It’s a beautiful morning full of bright blue sky and birdsong. Jim is working, so it’s just me, four dogs, one cat, an assortment of unruly weeds, thirsty gardens, dust motes, and undeniable joy. I’ve been mulling the idea of cost. What does personal freedom cost me? What price am I willing to pay for my integrity? How much am I willing to work for what I truly want? That is the (eventual) thrust of this short story I’m sharing in bursts with you. Here is Part Two.
“I’ll be right back with that cream,” I mumbled, while thinking I need another pot of coffee so I can hide the whiskey I’ll need to survive this day.
I got up, grabbed the two empty plates and asked, “Should I make another pot of coffee?”
He smiled and shivered as a body would shiver it if were speaking soto voce, but I refused to acquiesce to the passive-aggressive dramatics, ignoring him by walking away. We were staying outside, and that was that. It was at least 72 degrees, which by Seattle standards is as good as it gets. Seattle-ites stop wearing socks with their sandals when the temperature rises above 60. Seventy degrees will bring out the shorts and bathing suit tops around here. Max (the ex) hails from Mission Beach, San Diego, where a brisk 72 degrees would mean sweaters, wool socks, and thick down-filled vests.
Weather wimps, I thought.
“I’ll bring you a blanket,” I said as I moved towards the back door.
Moving from my hometown of San Diego, where the sun shines for 255 days of the year, to Seattle, where the weather is constantly changing, had fundamentally changed me. Why get upset about the rain? Sure, I’m used to sun, but so what? I invited this change by moving away. I left everything I knew, all of my friends and family, my home, my beautiful Mediterranean garden, and even most of my furniture, to start a brand new life. I created a new chaos, but why not dive into that and learn new things? What can I do about the chaos life brings, anyway? Nothing. Instead of whining about the heavy gray skies, or the rain, or the snow, or the unbelievably cold and damp wind, I’ve learned to embrace the unpredictability of this place. I’ve found an unshakable peace here. Max wasn’t going to screw this up for me. I wasn’t going to let him. He didn’t hold the sway he used to have.
I went into the kitchen and dropped the dishes in the sink, then started a new pot of coffee. While the coffee brewed, I went into the pantry for the desirable whiskey, but decided against it. I wanted to have all my wits, because I had no idea why, after ten years of complete silence, Max was shivering like Tallulah Bankhead on my patio. I was secretly glad that I’d spent the last few days pulling weeds. If he’d come to visit a few days earlier, the horrible things he’s said about my crappy work ethic would seem true.
The kids told me last week that he’s getting a divorce from wife #2. He was having an affair with her before our divorce was final, so they’ve been together for almost twenty years, the same amount of time my marriage to Max “lasted,” if one could call it that. We hadn’t been much of a couple for fifteen of those twenty, and according to the kids, things hadn’t been that great with Chris (#2) either.
“He’s always making her do all the work,” my son had explained.
“When we go over there for dinner, he sits on the couch and orders her around. She flits back and forth, bringing him drinks, cleaning the house, fixing dinner, setting the table, and everything else.
He won’t let us help her, either. He tells us to sit and talk with him while she does all the work.”
He told me that his father doesn’t take out the trash, doesn’t clean the cars, doesn’t mow the lawn, or even change light bulbs in the house. He drinks a beer and leaves the bottle wherever he took the last swig. He leaves his dirty clothes on their bedroom floor.
“But Mom, he expects that house to be immaculate. He yells at her, right in front of us, if anything is out of place,” he explained.
Blah, blah, blah, I thought. This is so stereotypical, isn’t it? Emotional abusive, lazy, distant, impotent man married to compliant, eager-to-please doormat. It never goes well for the doormat.
I should know.
I noticed that there were cobwebs in the corners of the kitchen ceiling and swatted them away with the nearby kitchen towel just before Max walked through the door.
“Look, we really do need to talk. Can’t we just talk in here? This is important stuff and we’re going to need to sit down and write some things out on paper. Get your laptop too, okay? Here’s the deal. I’ll just blurt it out and then we’ll have plenty to talk about. Remember the accountant we hired for the agency? Joel?” he asked.
“The guy who looked like Thom Yorke, except with a mullet?” I asked.
“Nevermind. Yes, I remember him. Why?”
“We met with a couple of lawyers last week and they all agree,” he began.
“I need to give you $500,000 before the end of the year.”
I stared at his unreadable face…
“I’ll go get my laptop,” I said.
But first, I headed to the pantry for that whiskey.