Sunday, May 01, 2005

Another head aches, another heart breaks. Most of the time the Lippy Imp annoys the crap out of me with his whining and rambling. But his words this time feel rather poignant:

"When my girlfriend’s cell phone rang at around 11:00 p.m., I answered it. Normally, with her asleep, I would have let it go to voice mail, but I knew who it was and why he was calling.

'Eight pounds, seven ounces,' announced the proud but weary voice on the other end. It was my girlfriend’s ex-husband, Tony. His girlfriend had just given birth to their first child, his second. I congratulated him, asked about the baby and her mother, congratulated him again, and let him get on with making the rest of his phone calls. Tony and I get along well enough, and he and my girlfriend have an amicable relationship, or at least as amicable as can be between two people who regularly refer to each other as 'Bitch' and 'Cockbag.'

I walked back into the bedroom where my girlfriend, now awake, lay staring at the wall. I gave her the baby’s stats as I scooted under the covers, but she said nothing. I knew that she was exhausted after a long day at work, so the mere fact that her eyes were still open told me something was wrong. After a couple of minutes of silence, I finally asked, 'What’s wrong?' She paused before saying flatly, 'It should have been us.'

This statement needed no explanation. She and I have often bemoaned the fact that we can’t have children of our own. Not that we need them. She has a daughter courtesy of Tony, and I have three children, the product of my own failed marriage. It’s not so much that we want more children; we just want something that is our own. The problem is twofold: One, five kids are too many, and two, my vasectomy makes conceiving a child impossible. Even if we could have children biologically, I have a staggering amount of debt I inherited through my divorce, no college degree, and no practical job skills. I have nothing to offer her accept the kindness of my heart which, last I checked, is one of the few things that doesn’t qualify one for a bank loan. On paper, I’m a bad risk. At times this supersedes any of the intangibles I bring to the table, like my sense of humor or golden retriever–like devotion and affection. In the darkest part inside her, she resents me for all of my various anchors, and she hates herself for feeling that way. As a result, we’re the couple with matching hair shirts.

A few minutes after the phone call, her body conceded to slumber, while I lay awake, miserable. I had only a few hours before I needed to go to the first of my two jobs, so I desperately needed to get to sleep fast. But my mind was spinning, churning out the kind of masochistic thoughts that would leave me wide-eyed until the alarm clock went off. There was only one thing to do.

In the face of insomnia, it has long been my habit to masturbate. One of the advantages of being male is the inherent ability to separate sexual activity from emotional liability, so jacking off doesn’t require being “in the mood.” All I have to do is cue up my mental porno tape, throw in a palm full of lube, and I’m on my way.

Not wanting to wake my girlfriend, I excused myself to the living room sofa where I proceeded to coerce my penis into an erection. The movie in my head began, and I fast-forwarded to a scene that suited me. Once there, I began to masturbate in earnest, with an air of practicality. After all, I was doing this because I was unable to sleep, not because I was aroused or frustrated. Even as I fantasized about my girlfriend in the role of the insatiable cheerleader/prison escapee, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was, to her, a disappointment, that I was holding her back from her dreams. Maybe with some other guy she could have financial stability, another child of their own making, and a lack of feeling shackled to a past that was beyond her control. I thought about leaving, putting my belongings into storage and consuming the generosity of friends who’d tolerate my sleeping and masturbating on their couches for a few days. I thought that maybe just being a good and decent person wasn’t enough to hang dreams on, that I needed a sparkling portfolio of opportunity and potential as well. Then again, wasn’t love enough? She and I were in this position because we honestly feel that we were made for each other, but met 10 years too late to take full advantage of it. We’re crazy about each other, so what sense did it make to throw away the kind of love documented in fairy tales and made-for-TV movies? Were we really on the verge of breaking up, or were we more likely grief stricken, mourning the loss of the 10 years we spent trying to realize our dreams with the wrong people?

These were my thoughts as I reached orgasm, semen pooling on my stomach. Almost immediately, my body began to relax, my eyelids growing heavier by the second. As I reached for a towel, I considered the puddle of come on my belly. Once potent and vital, it now lay lifeless and insignificant, the consequence of bad choices. No longer containing the power to create life, it was now nothing more than a mess. Maybe this was exactly what regret looked like."

We don't have crystal balls or time machines that will tell us the future. We don't have mirrors into the souls of our partner so that we know exactly what to do to make whatever hurricane is churning subside. When we love, we want it to last, and we can't imagine ever feeling any differently about that person.

I don't know how to love and protect myself at the same time. I don't know how to leave and not hurt afterwards. All I can do is continue to believe in myself, believe in my own beautiful humanity--my capacity to love, to feel, to care, to cherish. I never want to shut myself off from that part of myself which loves or hurts because it's real, raw...and, most importantly, it's mine.

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