Next Stop, San Francisco
My friend Margaret keeps telling me to stop writing about my relationship.
Stick to the cat, she says.
Who the hell wants to read about a cat every day? I don’t. The cat is not that amusing.
Sorry, Marg. You should close your eyes now. I’m going back there again.
The rollercoaster slowly clicked up a huge hill last night. I want to grab Jeanine and get off. Now. Please.
Something had to give. I was feeling hopeless.
Jeanine sat in therapy and said,
I'm lonely and sad.
I immediately got defensive but I stayed calm. I'm sorry, I said.
She talked for a while. She was annoyed. This calm thing, she said, feels like distance.
The therapist noted my reluctance to join.
I don't trust her, I said. I’m afraid I’m going to get nailed soon. And I’m trying not to have a self-absorbed response. I’m trying to listen.
Jeanine said, it's not your fault. I do this to myself. I isolate myself. And then I'm lonely.
I miss you, she said.
I still felt wary. It’s hard, however, for me to stay in that place when she looks at me with those eyes. Especially when they are teary. From day one, I could not resist her eyes.
The therapist said, okay, could you each give one moment, one time, when you really loved your relationship?
Jeanine started. That’s easy, she smiled. When we got the rings at Natick Mall. We were inseminating for the first time, first child and Sara refused to go through with it until she had a ring on her finger.
She described the irony of choosing a ring for our alternative relationship in a very suburban, status quo mall. She held up her hand. This one.
She still wears the gold band I needed to have to get pregnant.
It was a funny story.
I said, when we went to San Francisco as a family. We went to Chez Panisse. It was the culmination of all my work to turn Jeanine into a foodie. The final hurdle. It was fabulous. The kids still talk about it even though Jake was only a baby. We went to Alcatraz and they wanted to lock me in a cell. They still delight in the chocolate volcano they had at the Rainforest Café.
It had a sparkler, Ben sighs.
And mounds of brownies and sauce… Zachary adds.
Maybe their first foodie memory, too.
I lightened up.
She was waving the white flag.
I said, listen. We have three kids. Two husbands. And fifteen years together. We still like having sex with each other. We have to be able to make this work.
We talked for a while about her work- why she is drawn to it is not so easy. A lot of layers, good and bad.
Please, explain it to me, I said. I want to understand. Hopefully the calm wasn’t annoying when I said that. I meant it to be reassuring. I was not angry about it. I really wanted to understand.
The hill, though? She said she missed me.
And it wasn't my fault.
The therapist said you’ve both made mistakes in this relationship. You are both at fault. Can we let that go now? How can you come back together?
I have a lot of hope after tonight.
Maybe it's just the Christmas season.
No matter what, I want to grab her and get off the rollercoaster.
And go to San Francisco again.