It began as a place for me to sound off about the weirdness in my life.
My marriage was failing, and my step-daughter Maya had just undergone treatment for a brain tumor. I felt that I still loved my wife Linda, but she had become almost impossible to live with since her daughter had been diagnosed with the tumor. I say this now, but at the time, I simply couldn’t understand her coldness to me. She was depressed, of course, about Maya’s illness, and feared she was going to die. Even after Maya was operated on, experienced the hell of chemotherapy, and then had been through radiation treatments, Linda continued to be depressed and refused counseling. She believed that Maya would die. She drove me and Maya crazy with her obsession with that, despite the fact that Maya had survived and was found to be free of cancer. Her cancer had been an extremely rare brain tumor, one that had not spread to other parts of her body, and Maya’s blood and spinal fluid were free of any cancer cells. In short, there was every reason for optimism, but Linda would not let her fear go.
I learned, through the experience, that I loved Maya fiercely. I had lived with her about 13 years as she grew from girl to woman, and I had been shocked and scared as well that we would lose her. It was this possibility that Maya would die that hit me over the head with the fact that I loved her dearly. I hadn’t thought about it before. It was new to me that, (1.) I loved someone else besides my wife, and (2.) it was an unconditional love for another human being, and (3. ) she might die, and (4.) I didn’t want her to die. After she began treatment, I relaxed. It looked as though she would survive. I felt something new: joy, joy that she would survive. I had been so depressed at the prospect that Maya could die, that the idea that she would not die came as the purest feeling of happiness I’d ever experienced. Up until that epiphany, I had never known such a feeling existed in reality.
In fact, I had been unhappy. Life with Linda had become difficult. Her negativity, her constant put downs, and her coldness were not new. She had been that way all along, and I simply didn’t care. I loved her, so I made excuses for her abusive behavior and her lack of human warmth and kindness to me. I was making do. During sex with her I felt closest to her, but sex was not something she cared much for. It was as though she allowed me to have sex as her duty as a wife. It was not something important to her. I had known passion with other women in the past. I loved Linda passionately, I felt, but she did not, could not, respond in kind. Such is life. I became accustomed to that, but I felt trapped. I wanted more from life. I was willing to accept that Linda gave me all she could, and my love for her was enough. Sometimes I felt that I deserved no better than that.
However, one day, when Linda roughly pushed me away when I touched her, I made a decision, a decision based on years of being pushed away, without explanation or gentleness: I was no longer going to stay committed to monogamy. This was the one relationship I’d had where I had actually felt monogamous. I hadn’t wanted other women. Other women were pretty, but not sexually attractive to me. My life before this marriage had been one in which I was always seeing or meeting women I felt physically attracted to. Being in love with Linda, I found her to be the only woman I wanted to be with. Now, I was tired of longing for her and being rejected over and over. I could have tolerated little or no sex if she had been respectful of me, of my opinions, my feelings, my hobbies. She was not. If she had given me any comfort at all during Maya’s illness, I’d have been happy. If she would have touched me sometimes, with a caress, or hug, or a warm kiss, I’d have stayed happy. But, there was none of that. I’d begun to feel as though I existed in her life only to provide entertainment, and pay the bills.
Having made this decision that I was open to other women, I began to notice the women at work, and notice that I could be attracted to other women than Linda. I spoke with a woman who worked in the department office, and found her appealing. Her accent and manner reminded me a bit of my brother Pat’s Texas wife, who he is now divorced from. She was very pretty. I lightly flirted with her, but she didn’t appear to be interested, although she was single and quite friendly. One day, at an office Xmas party, I was introduced to a young woman who worked part-time in the department: Karen.
Karen and I hit it off right away, discovering that we had an unusual but strong affection for a science fiction TV show, Babylon 5. Trekkies didn’t seem to like it much, and although we had both been interested in Star Trek at one time, we had both been much more fascinated with the Babylon 5 universe created by J. Michael Straczynski. Karen pointed out articles and blogs by Straczynski, which showed that his politics and beliefs heavily influenced the show, and that those politics and beliefs were the same ones held by Karen and myself. This was beyond belief to me at first. I’d had never met anyone like her.
Over time we discovered a mutual admiration for certain science fiction authors, of the characterization in Marvel Comics, of Japanese Anime, and a love of peace, and justice. I came to believe Karen was like a soul mate to me, trite as that phrase is now. I fell in love with her. I desired her intensely. I lusted for her. She is quite sexy. Two major problems: (1.) I was married, and (2.) I was much older than her. At first, I was not that interested in Karen except as a friend; she was just too young. Over time, I decided, self indulgently, that I didn’t care about her age. She was in her middle 20’s and quite old enough for me after all. I found that, although I felt I still loved my wife, I wanted Karen. I loved her too. Initially I wanted both women; something very selfish, and very impossible. Karen made it clear she wasn’t like that. She would never be a married man’s lover. (In theory, since we rarely talked about anything personal). In fact she did not want to know anything about my wife, or hear me speak of her at all. I wondered about that; in my delirium, I thought it meant she was jealous of my married life, perhaps of my wife. I hoped it meant she cared for me. However, she never wanted to meet except for lunch. Lunches with Karen became very exciting for me.
If you’ve read the entries in this blog, you know that things got worse and worse for me. Linda and I divorced. I briefly hoped that an obstacle to at least dating Karen was gone, but no, Karen told me that even going to a movie together (Silver Surfer) that we had both planned to see was like a date, and a date was inappropriate. After that, our relationship (we had been eating lunch together every Friday for about four years) deteriorated. She was more and more often busy, and just didn’t have time for me as often anymore. Our lunches became rare and awkward, and pretty much stopped. Between Karen and my divorce from Linda, I was often sad, and becoming more depressed by the day. My job no longer gave me any satisfaction, and I wanted out. The divorce had resulted in my loss of the house I had jointly owned, and all the money and time I had put into it. I had previously sold my own house, paying off debts Linda and I had accumulated, so I didn’t think I could retire, as I had no money left to buy another house of my own. I had been close to paying off the house Linda and I owned, but she got the house and I got to keep my pension. After two years, and giving it a lot of thought, I said: “Fuck it,” and I retired anyway.
I didn’t see my ex-wife again for four years, and I never saw Karen again. I came to understand that Karen may well have been a substitute Linda, for one thing, in that I hoped to have my feelings for Linda reciprocated from Karen. I may have simply transferred my feelings for Linda over to Karen. But, there is an odder possibility that I spent much thought upon. Since Karen was just slightly older than my step-daughter Maya, and initially there was the possibility that Maya could die, perhaps I unconsciously began to substitute Karen for Maya? What that said about my feelings for Maya troubled me, but I came to believe that I wanted Karen more than anyone in the world, that I would die for her, that I would do anything for her, and she was all I ever wanted in the world anymore. It was, I believe, a psychological illness. I was loony tunes, out of my head (well, trapped in my head to be accurate). I no longer had any anchor to reality. Impossible things seemed possible, and the possible seemed false and unreal. I spiraled into a deep depression, and I really did want to die. There just didn’t seem to be any reason to live any more.
It took some time, some brief counseling, and a bit of antidepressant, but I lost all interest in Karen; I can no longer believe I was ever interested in her. It shocks me to think I thought I loved her. I loved my ex-wife Linda, and still do. I love my step-daughter Maya. Nothing else ever mattered; nothing else matters now. I have tried dating, but without success. A woman I used to hike with was very nice to me, but the relationship never went anywhere, and appears to have died out. I was initially extremely lonely and often horny, but all that seems to have faded away now. I do not find most women attractive. Recently I found myself interested in another young woman, a model I took photographs of, but that was brief, stupid and doomed to failure, for the same reasons my relationship with Karen was never going to go anywhere.
I once wrote, in the short story, The Boy Who Rode His Bicycle Into Manhood, that I spent the rest of my life simply walking the ditches around my neighborhood, reflecting on my life, and never interacting in any meaningful way with another human being ever again. It seems that pessimistic and depressing ending of my story is actually coming true! That is my life now, although it is not as depressing as I thought then. It just is.
What prompted this sudden return to this blog? I went to a salsa concert the other night. I was enjoying the music, and watching the dancers, and then Linda walked in. A friend of hers recently moved here and they share our old house, so they came together. I think they both saw me, but neither acknowledged it. They looked in my direction when I was the only one in that direction (up on the balcony above their heads). I was shocked to see Linda, and that she looked really good to me. I considered going over to where the two sat down, and asking Linda, or her friend, who I had been friendly with, to dance. But then I saw Linda dancing with someone, and having a great time. It reminded me of how much we loved salsa dancing and how often we went: usually once a week, but sometimes twice a week, and for most of the 14 years that we had been together. It wasn’t unusual for Linda to dance with other men at the club we went to. Most were friends she had danced with before meeting me, and other times she just liked to dance with the experts. That’s the way things are in these salsa clubs and dances. Even if people come with a date, everyone dances with everyone else. A man usually asks a woman’s date or husband for permission first, and after a few times it is understood without asking.
So, I was not jealous seeing Linda dance with another man the other night. It was a feeling of sadness, terrible sadness, that I was no longer part of her life, that I could never dance with her again. My feelings so overwhelmed me that I stayed rooted to one spot for an hour. Then, I considered jumping off the balcony. Obviously I didn’t. I never asked anyone to dance, never went over to Linda and her friend to say hello. I just listened to the music, watched the other dancers, and drank three beers. I am not part of Linda’s life and can never be again. We could not live together anymore anyway, but my desire for her is no less, after four long years of sobriety, soliloquy, and solitariness. Oh, well. That is most certainly the way life can turn out. I had a good run. I stay busy these days, hiking in the mountains, reading, watching old movies, and helping make wine at a local winery. All of it distracts me from my sadness for brief amounts of time, so I’m optimistic that I will actually find happiness in just living again. I used to want passion in my life; now, I would just like a reason to live. Love & Other Madness was a small slice of my life, a time when I slipped the bounds of reality and dared to dream of greater happiness and passion. In so doing, I lost everything I cared about. I make the motions now, do things, talk with people, get some exercise. It’s real.