Sometimes what you think you want isn’t what you really want at all – and that includes a wife and kids.
bowie15 / 123RF Photo
“I think we should part ways.”
The text message resonated in Joe’s eyes like a light beam that wouldn’t go away. Who the hell broke up via text? Wasn’t that a classless thing to do? He had tried, really tried to make things work with Kara. He listened to her complain about her job, her family, he’d brought her flowers, candy, dinner, and he never expected nor received a thank you from her. Yet when he pulled out the handcuffs, she went running for the hills.
He hadn’t meant to make her feel uncomfortable, and he tried to explain, but she wouldn’t listen. The laments of “you think I’m boring” just kept going on, no matter how much he tried to reassure her otherwise.
It just wasn’t fair. He had tried. He hadn’t done anything wrong. If anything, he had tried too hard to make this one last. He worked at this relationship, not like before, when all the partying took priority. Now he was ready to get real, to settle down and maybe even get married.
He was tired of looking at Facebook and seeing all his old friends coupled up with children, tired of having nothing to contribute to a conversation about kids, tired of having to explain at family gatherings about why he wasn’t married. Tired of people asking “When are you getting married; when are you settling down?”
But there were others who said, “You’re so lucky. I never have any time to myself anymore.”
Still, he was tired of all the dates with the psychos, the whiners, the serial daters. And he was tired of having to be the one who put in all the effort, tired of having to initiate everything. Tired of it. Maybe it was time he just gave up and became a crazy cat man.
“Hey, Joe. I’m worried about you. Breakups are hard for me too.” That was Nora, his running buddy, his gal-pal, his confidante from the fellowship — like a sister to him.
“I hear ya.” What was he going to say? Life sucks?
“I’m here for you. I may not have the words that will make you feel better, but I got an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on.”
Well that’s easy to say when you’re in a relationship.
It was 8:30, time to finish up breakfast and get to work. He got into his 2007 Camry and made his usual stop at Kinley’s, where he’d get his decaf coffee with a ton of Splenda.
As usual, there was a long line of commuters looking to gas up on caffeine before the daily grind. After he robotically ordered, he headed toward the door. That’s when he saw Adam.
“Joe!” Adam said.
Adam Johnson. His best friend since he was 8-years-old. In recent years, they hadn’t been getting together as much. Not a falling out or conflict, but different directions. Joe had gotten sober and was spending time with his fellowship, while Adam went the traditional route of wife and kids. Nowadays, they only got together about once a year. The last time was before he was with Kara, when Adam said something to the effect of, “You definitely need a find a chick to marry.” Three days later, he was with Kara, the one he thought would be that chick.
“Hey,” Joe said, shaking Adam’s hand. In tow were Adam’s wife Teresa and his two little daughters, Christine and Gail. “Hi Teresa. Hi girls.”
“Hey, I heard about what happened,” Teresa said. “Are you okay?”
“I’m okay; just gotta give it time.”
“Exactly,” Adam said.
“So are you guys excited for your vacation?” Joe asked.
“Yeah,” Adam said with a sigh. “Should be a good time. There’s plenty of hiking around Alamogordo and—“
“But we’re not gonna have time to do that,” Teresa said. “Uncle Scott and Aunt Carly are coming in, so we need to spend time with them, and I’ll need a ride to the spa with Naomi and Renee.”
“Yep,” Adam said. A brief silence followed, as Adam put his coffee down and Teresa glared at him.
“Alright, I gotta get going to work,” Joe said.
“Take it easy, I’ll call you, hang in there,” Adam said.
“Thanks, have a good trip everyone.”
As he drove over to the office, he wondered what it would be like to be prohibited from going hiking so you could hang out with your wife’s relatives and give her a ride to the spa with her girlfriends. Adam couldn’t hang out a lot of the time because of the demands that came with family. Teresa seemed to have him on a short leash. Adam was very into martial arts before Teresa made him sell the gear. “Clutter,” he had heard his friend repeat.
It was kinda nice not having to deal with that kind of thing. Plus, Kara was constantly complaining about her job. Her mother called her “a disgrace to the family” for missing a close uncle’s funeral, which was three hours away. What kind of family member does that? And what about the way he was constantly feeling unappreciated and undervalued.
Then, a thought occurred to him. He seemed to get off more on telling people he was in a relationship than actually being in the relationship. There were other problems earlier: the misinterpreted text over his attempt to help her, her constantly not wanting to go anywhere because she was too tired. He thought he could work through it to be “in a relationship.” And maybe it could’ve worked, if it wasn’t for the disagreement involving the handcuffs. It probably wasn’t meant to be. Adam always seemed to be in that kind of chaos, with the way Teresa micro-managed his every interaction and utterance.
Joe got into the office and escaped from his cogitation with phone calls to clients. At lunch time, he didn’t feel quite so much pain. He logged onto his Facebook page and made a change. Relationship status: single. For the first time, he was actually okay with it.
Copyright © Craig Wynne / 2015 Singular Communications, LLC.
Craig Wynne, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. He is currently researching singlism as pertains to academic careers. He has written articles on writing anxiety and enjoys writing fiction and how-to non-fiction in his spare time. When not immersed in his work, he enjoys hiking, running, and traveling. With respect to the latter, he recently taught developmental writing to high school students in Muar, Malaysia. He enjoys the single life and the freedom it gives him to grow.