Bill … junk … bill … junk … junk … junk …
Oh Jeez! The pile of paper in my hands cascaded onto the hall table as I held a single heavily embossed French vanilla envelope in my hands. I turned it over anxiously to see which of my dumb-ass friends had succumbed this time. Suicide by matrimony had been a particularly virulent epidemic that ran like butter’s proverbial hot knife through my cadre of friends lately.
Hmmm … Maui — I didn’t recognize the return address; I flipped the envelope over again to make sure it belonged here. This wouldn’t have been the first time my heart had come to a halt due to mail carrier malfunction. Crap! ‘Ms. PD Williams’ — it was mine alright. I steeled myself as I prepared to see which of my friends was the most recent fly to drop.
“John Michael Roberts and Ana Cristina Gunther request the honor of your presence …”
Ana? Really? That’s certainly a blast from the past. The last time I’d seen her – several years ago — we’d gone for coffee after we’d run into each other shopping. Over some incredibly delicious lemon madeleines we caught up on our lives. Her wedding? That means she finally got rid of that slimy, snarling jackass she was married to at the time. I never liked him. But why would she have invited me to this one? We hadn’t spoken in eons. As I opened the invitation, a handwritten note fluttered to the floor.
I do hope this little surprise finds you well. And close your mouth! I’m laughing because I know you’re reading this with it wide open.
Do you recall the last time we met? We were having coffee and I asked how your husband was doing. Your answer I remember as clear as if it was yesterday: ‘Don’t know and don’t care. The sonofabitch formerly known as my husband didn’t leave the building; I kicked his ass out of it’.”
Among the things Ana and I had in common were a pair of husbands who didn’t deserve us. Mine was severely allergic to work. Ana’s – true to his Teutonic nature — knew nothing but, at least that was what he would have her believe. As it turns out, it was only Mr. All-Work-And-No-Play’s little sausage that was still going like the Energizer bunny at all hours of the night. Of course, Ana knew – and, embarrassingly, so did the rest of us — but she felt powerless to do anything. He’d taken over her business — and she’d become a housewife. She was stuck with him.
“I was so miserable. But as we laughed, the strangest thing happened. I actually felt like I was growing taller. By the time we said our good-byes, I’d decided that if you could do it – and be so happy about it – I could too. I filed for divorce that very next week.”
Wow! She never told me that! And I’m glad she didn’t – I would have felt so guilty. Jumping the nest and flying under one’s own power is not easy. As much as I would want my friend to experience the freedom I enjoyed, I would never have wished on her the stress and uncertainty of having to start over and support herself again after having been taken care of for so long.
“It wasn’t easy, but every time I found myself crumpled in the corner crying, I’d hear your voice yelling at me to ‘shut up, buck up and go kick some ass.’ I know you never said that to me, but I pretended you did. Because I knew that had you seen me, you would have.”
She was right. And I was flattered that she knew me so well.
“A little while later, I was in the dog park with my Chiquita (speaking of which how are your little doggies; I think their names are Lilli and Clifford?) when I met Jay. You would love him. He’s very smart (he’s an architect), he’s so handsome (you would approve) and he’s almost ten years younger than we are. I’m so very happy; he’s the love of my life. And I owe it all to your kick in the butt.”
My heart did a little happy dance as I thought about Ana replacing her perpetually red, swollen, tear-filled eyes with laughing, smiling, sparkling ones. Of course, other parts of me did a little happy dance, envious of her cradle-robbing nights.
“The date is in May, so you have no excuses – and I will tell you – we did that on purpose so you can be here (and so you’ll feel very guilty if you say no). We will be your after-tax-season vacation this year! Jay has a little condo here on the island; you will be our guest. I can’t wait for you to meet him! Call me and we’ll make arrangements!”
While I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve treasured my freedom these past eight years, the possibility of sharing my life with a man somewhat imperfect — but nonetheless perfect for me – is, in fact, titillating.
Perhaps it’s time to stop being so fearful of screwing up and getting hurt again that I deprive myself of some potentially incredible experiences. Perhaps it’s time to stop pressing my nose against the cold glass of that one restaurant I so love — but whose door was never open to me — and explore warmer, more welcoming venues. Perhaps it’s time to stop starving myself — time for my palate to smile again with a new chef’s amuse-bouche.
Maybe — just maybe — it’s time for me to shut up, buck up and go kick my own ass.
After all, if Ana can do it — and be so happy about it — I can too.