“Our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared“
— Barack Obama
The other day, I was talking to B and she said,
“Well, you’re single now, so . . .”
Everything she said after that trailed off into muted noises.
I’m what? Get outa here, I am not! Wait . . . am I?
“I don’t feel single,” I said.
“I know.” B said. “But you are. It’s not a bad idea to, you know, get back out there.”
Out there. I looked outside. It looked cold. The wind was blowing, moaning along the side of the house. It seemed to be saying, “Join usssssssss.”
It added, “Brrrrrring a coat. It’s nippy.”
Fuck that, man. I wasn’t going out there.
“I’m just saying,” she said, “It’s okay for you not to want to be alone. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
“I know THAT!” I said. I felt like I was a teen having that special talk with my mom.
“You’ll meet other people and that’s okay.” B said.
I thought about this on the drive home. I honestly didn’t feel there was anything wrong with dating, again. It felt – feels – strange. Has it been long enough, blah blah blah. That’s not what I’m talking about. None of that matters. I’m saying, I never saw this as ever being a part of my life, again. I had a great marriage. A great relationship. I knew in my heart that Susan and I were going to spend the rest of our lives together. When she was sick, I never thought about the possibility of life without her. I pushed it out of my head. I was at war. I couldn’t let the enemy drain me with thoughts of defeat. Then, despite everyone’s best efforts, it happened. Now I am (single?) for the first time in over sixteen years. But in my brain, in my heart, I am still married. I am still in love.
I admit that I miss the perks of companionship. I’m not talking about combined incomes, or having help with the housekeeping; although, those are nice, too. I miss hugging someone. That’s an awesome thing that many of you take for granted. (My father in-law hugs me a lot, but that’s not really the same. For one thing, he squeezes me too hard.) Also, I miss kissing. Susan’s chemo eventually caused severe ulcers to form on the inside of her mouth, and her lips. We kissed infrequently during that last year. One more thing cancer robbed from us. When she was dying, there were two times that I pressed my lips against hers. Those are bittersweet, cherished moments.
Now, kissing seems as alien to me as it probably did when I was a young adolescent. I think, Wow, did I ever really do that? Man, I bet it was fun! Before any kissing stuff can happen, though, you sort of need to feel attracted to someone, yes? I haven’t . . . . . .
Okay, hold on a second. I have to tell you guys this story.
So, I went to get my hair cut not that long ago. My usual place was booked up. My second-usual place had an hour wait. I went to a nearby salon that I’d never been to before. My hairdresser was a young woman with blue hair. I told her it was a great shade of blue. She looked like an anime character. She was pleasant and funny.
When I occasionally looked over at the other hairdressers, they gave me an odd, knowing smile. It kind of weirded me out.
After she was done cutting my hair, we walked to the front counter. We kept talking. The transaction of paying seemed secondary. No one else was around us. The other hairdressers and customers were in the back part of the salon. I would start to leave, but she would ask me a question, or she’d just linger there at the counter like she was waiting on something. I hoped she realized I left the tip with my credit card. That couldn’t be what she was waiting on, could it?
Then, slowly, the dawn of realization:
I . . . think . . . she is waiting on me . . . to ask her out!
I felt an emotion that can only be described as “Whoa, dude!” I took a deep breath. I thought about the situation.
Then I left and got an ice cream.
Now – hold on! – let me explain. I wasn’t afraid to ask her out. I just didn’t know if it was what I wanted. She was a very nice girl. Attractive, funny. But when people go out it’s usually because one or both of them wants something from the other one. I wanted nothing from her. Except to get my hair cut.
I’m still trying to figure this stuff out. There’s a part of me that’s broken, to be sure. However, I don’t like being alone all of the time, either I don’t know that I’d be any happier being around someone else, is the thing. A fellow widower – with the best German accent I’ve ever heard – said to me, “Everyone thinks that you will be less lonely if you are around lots of other people. Or, if you find someone. My wife said to me before she died, You will need to find someone; I do not want you to be alone. But she does not get to decide this for me. I learned that no matter who I was with I still would be lonely. You are not lonely because you are alone. You are lonely because you miss the one you love.”
I think B likes the idea of me finding someone because it makes her less sad. It puts a button on the story and reinforces her belief that happiness is the status quo of existence. But this is one of those things that requires baby steps. Like learning to enjoy food, again. I know it’s strange, but since losing Susan, I’ve lost my taste for food. People marvel that I’ve been able to stick to my diet with such diligence. It’s not really that hard since most of my appetite has never returned. For two years while we fought Sue’s cancer, I stress ate. Eating was the only vice I could indulge in. Drinking was out of the question, since I always had to be ready to drive Susan to the ER at a moment’s notice. Exercise was out. I had to be home in case of an emergency. Food was my escape. Food, TV, and video games, God love ’em. Then, after Susan died, my need for these things left me. I can still taste food. I can tell that it tastes good or bad. I just don’t seem to care that much. So, what has left, then? My desire? Is my pleasure center broken? You’d think it would be working overtime.
As you can see, before tackling the leviathan of dating, I have smaller fish to fry. I’d like to be able to sit through a movie without getting antsy. Or, feel motivated enough to seek out an amazing restaurant because the bison burger and truffle fries are supposed to be to die for. I would love to be able to make myself play a video game. I stare at my game consoles sitting there, looking neglected, and I want to fire them back up But there’s some weird wall that I can’t push past. Is it survivor’s guilt? I don’t know, maybe. Although, since unlocking Susan’s iPad, I’ve been playing her damn Simpsons game. I don’t really like it, but I feel like I’m playing it for her. I’ve also been able to make myself watch TV more frequently. One night I even forced myself to take a night off from the gym and watch two whole episodes. So, like I said, baby steps.
There’s a bizarre double standard. Those like B think that I should get back out there and grab life by the hojos! Another faction is shocked to hear that I want to enjoy myself, again. I’m in mourning, you see. I shouldn’t want to feel good.
I do, though. I want that very much. Had the roles been reversed, I would have wanted that for Susan.
Sometimes people will come out and say point blank what they are thinking. But most others are too polite to do that. You learn to glean what they’re thinking from the things they don’t say.
So, I’m either being too tough on myself, or, I’m enjoying myself way too much. Let’s not even talk about these embarrassing blog posts! However, since I’m an artsy type, an eccentric as I’ve been told, people tend to forgive my lack of propriety.
Speaking of which, you have no idea how bad I want to end this post with a vulgar joke. No idea. I was this close. That’s the kind of thing that used to drive Susan nuts. I know that deep down she loved it, though. It’s part of my irritating charm. If she were here, I’d look over and tell her I was going to end the post with a dirty one-liner, and she’d say, “You are not! Oh, man, you’re going to for sure, now. Just to irritate me. See? This is why people think you’re -”
“I wasn’t going to say that. It’s why people can’t appreciate the real you. You don’t let them.”
“Oh, come on. It’s funny.”
“All right. It is pretty funny I hate to admit.”
“Then I’ll leave a postscript telling everyone it was your idea.”
“Oh, my God, you are killing me. Don’t let my folks see this blog post!”
She’s laughing, you know. Somewhere, somehow, I can feel it. I know she’s laughing.