Ours was a small gathering, Carrie and me, the twins, Bill and Anna, and another couple, we’ll call them Mark and Janet. Quite the little crew: Bill and Anna are back from their trip, the resort vacation dubbed their “(Gag) honeymoon”, a trip that was to be their honeymoon until those pesky pictures surfaced. The ring fingers are unadorned but the pictures, the tans, the smiles, all scream honeymoon. Our dreams of Bill going quiet into the night are dashed.
Mark dates back to high school and Janet joined him twenty five years ago. They stuck with Carrie and I two decades ago when we were each going through divorces, when most others fled the carnage. They have been fixtures ever since – friends long enough to know each others quirks and faults and friends long enough to accept.
Everyone knows: Nate resides in the basement, even if the twins do not know why. It should be easier this way, tough situations still, but the dreaded façade does lie shattered at our feet. A shattered façade, but also shattered lives, but I get ahead of myself.
Time for a late dinner, we take our places, me at one end and 112” away Carrie at the other. It is an imposing sight: China and Crystal, platters of meat, homemade “designer” salad, the works. We pour the champagne and all eyes on Nate, time for the traditional toast. Do I go banal or do I acknowledge the difficulties of the year behind, and yes the year ahead. I have become many things but hopefully not banal so I toast: acknowledge a year of difficulties, nod towards a more peaceful year ahead, and am grateful for those who have graced our table so many times in the past.
A little early for New Years so game time: imagine-iff, a game where a roll of the die determines the next victim and a card is drawn. At Thanksgiving we had the card: imagine-iff Nate was a girl’s name. Only a few of us saw the humor then. This time Anna gives a lesson – a practice round. I am the guinea pig and she draws the first card: imagine-iff Nate is a first date. All of us can see the humor now, black gallows humor, but at least no longer an inside joke.
The day had started well enough, Carrie and I share the house, co-exist, Will and Grace have nothing on us. But as the New Year approaches the cracks are showing. I am looking ahead and see an adventure and she, well who can argue, is staring at an abyss. Carrie is in the kitchen and I join her – just the two of us. She asks what I expect, how should she feel. She adds her new refrain: her hope that I find whatever it is I am looking for. We sit again for desert, same places but now the table has grown: 112” can now be measured in miles.
Finally, time to gather in the den, a minute or two to go, the TV blaring, little ones with the noisemakers. We watch the ball descend, we count down, five, four… 2007. I approach Carrie; she pulls away, no hugs, no kiss: only tears. She and Janet hug, they wander to another room, a private cry. Later Anna will comfort her mother. Carrie will head up a staircase, I will head down. We will not talk again this evening.
It is early now, a New Year, a fittingly bleak rainy day. The house sleeps but you have all met Calli, our Christmas puppy. She likes company, or else she likes to bark, so I sit with the dogs so the house can sleep. It is not a bad thing: Time to consider the day, consider the year.
I suppose the year past is best summed up by my not being prepared for the ending. There really was no surprise. Carrie has endured arguably the worst year of her life and in less than a week her husband is off to Chicago to revel in gayness. Quite the start of her new year, a year of a king sized bed occupied only by a Queen, a year of watching her soul mate walk out the door knowing it is to “interview” her replacement, a year of no longer extending a foot, a soft invitation to making love.
I know all of this, describe it in fitting words, yet I forge ahead. She stands there with tears filling her eyes, dampening her cheeks and I stand there, saddened and chastened – chasten but not willing to be chaste. Mine are not the red eyes and she knows that, we both know that.
I still cling to this fantasy: I will go to Chicago and realize that it’s only about the sex, that the rest is window dressing. I will come home and say give me back our bedroom fantasies and I will no longer stray. The problem is not only do neither of us expect that, I am not sure Carrie would even accept the offer. Too much pain, too much heartbreak, and I fear, too much reality.