Or Else What?

It’s almost lunch time and there is finally a lull between calls. I spin my desk chair around a couple of times and then look over to the full timers to join in their conversation.

“I’m going camping right after work.”

“In those shoes?”

“I told my husband to pack more… at least 4 pairs. Let’s see,” she says ticking them off her swollen fingers, “the sketchers, the sandals, the boots, the flip flops…”

“That sounds about right.”

“So help me, if he doesn’t remember to pack them. I put them by the door before I left and I told him, ‘don’t you forget to pack my shoes!’ he had better not forget.”

“He’ll probably forget. He did last time didn’t he?”

“Well, he had better not forget this time… or else…”

Or else what? I wonder to myself as I pick up another call. Or else what? I’m staring off into space wondering at this woman’s life. How she came to be here on the middle chair always laughing. Always content with herself. She told me once that they met in high school but she was too good for him, then. It wasn’t until he started coming round her parents place offering to help her Dad with this that and the other thing that she rethought her position. She told me she used to stare down at him from her bedroom window, absolutely livid that he would continue to show up there, day after day. I thought it was romantic, the persistence, not taking no for an answer. I can see him on the road outside her house with a stereo held high above his head. Of course, no one ever tells us what happens next. Now, she is overweight but still pretty. An ageing beauty queen. Well maybe not the queen, but at one time a contender I’m sure. A cheerleader at least. She leans back in her chair arms crossed over her belly and laughs loudly when I ask her if he’s handsome, “he might’ve been, but for the bald head and the beer belly!” Her laugh echoes around me and I scan the waiting room of the clinic. All these people in their tiny little bubbles. I imagine lives for them. They all seem to end the same. Marriage and babies and this woman laughing about her ugly husband. I wonder if she is everything that he bargained for. I wonder if he ever regrets standing outside her door with those carnations. That one last time she cracked. What life he might have led had she not been home.

U2 comes on the radio and I can hear it just barely beneath the harmony of the screaming baby. And I can’t live with or without you… I wonder if I’ll ever get over the fear. The fear for this life I see sitting next to me. Waking up one day in her shoes. Wishing I made different decisions with my life. I’m not scared of much. I’ll walk through dark alleys late at night. I’ll step out into traffic without looking. I’ll jump from that bridge or that plane or that cliff even though my heart leaps as I do it. I’ll move to a different country. I’ll walk away from love without looking back, if it begins to feel stagnant. But, this is what really scares me. Following your heart, being romantic, and then waking up one day in a room with floral window treatments and a living set from Ikea. An apron and a baby holding tight to the hem. An absent minded kiss from my husband as he leaves for work and nothing left but hours to fill. I don’t want to one day walk out my front door and be one more white picket fence on the block.

I don’t ever want to tell a twenty-something girl anything but that I’m still crazy for him. Everyday crazy for him. I want to be one of those loves. You know the ones. The middle-aged couple holding tight to each other in an airport in the middle of the day, oblivious. The senior citizens hiking through country sides, toasting to their life together. Family photos competing for space on my walls. That tender look from across the room. The love that lasts. Even if it means being on that hospital bed. Looking up at him and not being able to speak. Wasting away with nothing but his love and determination keeping me alive. Even if it crashes and burns bright enough to block out the sun. I’ll take it. Just so long as it doesn’t fade away. Just so long as the beginning doesn’t turn out looking like a dead end. Of course, that’s why they never show the day after in romantic films. No director, no writer, no actor or producer wants to break the spell. No one wants to think that even the fairy tales can end up quiet tragedies.

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16 thoughts on “Or Else What?”

  1. You contradicted yourself. You said she’s content. So if you were in her shoes, would you wish for other decisions? The way you portray her to me seems closer to your ideal than you think. Just because neither of them are impervious to age in the storybook manner, because he forgets things.

    My, I guess you’d call them step-grandparents, are your ideal. But the grandfather is fat and bald–huge, rotund belly. Brash, loud, smokes all the time. Would she prefer him otherwise? Maybe a little. But you rarely get perfection, and I imagine they are very close to it. They go on motorcycle rides together, run off across the country, bring their family together to play cards. If a still pond is clear would you call it stagnant?

    1. I say she’s content because she seems so in that life. From where I’m sitting, though, it looks like a sort of hell to me. But, then, most of the marriages around me look like different types of the same sad picture. To me. I don’t say she’s unhappy because I don’t think that she is. She seems content in the same way I could potentially be if I were the type to settle in a life like that, it might satisfy my most basic needs but to me that is not enough. That’s why I say if I were in her shoes I might be wishing I’d made different decisions. For a lot of people that is an ideal. Not for me. So I don’t think it has to be a contradiction. She is satisfied with her life and I am not. If you think that is my ideal then you don’t know me as well as you think.

      I’m not saying they have to be beautiful. I’m saying they should still be crazy for each other. I’m saying I would want to still be crazy for him. What you describe your step-grandparents as are very different from what I am describing here. It’s not simplicity that I am afraid of as much as mediocrity or the mundane. Those are very different things.

  2. I am so very glad I found your blog. This was something else.

    I am always saddened by couples who, many years on, play that game of describing one another as millstones. I am happier now than I was at the start and in ten years time I have every intention of being happier still. Just you watch.

    1. Thank you!

      That’s what I’m getting at. Every once in awhile you see the relationships that really seem meant to be. Maybe it’s compatibility. Maybe it’s something more. Maybe it’s a clever mix of luck and fate. I don’t know. I just know what I don’t want.

  3. I love this post. I love that there is someone else out there who believers in real love. I don’t want to just get married, I want to be in love. I hate talking to older couples who are in the husband/wife routine. I don’t want to be one of them.

  4. i just don’t want complacency. maybe that’s what you mean? my life needs to be constantly challenged and i need to create love, not find it. great writing as always

    1. You hit the nail right on the head. That’s exactly what I was trying to get at. I think the great loves, the loves that last or at least burn passionately while they do have a lot to do with challenging each other, with opening each other to new ideas and experiences. Though, I think that it is possible to find it.

  5. Here from Mr London St, possibly to flit.

    Romance is the possibility of blossom — what follows is the slow sad death of it. Unless you’re a lothario, I suppose, in which case, bring on the thorns.

  6. To be devil’s advocate, how do you know they DON’T have that crazy love? That there won’t be an eternity ring packed in the toe of her skechers, or a love letter across the sole of her flip-flops?
    My now-husband and I were horrified when a friend took it upon themselves to tell us that we made the group feel uncomfortable because we were “SO in love”.
    No, we weren’t playing tonsil hockey at the table, we weren’t hand-holding or even sitting next to each other, but in the middle of a conversation there he’d be watching me with the flicker of a smile, or I’d realise that I couldn’t join in the half-hearted bitch taking place because … I just didn’t feel that way. And now? We do the romantic random stuff…we just don’t advertise. It makes the people around us narky, like they know they’re missing out on something.

  7. Excellent post.

    Think you’re too hard on yourself re the getting it wrong in life thing. I honestly believe that there ARE no wrong decisions as long as the decision made at the time was done as honestly as you possibly could, however painful. Most decisions we make are the best we can at the time.

    So try not to be fearful of a wrong choice, it can be paralyzing. Isnt it a far more terrifying prospect to be so afraid of getting it wrong you put off throwing yourself into your life and taking chances?

    Great blog, will be back for more!

  8. I’m visiting from MLS’s place.

    You can be one of those loves – or was it meant to be lovers – either way you can be. It is sad to see staleness, but staleness can be avoided. Being aware of its possibility – or even probability – is a key step.

  9. The way you get that is you just don’t leave. The beauty of youth doesn’t last but you love anyway. You get annoyed with the other but you love anyway. Marriage, babies and laughing at the loss of the youth of beauty but you love anyway. This is life. It goes on day after day and one day blends into the next with excitement a dim memory but you love anyway. That’s what love is. That’s how you get to be one of those couples. You see it all, you grouse on the days it annoys you, you delight in the days it doesn’t and you love anyway.

  10. First, great post. I soaked up every word and feel I know this horrid, annoying woman. Now let’s look through another view – through her window. The woman is obviously a nitwit. We don’t love or even like her. But her husband does. Probably, he’s a nitwit, too. But whatever stupidity we judge this horrid nitwit and her nitwit husband for, they surely love in each other.
    You will never be another white picket fence. You may own one and the apron, too, but your husband will be cut from a different cloth than this lady and her husband were cut from. And even if your version of happy ever after looks mundane to outsiders, I doubt it will feel that way to you. If – that’s a big if – you marry for love.
    I share your fear of settling for less than amazing, too. I’ve torn myself away from less than amazing because of this. We just have to be patient. It’s gotta happen eventually, right?!
    Again, great post.

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