Exasperated after playing phone tag for days, Lauren said "Your voice mail greeting needs a makeover. What's up with you, girl ? Why don't you ever answer the goddamn phone ?" as soon as Sheila came on the line. "Where can you meet for lunch ? I am in town and have an evening flight back to Dallas" Lauren asked. "How about the old favorite, The Mongol Kitchen ?" Sheila suggested. "Too noisy. I need to talk" Lauren replied. After going back and forth over some options they settled on a quiet Greek restaurant a few blocks from Sheila’s office.
Lauren looked perfectly turned out as always in her fashionable clothes and tasteful accessories. The sea-green of her knitted top was the exact shade of her eyes - sad, tired eyes that needed mascara, liner and shadow to look pretty. Laughter helped but not very much. "What's going on, Lauren ?" Sheila asked right after the waitress got them their menus.
"So much that I don't know where to begin. Tomorrow is the third anniversary of Brad and I moving in together. He still does not want to talk about marriage and comes up with the most absurd reasons to postpone it. I don’t want to start a family before we marry – he does not care either way. I mean, this is the guy that loves children and will spend hours being goofy around his nephews and nieces. You would think that he’d long to have a baby with me – but he just fucking does not care. I don’t get it.” She had to stop for the appetizers to be laid on the table.
“We’ll need a few more minutes to order” Sheila said to the waitress.
“When you’ve invested three years of your life on someone, its hard to just pick up and move on and he’s been wonderful in every way. Sometimes, I wonder if I expect too little, maybe I am short changing myself in this relationship. Sheila, I am so incredibly exhausted waiting” Lauren said.
“I don’t know what to tell you, Lauren. I haven’t lived in with anyone and don’t think I ever will. It’s seems like a very hopeless state to be in – waiting, hanging by a thread for things to happen. But then, I come from a very different culture – we have been raised to expect sureties in the form a religiously sanctioned marriage blessed by the elders. No other state is quite kosher. ” Sheila said.
“You think I should move on ?” Lauren asked.
“Depends on what you want to move on to. Another live-in relationship with another man ? That would not be worth leaving Brad for. You would not be changing anything about your current situation except introducing a new set of unknowns into your life.” Sheila replied. Their gyro sandwiches had arrived.
She watched Lauren’s French manicured fingers gesturing as she spoke about things other than Brad – she could have been another person. Sheila thought about the despair women of a certain age felt when their longing for home and motherhood forced them to make choices that hurt them.
“So how did your date last weekend go ?” Lauren asked her.
“It was mostly good” Sheila replied dreading the obvious next question as soon as she said that.
“Well ?” Lauren looked at her wondering why she had stopped.
“You know we had this deal of keeping things strictly platonic between us until I was ready.” Sheila started saying.
“Did he break the deal ?” Lauren asked with a smile.
“No. That he did not. Instead he expected me to tell him when it was okay to hold hands. He wanted me to take the lead and he’d follow. That’s ridiculous ! There is a difference between the letter and spirit of things. I liked it that he took the deal seriously enough but would have liked a creative interpretation a whole lot better” Sheila said with a laugh.
“Can boys ever win with you and your rules ? The poor sod was trying to be compliant and now you wish that he had pushed the envelope a little like dude where is your imagination ” Lauren teased her.
“Exactly ! So we had this one tight embrace that lasted several minutes and I was not able to feel a tumescence.” Sheila had to stop because Lauren was doubled up with laughter.
“Girl, you’re something. First you make the dude sign up for an all platonic deal and then when he does not try to get it up you wonder what’s wrong” Lauren said.
“Well, you never know” Sheila said defensively
“Looks like you don’t want to know and prefer to speculate instead. I say put the guy out of his misery and just have some fun. You’ll not have to wonder if anything’s wrong” Lauren said.
“Logically that would make the most sense but what really troubles me is if he can translate emotional closeness to intimacy naturally. Some men view the object of love very differently than the object of lust – the two cannot be the same at least in their minds. That’s what bothers me. I won’t know the answer to that even I put him out of his misery like you suggest” Sheila explained.
“That’s an interesting point. Brad and I almost always have great sex but he can be emotionally distant a lot of times. Maybe that’s why he keeps putting off marriage – maybe I’m not the object of his love” Lauren said pensively.
Sheila had nothing to say that would be an honest response and yet not hurt her.