finishing up the paperwork details, and I moved out a few months ago.”
“So…..you are a sex addict, and you wanted to tell me your story?”
He looked a little shocked. “No….a love addict. I need love.”
“Oh……I see. So your wife is someone who simply couldn’t give you what you needed?”
“Yes…we tried. Counseling didn’t help. She just isn’t capable. It was very difficult to feel like I married one woman and then she turned into another.”
She shifted again in her seat and took a deep breath as those words began ringing in her ears….triggering long conversations from years ago.
He leaned forward and looked at her intently. “But that is why I was so thrilled to read your writings. I see your heart. You can feel. You have expressed such beautiful emotions and longing. God….it was beautiful.” He looked into her eyes and smiled. “Would you consider going on a date with me?”
She took a long breath and leaned back in her chair. “Ah…..no. I don’t date men who are not officially divorced for starters.” She didn’t really want to launch into all her reasons for not dating this man. It would make for a very long, tiring, emotionally draining evening and after hearing his story….her strength was gone.
“Let’s change the subject,” he suggested. “What do you think of ……” And his questions about philosophy and literature and history flowed as naturally as a stream to the ocean. He kept asking them for what felt like hours……and she saw a little of the man. He was wildly passionate about life. He was wildly passionate about his children and about his profession……..
But he was a sex addict.
His story was abundantly clear……and she sat there hearing him but thinking of her ex-husband. She wondered if somewhere in time, he was in a similar location talking about his ex-wife…..telling some beautiful woman that he had tried. He had tried and simply couldn’t connect. She was incapable of feeling those emotions. The irony of this man who thought she was so emotional that he invited her out for coffee hoping for a date before he was even divorced did not escape her. Even there, her heart was aching.
She wondered if her ex ever felt pain around their failed relationship, or if he could easily pass off the affairs and conversations…the black soulless consumption of people in an ever-widening circle of lust as…….his need for love. She sat there hearing about herself through this stranger’s story….the cold, passionless woman who drove a man to become….to become a cheater and adulterer. The woman who seemed so fun and carefree and sexy who became someone else……someone so prudish and conservative. Her heart hurt within her chest. It was hearing too much and feeling too much. She looked down at her watch and managed a weak smile. “I have to get going. My kids will need me home in a few minutes. It was good to meet you. Thank you for sharing.”
“Thank you!” He looked at her hopefully as he tried to jump up to see her to her car. He really did think she was beautiful.
She turned and left without a backward glance before he could even stand all the way up.
She sat in her car and began trying to breathe again. The moon was rising above the building and clouds were lazily drifting along the horizon . It was a beautiful moon….a moon full of desires and romantic stories. As she got her car started and pulled out of the parking lot….the tears finally spilled out in a raging torrent. Driving while crying was hazardous. Her chest was heaving and the sobs wracked her whole body.
How could this man not see? It was a mystery to her. How could he think she would go on a date? How could he think his story would be one she would be OK hearing? It made no sense……
And the memories began flooding into her mind……. along with visions of her ex sitting across the table from a woman explaining away their marriage…….because she was cold and unable to feel deep emotions.
As she got out of the car and headed into her house, the full moon was sitting in the top of the trees making beautiful patterns through the leaves that danced on the pavement in front of her. She paused to breathe in the sweetness and beauty of it.
As she stumbled into bed later, the stories and memories haunted her all night and chased her into her dreams like shadows dancing across the full moon rising.