Boy Meets Girl

30 Mar

“But money of course is never money. It’s always something else, and it’s always something more, and it always has the last word.”

 Hand to Mouth

Paul Auster

Riding in the car with Ann, having to wait behind the wheel as four trucks with cherry pickers clear away tree branches interfering with telephone lines. A good friend of Ann’s is filing for divorce from a husband with mental problems; he can’t pull his weight. Another good friend of hers took in a guy with no noticeable source of income – a guy who might end up more trouble than he’s worth. Then there’s me – my income has slowed to a trickle. No matter that I pulled the train by myself for seven years, 60 hours a week: Ann now thinks of me as a loser. She doesn’t come out and say it, but it’s clearly communicated.

In the car, we begin discussing divorce as a general topic as we watch the wood chipper spew out bits of wood and a worker in a cherry picker trims one last branch.

The talk turns personal when I ask Ann if she’s thinking of divorcing me.

Her answer is a challenging one: “Don’t tell me you don’t think of it.”

I tell her of course I do.

Ann’s take on divorce is that it doesn’t solve problems (this is a second marriage for both of us). She sums up her opinion simply, “Basically, if you get along with the other person you might as well stay.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of our union.

When things get bad, Ann panics and blames others. I’ve never seen her blame herself for her problems, which is probably the legacy of being a victim. I think Ann’s number one desire is security and relief from money worries; if divorcing me was the price of feeling secure, I think she would cut the cord. Reluctantly perhaps, but she would leave me nevertheless. At this moment divorce would only worsen her anxiety.

I can’t help wondering: What if I do manage to break in as a screenwriter? What if I make enough money to erase all debt and make life “fun” again? It seems that as long as our marriage resides at a calm plateau, then life together is acceptable, bearable. What happens when the next crisis hits? What does it mean if my wife is mollified by financial success, while at ground level the marriage isn’t working?

I hope I can make a ton of money and then – if the marriage is dead at its core – I’ll walk away knowing Ann is provided for.

(2004)

 

 

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