"I had a cool dream last night," AJ said this morning.
"I don't want to tell you. I want to keep it for myself."
I hadn't seen the boy for a few days. I gave up my weekend with him so he could spend it with X, whose family arrived from Sweden last week. AJ doesn't get to see his grandparents and cousins much, so I figured he would enjoy that more than playing Guitar Hero: Metallica with his old man (which we've been doing non-stop) or folding my hands while I take a bathroom break in the middle of another (mythical) Final Table run (three fictional times this month).
Predictably, he talked non-stop about what he'd been up to, from the good ("I got to stay up 'til midnight!") to the bad ("I went shopping with Mommy at Macy's. It was horrible.") and this weekend's wedding festivities. As excited as he is for all the action, he was also happy to be the center of attention again, one-on-one, instead of a single (albeit LOUD) voice among many. I'm sure he missed me, as I did him, but I think he was also relieved to get away from the chaos for a while.
For my part, I will be absconding to San Diego this weekend with Emet with an agenda of sun, baseball and Gaslamp District tomfoolery. It's not as if I need to get away to erect a denial bubble about X getting married, about AJ getting a step-family. I don't see how it really changes anything as far as my role. And as I've repeated many times, I have no longing for my "previous" life. Some regrets? Sure. But any desire to be back where I was four years ago knowing what I know now? None. That marriage was poisoned. I just didn't know it until after.
I'm sick of talking about it, actually (he said, as he talked about it) and therein lies part of the reason why I've been so scarce in this space. After all the drama, it has seemed to me that frivolity had lost its place here, that recitation of my mundane wanderings were beneath some sort of nebulous standard that I'd built in my head. Problem. If the writing is based on false prophets and perceived reaction, it's no good to anyone.
The second issue sounds cheeky on the surface, but it's undoubtedly true: I write less when I'm happy. Funny thing. I write to work things out. If nothing needs tending, then poof. Nada. I also cry more when ecstatic, touched, than when I'm sad, for what that's worth.
So, I'm happy. Deliriously so. And I haven't written about it because a) I don't do syrupy very well and b) like my son, I've kept this good dream to myself.
I was asked about Emet recently. I fumbled for words. Not because I couldn't find one. Because I found many. We share so much. Interests. Beliefs. Goals. I tried to encompass all of these things. What is it that set her apart from my previous failures?
Recognizing my past mistakes is part of it. Not fair to blame the women without looking inward. I've chosen badly. Not bad women. Bad for me. It all comes back to certain expectations, traits I believe I needed in women. I've had a rather large blind spot for most of my life, a misconstrued view of how relationships work. That can hardly be the fault of the other.
My mother relates a story: When I was six, I came to her crying and said, "What if nobody ever wants to marry me?"
That's pretty funny, in retrospect. But it points to a psychological issue which has dogged me, with various ferocity, most of my life. Many, including a wary Emet, have accused me of being that guy who needs to be in a relationship. There's truth there. I've denied it in the past, but no, it's probably right, though I would say it's less a need to be in a relationship than a need to have someone to relate to.
I'm a social animal. I crave being around people. I like debate. Camaraderie. Experience. I am not a sentient being (nine straight hours of play money online poker excepted). Stimulation is like bread, I need it to live. Whether it's out playing golf (which I've recently gotten back into after years of a bum wrist and life-crippling marriage) or spinning yarns from a bar stool with strangers, I need that to get myself out of my own fucking head, which is stifling in its own right.
I continually talk myself out of action. Of coloring outside the lines. Acute paranoia of offending someone else. Why I never argued with X. Why I have failed to take steps that would improve all of my relationships. That need to be liked. For want of someone willing to marry me, if you will.
At the most basic level, that's deception. Like political correctness. A person who says "African-American" when they would normally use the 'N' word is lying. The public face masks inner beliefs. If you think you've heard that one before, you have. X is the same way (though on a larger scale). Hard to believe we didn't mesh.
I've known this for some time and worked hard to be honest about how I feel, even at the risk of offending. I've succeeded, though I remain, as always, a work in progress.
I know Emet likes me for who I am. I've shown her parts others have not seen. Confessions. She is unlike any woman I've ever wanted. The word I found:
Something I am not. I don't mean time or money. I mean spirit. I mean selflessness. I never looked for that in a woman before. Never knew what an monumental difference it can make between two people until I received it. As such, I never knew how much those relationships were missing.
"We'll be friends for the next 40 years," she said to me once. Not "We'll be together for 40 years." Important difference. More meaningful in the sense that our relationship is grounded in mutual respect and admiration and trust, not subject to the whims of fate or unforeseen events. It says, "You have value," not just "You have value to me." She is calm and graceful and deep and thorough.
I've managed to meet my fair share of women who "liked" me. That was made easier by stacking bricks around those dark places I hid from them. Now I've met one who really sees me. And she's sticking around.
A couple weeks ago, Emet's Dad turned 80. There was a big party with her large family. I've met them all, of course, and they are lovely and close-knit in a way that makes me envious. This was the first time I'd brought AJ along, however, and like his recent situation, I worried about him, the Only Child, meshing with a dozen or so of Emet's nieces and nephews, my concerns the same as always, that he'll get along and not need to make himself the focus of everything (like he does at home. and school. and church).
He was mostly good. Took a football in the face and shook it off (he didn't want to cry in front of the big kids) and the big kids were careful to include him. He charmed the adults.
At one point, we all sat around watching a slide show. AJ got restless as it went on and there were no pictures of him and I had to shush him a few times. He slunk away, ending up next to Emet, where he silently slipped his arm around her waist and leaned into her hip. He stood there but a few minutes, but the message was clear. He's had so much thrown at him in his young life and yet, he remains the sweet, tender boy he's always been, appreciative of the people around who love him.
There's more of those people now. And that can only be a good thing. I assume, however, he'll keep those thoughts to himself.