The Present. We talk about it like we know what it means, how it’s supposed to feel. I suppose it could be the absence of longing (The Future) and regret (The Past), that feeling of awesome timelessness we felt as a kid with the grass beneath our backs and ever-morphing clouds above us which told an epic story that has always been the backdrop to our lives. That this moment, while fleeting, is the most real thing in our lives.
I remember distinctly wanting to break up with my exhusband about two months into our relationship. I received awful advice from a friend — who to her credit was taking it herself — who told me to push through my misgivings because on the other side lay happiness. Basically, that just because it didn’t appear to be what I really wanted I might be surprised to find it was good enough.
I don’t have to tell you how her relationship is today; I personally wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
So I listened intently, took a deep breath, and shut down all my misgivings about him. Ten and a half years later I see that night with her at some shitty bar with an even shittier cover band as the night I decided to do the wrong thing. I should have ended it.
I obsess over that night and try to weigh all the decisions after it. Of course a lot of what I hold dear would never have happened had I listened to my gut, namely my child. Actually, only my child. I tell myself there was no way of knowing, that he had us all fooled into believing he was stronger than he actually is, but I still feel responsible for choosing a man who chooses himself and his new woman over his own child.
My friends, with solemn, sad faces, have told me that Peyton will be ok because I am the mother, the mama, but my heart still breaks. Peyton loathes going back and forth between us and longs for us all to live in a house together. I might add that includes The Neighbor, the new woman (Kathy), all the besties and their mommies, too, and my mom and step-dad. Peyton’s Commune, we’d probably call it. The regret, the first of my life, is at times crushing.
Enter TN. A man whose limitations may be their own Litmus Test. Will he ever melt into me and my life? Can I really sign up again to be with a man who can’t connect in the ways in which I think I want to? I can’t even say definitively if I’d like it better. I’ve never dated anyone all the way.
I’ve never had anyone beg me to get closer, to spend time with Peyton, just the three of us or even just the two of them for ice cream. I’ve never dated anyone who wanted to meet all my friends and loved to plan fun things for all of us to do together. I’ve never dated anyone who missed me and brought me love notes and flowers.
In the very beginning, TN used to do little chores for me and to a small extent continues to do so, but he is over there, across the metaphoric way, doing his own weird, solitary, introverted thing. I have noticed that lately I care less and less whether I see him or not. It’s not a good sign.
When we touch, I am transported to the old Hy who used her body to connect, to slough off the pain and sadness she was wading through after she moved out. It feels familiar and I’m happy. TN is as ravenous as ever in these moments, but they are fewer and farther between. His 70 hour work week must be laughing hysterically at us.
I wish I knew what I should do here.
I have always hung on with him and I have always been rewarded, but this time it feels different. This relationship began backwards, without me thinking things through. I wasn’t ready for a real relationship so I wasn’t picking men who were ready for me and my life: my parents, Peyton, my sister. I wanted a guy who was ok with just the little bits I was willing to give and I found them in spades, TN being the biggest consumer of all.
But now I’ve changed the game, I want a real relationship with someone who comes up with fun kid-things to do on the weekends and who happily comes to dinner to help me manage my mother and step-father, who can’t wait to travel to Pittsburgh to meet high school friends or just a weekend away to a lake to fuck like rabbits and sit by a softly lapping shore.
I feel this longing, this Future, so keenly my body aches with indecision. Will TN ever be that man? Is it really all that important? Am I determined to be unhappy or are these feelings real? I’d probably be better off ignoring both The Past and The Future and examining my ever-changing Present, right?? I just don’t know anymore…
What I can tell you for certain is that TN gets the keys to his new apartment today and I’m strangely happy about it. He is, too.
All my worry and self-flagellating doubts about him have fallen away like a spaghetti-strap slip beneath his hands. I trust him, I got past my fear. Mostly because I’ve become honest with myself: I don’t know where this is going. I wish I knew more — but I can’t — so I will sit and watch the clouds for a while instead as I help him move in three buildings away.