Divorce And Dating And Other Disasters At Age 40: Part 8
- 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
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 22
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disaster at Age 40: Part 23
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 24
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Part 25
- Divorce and Dating and Other Disasters at Age 40: Epilogue
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 DATE WHERE I GO TO DINNER
This is my first Valentine’s Day as a divorcee. I worried about loneliness, enduring “single awareness” jokes, and jealously watching happy couples celebrate. But after surviving Christmas without my kids, Cupid’s holiday breezes by in a bland blink. I’m on another first date for the big night, cramming into Olive Garden with all the other budget-conscious romantics.
I dip a breadstick in minestrone, sopping up the broth and taking a bite. The flavor fills my mouth, the savory soup, the yeasty yumminess, and my stomach sings. One positive note on this otherwise blah evening.
“… it’s fourth and inches, less than a minute left on the clock.” Eli, my date, grips the edge of the table, regaling the good ol’ days when he played football. Before he blew out his knee and gained fifty pounds. He told me about the knee. (The extra weight I figured out on my own.) “There I am, knowing I’m gonna be the town hero or the loser quarterback.”
A hum of feigned interest passes my lips, which encourages him to keep talking, leaving me free to eat. Bring on the breadsticks, although I passed my limit a couple of bites ago. It can’t be helped. Especially when Eli goes on. And on.
“The ball is snapped. I fall back, looking for an open man. Nothing. I make a run for it. And long story short—” too late— “I score the winning touchdown for Edison Junior High.”
“Junior High?” I ask for clarification. I thought it was a college game with the way he droned on. Or at least a high school championship.
“Yep.” He pops the “p,” and flecks of spittle fly. The saliva sprinkles our food like an enthusiastic waiter with a pepper grinder. The thought of his drool seasoning my minestrone sends my germ senses tingling. Probably for the best. The breadstick gluttony had to stop.
“So,” I smile and change the topic. “You have four kids, right?”
“We can talk about kids later.” He waves my words away, a magician making the conversation disappear. “I haven’t told you about my high school football career yet….”
Fighting to hold a pleasant expression through another football story, I engage the art of glancing at my watch; he doesn’t slow down. I attempt a subtle search for my phone in my purse, hoping for a text or missed call. What I’d really like is a message from Dylan, who’s been radio silent since I gave him my number last week.
His lack of response disheartens me, embarrassment creeping up my cheeks every time I think of the note I wrote. Did he even see my scribbled message on the clipboard? Did his ex, Jess? Maybe they laughed about my boldness, mocking my pathetic effort, and then making out like ridiculously attractive models. Or maybe he’s busy, and I have too much imagination.
Finding my phone, I slip it from my bag and look at the screen. The last dredges of positivity fade as I see four missed calls from Mike, the ex-hole. Concern for our boys’ slams into me, stealing my breath.
In a daze, I stand, inhaling shallow puffs of air. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to make a phone call.”
“But I’m getting to the good part.”
“I’ll be right back,” I mutter and step away from the table.
Something must be wrong. Why else would Mike call. And not just once, but multiple times. We have a strict “thou shalt not call unless the apocalypse is impending” commandment.
My footsteps quicken, and I dial, hurrying out the door to the front of the restaurant. A waitlist of people gathers around, the chatter squawking like hungry birds. Heavy air, weighted with impending rainfall, chokes my lungs. A solitary bolt of lightning strikes in the distance. The phone rings. Twice. Three times. A low rumble of thunder growls. Finally, Mike picks up.
“It’s about time.” The reprimand blasts me to the past, and I bite back the immediate apology on my tongue. So often, I offered a brisk I’m sorry to defuse his agitation. In his eyes, I was a perpetual mess, never good enough.
Not my problem anymore.
“Are the boys okay?” Plugging my ear and clutching the phone closer, I move around the corner. My heel catches on a crack in the sidewalk (why did I opt for cute instead of sensible?), and I stumble, luckily remaining upright. A perfect analogy for my divorce.
“Where are you?” An annoyed scoff punctuates his question.
“I’m out. What’s going on with the kids?” If an emergency was unfolding, he’d lead with that. Right? His deep grumble mimics the thunder, and fatigue washes over me. I don’t have the energy to deal with him. “Are Josh and Devin okay?”
“They’re fine.” His gravelly sigh rattles the phone line. “But imagine my surprise when I dropped them off at your house, and no one was home.”
“Wait.” Deep breath. Stay calm. “You have them until tomorrow morning.”
“It’s Valentine’s Day.”
“And?” I ask.
“Anna.” He reprimands me like a small child. “I’m taking Mitzi out. You’re not in a relationship, so you can stay home with the kids.”
Anger swells, and I grit my teeth. The battle for calm slips in the emotional tug of war. “You dropped them off with no phone and no supervision to go out with your girlfriend?”
“Don’t be dramatic. Josh is twelve. They’ll be fine until you get there.”
A streak of lightning illuminates the sky. The building storm has nothing on the monsoon brewing in me. The arrogance! The selfishness! The irresponsible parenting! A scream clogs my throat, and I nearly burst with the effort to keep it contained. But it seeps out in sniffling breaths.
“I’ll take care of it, but don’t do this again.” I disconnect the call, my finger pressing the red icon harder than necessary.
Stealing a moment to calm myself, I think of the positives: The dull date with incessant football stories will end; my boys and I can spend Valentine’s evening together, watching movies and eating popcorn; I’m no longer married to the ex-hole, and Mitzi can endure his insufferable company. Things look brighter already.
By the time I reach my table, Eli is gone.
“Hi.” A server waits with a Styrofoam container in hand and an apologetic smile on his face. “He left a note, and I boxed up your entree. Sorry.” The poor guy struggles for a kind way to tell me I’ve been ditched.
“Thanks.” I take the box, and a creased napkin lays on top. Unfolding the makeshift note, I read Eli’s scrawled message. I paid for my half. I glance at the waiter, who now offers me a black check holder. Great. My half.
As I race to my van, the rain pours in true Texas fashion; fast and hard. It soaks me through. Juggling my purse, keys, and left-over box, I slide on the slick blacktop, crashing a hip into my mom-mobile. The sting brings tears to my eyes, and I just want a pair of pajamas and a mouthful of chocolate.
A buzz from my phone makes my exasperation spike. What next? If this is Mike again… My annoyed huff echoes in the car, and I throw my things in the passenger seat, digging for my cell.
Hope I’m not interrupting, reads a text from an unknown number. Confusion gives me pause. Who sent it? With thumbs poised over the keyboard, I debate how to respond. Then another text pops up.
I’d love to hear the couch story. When you have time.
My heartbeat accelerates, a jackhammer shaking my chest and trembling down to my fingers. Could it be him? The one who injects hope, daring me to believe not all men are ill-mannered, barely domesticated meat sacks.
I type out a reply. Dylan?
Some people call me Deltoid Dan.
Shut the front door. And the back door. Shut all the doors. Dylan texted me. A deep exhale pours from my lungs, and I answer. I’d love to tell you, but it’s a long story.
It only takes a few seconds before my phone rings. I swipe the rain off my face. Nervous excitement dances in my stomach, and I hold a hand over my belly to calm the jitters. Wet hair hangs in tangled clumps, and I run my hands through the strands. Which is silly because he can’t see me. I do it anyway.
“As I live and breathe. Deltoid Dylan.” I speak in a deep southern drawl. Why? No idea.
He chuckles. “Hi, Anna.”
My muscles unclench, the evening’s tension melting under his greeting. “Hey,” I whisper. Here, in the privacy of my van, the rain pounding around me, the conversation feels cozy. Almost intimate.
“I’ve been really busy.” He keeps his voice soft. “But I can’t stop thinking about what happened with you and Jason.”
Does he know Jason tried to kiss me? “What did he tell you?”
“That you threw his couch like She-Hulk.”
“Oh, right. That,” I laugh and shake my head. Of course, Jason didn’t mention the attempted lip-locking. “Well, I’ve got a ten-minute drive and a killer story if you want to hear it.”
“I definitely do.” Shuffling comes from his end as he settles in.
“It was a dark and chilly night…” I recap the events leading to me being trapped with Bessie the couch. When I get to the part about shoving the sectional from the balcony, a graceful cowhide in motion, he laughs so hard he struggles to catch his breath. Taking a snapshot of the sound, I close it in my memory, like a mental locket ready to open when I need it.
“You’re amazing,” he says, and I picture him. His gray eyes alight with humor, his blond hair perfectly mussed. “I wish you threw Jason off the balcony instead. He deserved it.”
“Believe me, I thought about it.”
“Should I fire him?”
I laugh, but I think he might be serious. “No. He’s a good trainer. Without him, I wouldn’t have been strong enough to throw a couch.”
“Okay,” he lingers over the word, waiting to see if I change my mind. “The offer stands.”
My time is running out. I pull into the garage, knowing any moment Josh and Devin will rush to greet me.
“So, Dylan.” Will you go on a date with me? The almost question hesitates, fear of rejection keeping it rooted at the tip of my tongue.
“Yes?” he asks, and I hear the humor in his tone.
“Will you…” The door to my house opens, and two cute faces peek out. Warmth fills my chest as I look at the boys who are the best thing to come out of my marriage. “I have to go. Will you call me again?”
Chicken! Bock bock.
“I definitely will.” The laughter leaves his voice, the softness returning. “And Anna?”
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”
A different kind of warmth heats me, my heart dangerously close to fever pitch. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
We hang up right before my kids attack, the car door swinging open and a bevy of explanations hurtling. Calming the assault, I tell them we’ll pop popcorn and put on a movie. But my mind only half focuses as we watch Shrek for the hundredth time. I run through the conversation with Dylan, wondering when we’ll talk again. Next time I’ll ask him out. Next time for sure.
Until then, I open the laughter locket, sinking into the memory.