Hear Me Out

January 20, 1997

This summer Leslie edited a math book in Davis, California.
Since it was silly for her to commute three hours a day,
she stayed there during the week and came home for the weekends.

I imagined a sort of honeymoon with myself. Sometimes I chafe at the "we-ness" of being a couple where everything is a compromise. I can't just go out and spend $300 on records and books when I feel like it. I can't cook fish in the house because the smell makes her sick. I said I would miss her terribly (and I knew I would) but somewhere in the back of my head I envisioned a life without compromises. As it turned out, I was delusional.

The first week was hard, as I expected. I assured myself that I had to get used to being alone again and then the fun would begin. I bought twice as much food as I needed and then didn't cook. I talked to friends on the phone until their mates came home. At one point, I actually called my mom to chat. That's how low I had sunk.

I had trouble sleeping so I put it off as long as possible. I watched a lot of TV. I love watching several shows at the same time and I revelled in doing just that. I found the best combination was two sitcoms, one hour long drama and a movie. That really held my attention! The only problem was it also corroded my attention span to that of a hyperactive shrew.

When Leslie came home that first weekend I was so happy I cleaned the house. I wasn't sure how it happened, but the place looked like four or five people were rooming with me. Socks and bras were everywhere. The bed was a mess and the couch was covered with clothes and books. There were dishes all over. Luckily the dog licked them clean, so they were ready for the dishwasher.

With the first week over, I thought I'd be able to function. I was wrong. I came home Monday night, ate a microwave dinner and watched TV to 3 am. I discovered a few things during this time. All microwave meals taste the same: the colors fluctuate between light beige and deep-almost-black-brown but they are all slimy and salty. Also, (and this became very important) I can be up and out of the house in less than fifteen minutes, as long as actual conscienceness is not required.

I tried to bond with our dog, Basil. We watched nature shows and went to the park. Leslie hates programs that show animals eating other animals, so I took the opportunity to watch all of them with Basil. She barked at the hyenas and the tigers. Looked at the lions with distaste but she loved the elephants and horses.

Since I was only speaking to Basil, it became easier to just grunt commands. It's amazing how smart that damned dog is. I'd get up and nod my head toward the stairs and she'd go down if she needed to or she'd head for the kitchen. If she was barking too much, I simply yell and sort of growl at her and she got the idea.

I thought we were really bonding, as a pack, but it was really no use. We both knew we were faking it. I wanted to be with Leslie and so did she. After three weeks, it became clear that Basil blamed me for Leslie's absence. She wouldn't sleep in the same room, lingered over meals and wouldn't sit with me on the couch. She preferred to sit alone in her chair.

As the dog turned on me, I turned on society. I began to have trouble communicating with people. At work everyone asked how things were going and I would grumble something about having the best damn time of my life. One night a lady in the grocery store hit my cart and knocked a can of black olives out of it. "What is your problem, lady? Go get your own olives, these are mine!" I snapped. I stopped answering the phone. Speaking was becoming harder and harder. It wasn't that I couldn't form the sounds of speech, I couldn't form any ideas.

Eventually, Leslie came back full time. I wasn't used to having people around me anymore. The transition back to the human race was difficult; everything from watching one channel at a time to cooking actual meals was hard. Talking and listening to someone other than the dog was nearly impossible.

I'm not sure if absence makes the heart grow fonder but it sure did make me take stock. I caught a glimpse of the wild child inside and found her ill tempered and smelly.


Please send me your comments and suggestions. Email me at lmjimene@ix.netcom.com.

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Copyright, 1997 by Laura Jiménez.