When we last left our columnist, she was uncomfortably ensconced with a group of gals who share one thing in common with her: Craig, her ex-husband. Maybe his ears were burning, because Sara’s phone buzzed with a text message from Craig immediately afterwards. Why is he contacting her? Read on?
To read the entire series of articles from the beginning, click here.
Saturday night, continued
Craig’s message: Call me.
Those two little words are enough to make my blood pressure spike. It’s like hearing “see me after class” but worse because now I’m grown up and I’m a mom, which means there are new and scarier possibilities for bad news. My first thought, of course, is that something has happened to one of the kids. I’m here on the beach and he’s there with our children. I force myself not to go into full-tilt catastrophe mode. Until I know what’s going on, there’s no reason to panic. And knowing Craig, he probably kept his message short and sweet because he practically just learned how to text (he’s tech-illiterate) and can barely see what he’s doing without his reading glasses. I call immediately.
“Is everything okay?” Please don’t let this be bad news.
“Oh, yeah, everything’s fine.”
Whew. BIG exhale. “So, what’s going on?”
“Oh, nothing really. I was just thinking. We were married a really long time. Longer than most people.”
Hmmm. I wonder where he’s going with this. “Yeah. And?”
“That’s it. That’s all.”
I realize now that Craig is feeling sentimental. This usually happens when he’s between girlfriends. And because we are the weirdos who have remained close friends and confidantes after our divorce, occasionally we will subject each other to morose wallowing in nostalgia. I certainly have my moments, too. In fact, just last week, I happened to drive by our old house. This Spanish Colonial Revival, built in 1919, was the first house we bought when we moved here 22 years ago. It’s the house where our son spent most of his childhood and our daughter spent her first five years. If any part of our marriage could be considered truly happy, it was probably during the years we spent in that gorgeous house, raising our young family, hosting dinner parties, sitting out on the wrought iron balcony with coffee and the Sunday Times.
As I drove past the house, I had a Twilight Zone moment. I imagined myself putting my key in the front door and being transported back in time. Craig’s in the kitchen cooking dinner, Rogan Josh, his favorite Indian dish; my son is playing Nintendo; my curly-headed daughter is in her high chair eating Cheerios. Craig turns from the stove to kiss me. Everything is the same as it used to be. Happy chaos in the kitchen, dogs in the yard, Cheerios on the floor. Husband. Wife. Family.
I sat there in my car, staring at my old house and wishing I could press some kind of cosmic reset button so I could go back and try again. What went wrong? Why couldn’t we make it work? We had everything.
I’m crying even now as I remember this; my point is, I am no stranger to sentimentality. So when Craig told me he was thinking about our marriage, I knew what he meant. But as I said, he only thinks about it when he’s between girlfriends. So I tend not to take this maudlin conversation too seriously.
“I know,” I say. “We were married a long time. I think about it, too.”
He sighs. “So. That’s really all I had to say. Having a good time at the beach?”
I tell him I’m having a fine time. I decide not to mention that two of his former paramours just happen to be here. As Billy Joel put it, I think I’ll “leave a tender moment alone”.
I ask Craig if there’s anything else he wanted to say. He tells me that, no, there’s nothing else to say.
Sunday, 8 p.m.
I’m home again. It doesn’t seem possible that only a few short hours ago I was in Florida, sun shining on my face, watching brazen seagulls pull an entire baguette out of Sherry’s tote bag. It was funny but also infuriating that baguette was meant to play a critical role in our dinner. The olive tapanade wasn’t quite the same without it.
Now that I’m home, the water and sun seem so far away. It’s going to be a long, cold winter here in the Midwest. I hope I find at least a little warmth, if not in the weather, then at least in the company of someone I love. Or like.
That reminds me: my washing machine seems to be broken.
Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.
Her novel, Wife Living Dangerously, is now available. Click here to read the previous installment of “Single in the suburbs”.