“Hey, Dad. Dad!”
Collie was sitting on the table next to the futon. Light filled the study. I glanced at the clock; it was just after seven.
“You’re up early, Collie.” I grabbed my pillow, pulling it close.
“You and mom fell asleep watching television.”
I looked over my shoulder. “Oh yeah?”
“Yep. She went upstairs to go back to bed.”
“Smart of her,” I said, closing my eyes.
“She was naked. Are you naked too?”
I opened my eyes.
Collie was sitting next to my pajamas. I reached over and pulled them under the covers.
“I guess I am!” I said, sliding a leg into my pajamas with one hand, holding the blanket in place with the other. “Funny, I thought I had put these on. D’oph! Silly me, huh?
“You want to watch some television? Wonder what’s on? Hey look, SpongeBob! Awesome! Let’s watch it together! I’m going to make some coffee. You want some juice or anything?”
I put on a kettle in the kitchen. There was a bottle of bourbon on the counter. I put it away.
Lucy and I were watching something on television the night before, but it was just background noise. We were talking about the kids, how things were planned for Christmas, passing the time until we were sleepy enough for bed. She finished her drink, and offered to get me another.
We talked, we drank. She finished her drink before I finished mine, and got up to fetch us another round. She returned and lay down, close to me. I had a sip. You’re drinking a fair bit tonight, I noted. I’m a seasoned lush, but she was always a lightweight.
I’m drinking a lot more these days, she said. A lot of things in my life are different,
Me too, I said. We’re going to have a lot to talk about one day, when we can compare notes on our lives apart during this past year. I squeezed her hand. It was nice to think that one day, we might be able to be open. Maybe we could be friends again.
She began to talk about her dating experiences. She had been seeing a lot of men, she said. No one special, but a lot of one night stands. She attends many concerts, and she meets guys at those, or at bars, or through friends, or through her job . . .
I listened. I asked questions, without prying. I was glad she was opening up to me as a friend, and not seeing me only as an ex, an enemy. It had been so long since we were relaxed with one another.
I did not offer comparable war stories. I listened, and I felt close to her. I knew that hearing about me and other people would only hurt her, or stop her from sharing.
I didn’t trust her enough to open up about myself. But I trusted myself enough to listen.
She talked about flings with young men, saying they were tough because she didn’t want to mislead them about the “dream.” What dream, I asked? The whole getting married and being happy thing, she said. Because that’s not where I’m heading. I understand that, I allowed.
She talked about being with married men, and others who didn’t really attract her. She talked about all the flirtations she had with the fathers of our children’s friends. She was hanging out a lot with the boyfriend she had before meeting me, and his wife. There was no sex there, but she liked being a part of his life again.
I identified with all she was saying. I had long thought that each of us was the person best prepared to understand what the other had been experiencing. I wanted to share my life too, but that could wait for another time.
Was this the same woman I once knew so well? The woman who had been with so few men before marrying me? The woman so dead set on monogamy and commitment? The woman who so enjoyed sex, but had so little interest in it?
She was not drunk, not at all. But she was in a mood to talk, and the bourbon had helped.
“You know,” she said, looking into my eyes. “You are still the only man who has made me cum.”
“I’m glad for the distinction,” I said, touching her hair, “but I’m sorry you aren’t getting off.”
As she told her stories, she repeated this revelation. I put my arm around her. I held her close. I know, I said: what we had was special. It’s hard to move on from that.
She said it again. I was the only one who could get her off. I touched her face. She kissed me.
We have spent so much energy being angry with one another. Her cruelty has pained me so much. I have tried not to hurt her, to be above that, but I’m sure I have.
Kissing her, I felt that finally we acknowledged that we don’t hate one another. We share too much. We can have some kind of future that isn’t about bitterness.
Our pajamas were gone. I was in her. We kissed, and kissed. We pushed against one another slowly, exploring that intense familiarity.
I wanted her orgasm. I pulled out and went down on her. “No, no, wait,” she said. I stopped. I fell into her arms. I held her close.
I listened to her breath.
I thought about the births of our children. I have never felt so close to another person as on those three days and nights. We were so scared. I wanted to inhabit her skin then, to share that, to spare her that. We cried together when each of our babies was born.
When they were safe, when she was safe, when it was over. Deep, lurching sobs. I kissed away her tears.
I was so helpless. She needed me so much. The babies needed me.
I held her close. “I am always going to love you,” I whispered. “That isn’t going away.”
“I wish we could sleep together,” she said.
“Me too,” I say. “Would we have to make a date for that?” I laugh at the irony. So many nights we were together, and that is what we want tonight.
“No,” she said. “No dates. Just Christmases.”
We fell asleep.