Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 9
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Two
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part Three
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 4
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 5
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 6
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 7
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 8
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 9
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 10
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 12
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 11
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 13
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 14
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 17
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 15
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 16
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 18
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 19
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 20
- Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 21 (pending)
Recently divorced Anna Waite is learning to appreciate life after first love. With the support of her best friend Kira, and a solid sense of humor, Anna tackles the world of dating. This is her coming of middle age story.
THE (NON) DATE WHERE I’M EXPOSED TO PUBLIC NUDITY
The bright sun speckles my skin in warmth, and I soak it in, imagining crashing waves and sandy toes. But the sounds of screaming adolescent soccer players ruin my beach daydream. Nowhere in this vision of Dylan on an empty coastline, do other people make an appearance. I sigh, coming back to the reality of my booty in an uncomfortable camp chair and the smell of youth athletics.
Josh sits on the sideline, his royal blue jersey straining his growing ten-year-old shoulders. Tapping his feet on the ground, he casts anxious glances my way, checking for his dad. And for once, I hope the ex-hole shows up. The boys’ disappointment grows exponentially with each missed game, early drop off, or forgotten activity.
Devin slouches in the camp chair next to me, radiating boredom in the way only a twelve-year-old can. “I’m going to the playground.”
“Okay.” My gaze ping pongs between my son on the bench and my son kicking woodchips.
Someone moves in my periphery, taking Devin’s vacated chair. The heavy smell of tequila alerts me to the intruder. The father of teammate Leo. Frank Dimario: serial drunk, professional dirtbag, and sleazy flirt.
“Hey, how ya doin?” He puts a hand on my shoulder and leans in. The eye-watering scent of body spray clogs my sinuses.
I pull back, as far as my seat lets me. “Hi, Frank.”
“Have you lost weight? Because you’re looking fine.” The slurred words shrivel everything in sight, and I resist the urge to track down a breathalyzer.
“How’s Alice?” I spot his on-again, off-again girlfriend, and mother of Leo, marching toward us. Great. No better way to pump some excitement into my life than an unintentional visit into a domestic dispute. As if Frank crowding in and sleaze-tainting me is my fault. Poor girl should dump him and find a decent guy.
“Ah, you know. It’s not like we’re married.” He shifts his hand to curl around my back, and I scooch away until his arm falls. “Wanna go get Jell-O shots?”
Frank…what a class act. “No.”
“Wait! Jell-O shots!” He yells and jumps from his chair, startling me. “I got a new shot glass tattoo.”
In an alarming turn of events, he works at his belt dropping his jeans faster than a speeding bullet. My horror rises as he reaches for his checkered boxers, his thumbs digging at the elastic waistband. His feet get caught in the pants around his ankles and he stumbles, propelling himself forward and onto me. The camp chair collapses beneath his weight, and I lay with my back on the grass. A drunken, half-naked man stretches across my front like a throw blanket. The overwhelming scent of booze and cologne wafts in the air, choking my indignant scream to a sputtering cough.
“Get off me.” I shove at his prostrate form, afraid to wriggle free because of other things pressing into me. I’ll need to bleach my leggings. Maybe burn them.
“Frank, you’re drunk.” Alice tugs his pants to get them up.
But HELLO, my order of operations has Frank’s removal from my person as numero uno. Between her insistence on dressing him and his sloppy attempts to stand, I close my eyes and wish for the beach, imagining my happy place with Dylan. The Southwest Airlines slogan of Wanna get away never quite planned for this scenario.
Gretchen, mother of teammate Chase and our resident police officer, grabs Frank. Within seconds, she drags him to his feet. His pants reside in the proper position and handcuffs dig into his wrists. She’s efficient like that. “You okay, Anna?” she asks.
“I’m fine. Thanks.” I sit up, brushing dead grass from my hair.
“Wait here and I’ll grab your statement once I get him settled in the cruiser.” She tugs Frank by the cuffs, and Alice follows behind. “Come on, buddy. Pants stay on in public.”
“Anna, we’ll do those shots later,” he calls loud enough for the opposing team and most of Texas to hear.
“I see he still hits on anything that breathes.” Ah, the ex-hole has arrived.
Mike’s words hit me right in the insecurity. The sensitive place reminding me of my flaws. All my warts forcing me into the anything that breathes category. Of course, he shows up when I’m covered in dirt and smelling like second-hand drunk.
He helps me right my chair, which thankfully still works, and I stay silent as he sits. If he wants to wallow in Frank’s vacated sleaze, that’s on him. The game plays on without interruption. My boys remain blissfully unaware of what happened. The dumpster fire of my life burns into surprising oblivion.
The other team makes a breakaway and Josh pulls the kid’s jersey, earning a whistle from the ref.
“I get it, though,” Mike says, reminding me he’s still here.
“The foul was pretty obvious.”
“No, I mean Frank. Falling all over you.” His blue-eyed gaze roams my face, reminiscent of the early days when a stolen glance felt like a tender caress. “You look… really good.”
Music from the Twilight Zone plays in my head. I slow blink, pulling myself from the fugue state of what just happened? But better the evil I know than the evil in handcuffs. Barely. “Umm, thanks. Where’s Mitzi?” I ask, refusing to fall into the flattery.
“She had some client meetings.”
Client meetings. Ha! Mitzi cuts hair. But for some reason Mike is embarrassed by her profession. He met her there, going in for a trim at the studio where she works. And later going in for an affair. Not sure why he now thinks dating a hairdresser is below him.
An anti-climactic loss finishes the game, and Mike offers ice cream. Which leaves me free to give my statement to the police. Oh goody.
“Will you join us when you’re finished?” he asks.
Forget Twilight Zone. This resembles X-Files, alien abduction level confusion. I’m saved from my less than diplomatic response (what drugs have you been taking?) by my ringing phone. “It’s Kira,” I tell him. “Thanks for taking the boys.”
I wave them on as I answer. “You’re not going to believe what just happened to me.”
“Hello, Anna. I look forward to hearing about your day.” Her stiff tone alerts me that something is off.
“Oh right, Mrs. Song flew in last night. Is she there with you now?” Her overly critical mother plans to stay at her house for three weeks.
“She did arrive safely, thank you for asking. In fact, we’ve been talking about you.” Listening to formal Kira hurts my brain. But her mother has that effect on people. The first time I met her, I curtsied. An actual, meet the queen, dip to the floor, and hold out my skirt curtsy.
“Remember, I won’t sell my soul or let her drink the blood of my firstborn to keep her immortal.”
“Yes, I’m aware,” she says with no change of inflection. I admire her ability to stay the course of the conversation. “We’d love to have you and the boys over for a catered dinner.”
“I’m living in an alternate reality. One where a drunk guy hits on me and gets arrested, Mike is being nice, and your mom wants to have me over.” I spot Gretchen by her cruiser, talking to another officer who just arrived. “When will this catered extravaganza take place?”
She clears her throat, and I practically hear the restraint. Drunk guy? she’d ask. Followed by Don’t trust Mike. A cheater can’t uncheat. As if I’d ever trust the ex-hole again. But instead, she answers the dinner question. “Next Saturday.”
“Mike has the boys that weekend.”
The phone muffles, Kira’s voice an indistinct fog, the speaker rumbling. Relaxing in my camp chair, I wait for her to get back to me. It doesn’t take long.
“Invite Dylan,” she says.
“What?” Cold dread splashes me, a glass of ice water to the face.
“You heard me. I did not sneak into my closet like a rebellious teenager to be denied. Ask Dylan to come.” Her harsh whisper echoes across the phone line.
“Oh-kay…” I stretch out the word. “But isn’t that a little weird? It’s at your house. And Mrs. Song is scary.”
“Mrs. Song has nothing on me when I’m riled.” She speaks the truth. When you poke the Kira Bear, expect to lose a finger or two. “Your boys will be gone. I want to meet Dylan. This is perfect.”
The sound of soccer fills the silence as doubt creeps in. Finally, I whisper, “What if he’s not interested. In me, I mean.”
“He wished you a Happy Valentine’s Day. Men don’t do that just because.”
“Maybe.” Warmth spreads in my chest as I remember his soft voice. The words Happy Valentine’s Day pouring through me like the best hot chocolate.
“He’s definitely interested. Now,” Her tone changes to stern schoolteacher. “You can’t trust Mike. My mother used to say a rabbit can’t put its babies back. I’m pretty sure she was referring to unwanted pregnancy, but the idea stands. He can’t take away everything he put you through.”
The comparison makes me laugh. Kira never disappoints with the metaphors. “Don’t worry. Once an ex-hole, always an ex-hole. Even if he starts eating sugar again.”
“And what’s up with the drunk? Was he cute at least?” The phone muffles and she gasps. “I have to run. My mother is coming. But promise you’ll invite Dylan.”
Can I really commit to asking him on a date? With Mrs. Song there, no less (major cringe). Taking a breath, I plunge into the deep end. “I’ll do it.”
What have I agreed to?
By the time I gave my statement about Frank’s public lewdness (something I hope to never do again) and drove home, I mentally texted Dylan over a million times. Thousands of words, hundreds of phrases, all an attempt to craft the perfect invite. My heart beats extra beaty. My life flashes before my eyes. Sweat dots my forehead and slicks my palms. But my thumbs glide across the letters.
Hi Dylan, this is Anna. My best friend is hosting a dinner. Her Korean mother is in town, who has a superpower of criticizing everyone and everything. Sounds fun, right? Anyway, I could use a…
Date. That’s the word I want to type. Instead, I go a different direction. Don’t want to be too presumptuous.
…friend as back up. Wanna come with me?
The phone trembles, and I press send on the long text. Too long? Not enough explanation? I don’t know, but I’ve entered the pregnant rabbit phase of no takebacks. The message floats in the universe, anticipating Dylan’s response.
Nerves clench my gut, and a sudden desire to throw-up climbs my throat. With nothing to do but wait, I head inside. Dishes pile in my sink, and I tackle those first, followed by a counter cleaning frenzy. A century later my phone buzzes, and I lunge for it like a zealous aerobics’ instructor. One word lights my screen, and the world ceases to spin, just for a moment.
Next Saturday night, I reply.
Being criticized by your friend’s mom sounds like a blast. Count me in.
The world rights itself, rotating in its usual pattern. My heart rate returns to normal, and my stomach ceases its turbulent protest. I officially have a sort of date with Dylan Pound. No more Twilight Zone or X-Files for me. And no more episodes of America’s Dumbest Criminals. I’m ready to put on my Reese Witherspoon vibes and star in a romance.