This amazing blogger friend of mine, Fern, posted this that really touched me, first in a way that hit a tender spot and was uncomfortable to read, and second in a way that I then remembered how closely I could relate to.
This movie, Take This Waltz, well, the clip here sums my, and many others, experiences up in a few short beautifully composed moments of film. I recently saw this on the instant download list on my cable channel for new movies, and I passed it by when I read the synopsis because it just wasn’t a place I wanted to go emotionally. I was so done with polyamory, and those men in my life for whom I was not their only lover. I just was done with this storyline because I had lived it, and more than once.
I was forgetting when I was the person who wanted more, who wanted someone else. I can justify my own desires and actions away with the various things that were going on in my life at that time, how I’d been and was being treated by the person I was married to at that time, or that somehow “it’s so not the same”, but it would all be a lie. An excuse.
It was exactly the same.
I was married to a man for just over a year, separated just under the wire short of 12 months. There’s a lot of back story there, but that doesn’t matter as much as this one story in particular.
In the summer of 2011, one August morning, I was yahoo messaging with my friend Norris (you all might know him from my posts here as ex-FWB). He told me how his son had said how it would be cool to get to hang with me and my daughter again sometime. I didn’t take this at face value, as Norris was fond of asking excuses about seeing me. If he wanted to see me, he would make a reason for it, it was never because he simply wanted to. I know this because he had confessed it to me before. So, I read into this, and knowing how the kids hadn’t seen one another since they were like 9 or 10 years old, this just reeked of total fabricated excuse. Hr just wanted to see me, and I wanted to see him.
I was nervous about this because of the feelings it excited in me. I wanted to squash down the desire to see him, the happiness that he was reaching out to me, and the eager anticipation with which I looked forward to it as it eventually grew closer once I finally agreed to an afternoon together. I wanted to make excuses to get out of it at first because of the awkwardness that I knew would be there. My husband would be there. They had never met one another.
It was a late August afternoon, and we were going to spend it at the pool that is in my community. It was not very hot, but we were going to eek out the very last bit of summer that was left, and enjoy that last pool day even if the water was super cold. This would be fun for the kids, and good for us, with lots of personal space.
They were late and my husband who was very fond of naps (and pretty much a slow-moving, low-energy dude), decided to leave the pool and go back to our house for one. The Norris and his son arrived after much delay. It was late afternoon and the pool was mostly in the shade now, and fairly quiet, with only a few scattered people still resting on lawn chairs in what remained of the sun.
My daughter was in the water and beckoned the son in. This left the two of us, Norris and I, to sit at a poolside table underneath the shade of the umbrella to talk alone. I had gotten out of the pool only minutes before they walked in, and I was shaking. I thought this was due to the fact that the water was now fairly frigid, and although the air was warm, there was a breeze that was constant, and the air across my goose-bumpled skin was causing me to shiver. Then moment came when I realized that this should have passed by now, as although I was bikini clad, I was wrapped up in a large towel and should have been warmed. I then not only became nervous at being in the same space together again after so long, but anxious at the realization that my trembling was now more nerves than chill. Norris sat across from me, a safe distance between us.
We talked. Nothing said was pointed or floated on any sexy innuendo, but there it was; desire. Not the kind of desire, at least for me, that would have me holding myself back from wanting more right then, in that moment, restrained merely by circumstance, but more so desire that was the kind that is omnipresent between two people who are like souls.
That desire, that uncomfortable remembering of our past, was sitting there like a third wheel between my towel-clad shivering body, and his over-sized polo shirt and wrinkled chinos. I notice these details because this is unlike him, Norris was always well dressed, and wrinkled clothing that was too big for him was never to be seen on him, ever. I worry that I look fat in my bikini as I allow myself to unfurl the towel now that my shivering has dissipated. I relax my body into the back of he chair, cross my legs, and keep worrying he thinks I look fat.
After not too long, my husband walks through the pool gate, and begins his slow walk towards us. Norris asks if this is him, and I confirm it. And then the awkward grows.
I introduce them for the first time, hands are shaked, and pleasantries exchanged. My husband says something like, “So, Portia tells me you’ve known one another for a long time”, and the conversation continues. I remember not feeling sure how to act. As much as I was angry at my husband for many things then, I was still very much in love with him. And as much as I was married and in love, I was more deeply in love with Norris.
(I almost erased “more deeply”, but that would have been a big lie, and since I am not one for lying, I left it)
I didn’t want to not be myself with my husband, didn’t want to hold back my usual affections, but I also didn’t want to be overly affectionate in front of Norris towards him either. It’s a strange feeling when you’re trying to balance the emotions of two people, well ok, three. One, I didn’t want my husband to think I was acting strange. Two, I didn’t want Norris to feel…I don’t know what…hurt? Uncomfortable? I suppose whatever the feelings he had when we had lunch one day, many years before this, when remarked at the pictures of my then ex-boyfriend and I in Hawaii still framed and on the wall in the dining room with us, after I had tried to remind myself to take them down because I knew Norris would notice.
I felt like I was walking on a high wire above the ring, trying desperately to find the balance that would keep this whole event pleasant and sociable.
It was around 5 o’clock by this time and I decided that perhaps we should all go back to he house so I could start on dinner. I had invited them to stay for burgers and such a last BBQ ha-rah of the fading summer. The kids climb out of the pool, and we all meander back to the house.
The real mind blower came when I was in the kitchen making the salad, and Norris and Husband and both kids, were both out in the back yard at the picnic table just jabbering away together famously. My husband was getting more time to talk to the person I wanted to be talking to and spending time with.
The night was fun. Dinner was great, conversations flowed effortlessly, dessert was had and martial arts movies introduced. At one point Norris was sitting on the sofa and I sat down next to him, nt close, but close enough, and he shot off that thing like he was shot froma cannon! He offered my husband the seat. It was a large sofa, and there was more than enough room for all of us on it comfortably.
Goodbyes were made around 8:30 ish.
After the door closed, my daughter whisked me upstairs and told me “You made the wrong choice. That was the guy you should have married!”, and this just messed with me because that was the guy I wanted to marry, but he never asked.
The husband, well, later that night he asked me if Norris and I had ever slept together, and I blushed like a school girl embarrassed by the surprise questioning, and said “Yes, but that was a long time ago”. He told me he could tell the minute he walked inside the pool gate and saw us. He said he could tell just from the way we were sitting, how we were with one another. I was unsure how he could tell that from two people not even sitting beside one another, with a whole table separating them for safety. I don’t know what he saw. Maybe he made that up, maybe he really saw something I was unaware of. He said two people can’t be sitting together like we were when you’ve never been intimate with each other before. I don’t know. I didn’t see what he saw. I only felt what I was feeling. I’m not sure what the tell-tale sign was. I wouldn’t have thought, looking at us, that we were anything more than friends.
The next two weeks were pure emotional upheaval. I was getting my period and blamed my irrational thoughts on that emotional unraveling that sometimes comes with that time of the month. I told myself to take a deep breath and relax, but all I could think about was Norris. He was all I thought about, all I wanted to think about.
My husband, who I knew really didn’t love me (and that’s not a made up feeling to help me excuse my own, it just was…he was pining for his ex-wife…for the life he screwed up), was just not paying attention because it was evident that something was stirring madly inside me. I played the song that Norris had once told me made him think of me, over and over and over again on YouTube. I sang it in the shower, while cooking dinner. I was preoccupied. I was running around the track at he Y fueled by a desperate fire inside me that would not let me go, that incessantly tossed my heart about, a fragile paper heart, floating on the heat of something that was once in a way, could’ve been, but never could be now.
And he had turned me away anyway a year earlier. Norris told me he loved me, always had loved me but could never bring himself to tell me, and then after he finally told me, told me all the reasons why we could never be. What was I thinking?
I was going mad.
I needed to be alone to talk myself off this emotional ledge.
I was guilty of the very thing I hated my husband for. I made every excuse to justify how what I was feeling, thinking, wanting, yearning for was somehow different from what I hated my husband for feeling towards his ex-wife, and although yes, there are circumstances and back story here that you would probably agree that I was MORE than justified too in my thoughts, but even in the light of all that murky dark, we would both be wrong because it was all in secret, all kept neatly hidden.
I was now no different.
When I did have the chance to act though, one year earlier (and only a month before my wedding date), when he called me one night and wanted to whisk me away for a quickie, I said no. I didn’t want to either, I wanted to say hell yes, yes yes, but I didn’t. At least I have that integrity of my heart.
We are not as perfect as we would like to imagine. Our lives are not all cut and dry, clean and neat, like we would like to pretend. Our real emotions our deepest thoughts and most secret yearnings are no different, or any less unscathed than those of our neighbors. We can judge. We can sit back and say what someone has is better, or more perfect, but it never is.
I knew my husband and his previous wife long before he became my one-year husband. On the outside looking in, I thought what they shared was perfect, and how that was the kind of love I wanted. I was never more wrong in al my life. 13 years after meeting them I knew it was the FARTHEST thing from what I ever wanted in a relationship.
I’m ready to watch that movie now. I also don’t want to go there again.
So you know, my divorce had nothing to do with the events of this August afternoon, or any day after involving Norris, or my feelings for him. That story can come another day.
I don’t miss my ex-husband for a minute, but I miss Norris every day.