On this day six years ago, I was an inexperienced and apprehensive commercial truck driver delivering freight near Syracuse, NY when my phone rang. It was my girlfriend very calmly but with a noticeably nervous inflection in her tone, telling me that our daughter — who we had already decided to call Gloria — was ready to show her face to the world. It was, like many delivery stories, exciting and stressful.
The first hurdle that needed to be overcome was that I was four hours from where all the action was taking place, and according to the stringent laws of the Department of Transportation, I had to wait ten hours before I could start driving back. I remember laying in the bunk of my truck’s sleeping compartment distraught that I was going to miss the birth of this child.
The labor lasted for twenty-eight hours — which was no fun for my girlfriend — but it did make it possible for me to get there for the blessed event. She was a beautiful child and I felt so content to be a breadwinner and a family man after so many years floating around the planet with no direction and no roots.
Five years later, I was giving my new landlord a deposit for a studio apartment and beginning my life as a single person again. I had just celebrated my 47th birthday. The truth is, I struggled with whether or not to stay in that relationship for years. There were so many aspects of it that rubbed me the wrong way and when I called friends for advice, they all suggested that if I was unhappy in a sexless relationship; if I did not like sharing a house with my girlfriend’s mother; if I thought it was unfair to work 70 hours a week, preparing all my own meals and paying all the bills — I should get out. And so I did.
But I never got around to falling out of love.
Perhaps I should re-phrase that. I have been on so many Match.com and OK Cupid dates that left me feeling like I would never find someone that was right for me again. I tried ignoring when I wasn’t physically attracted to someone and that always turned out horribly. I made the attempt to overlook when someone was not right intellectually and that led to a sort of underlying contempt that would grow as we became more familiar. I tried to make it work with so many different prospective mates that it was difficult to not feel dispirited when I was still single a year and a half later.
And then the strangest thing occurred to me as I was driving to pick up Gloria and take her out for her 6th birthday: if, in some parallel universe, my ex-girlfriend showed up at the coffeehouse on one of these dating site liaisons, I would’ve been so excited. The way she looks, the things she cares about, the stuff that interests her — she would be perfect for me!
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Just get back with her! Do whatever you have to do — buy roses, write poems, beg — to win back her heart!
But this is where the awful truth about life comes in to play. Things are rarely as cut and dry or black and white as all that. Running back and begging for her forgiveness and trying anything to sell her on the idea of a reconciliation is the stuff that kids in high school would reason out as the inevitable remedy to this situation. Those of us who have gone a few decades past high school have realized that there exists a large gap between what looks good on paper and what actually works in real life. It’s not as if you can Frankenstein your way into finding the perfect mate.
“You’d be perfect for me if you had this woman’s sex drive and that woman’s independence.”
None of this was lost on me when we were still together. Whenever my vacillation would swing back in the opposite direction from leaving, it was always based on the knowledge that there were so many things about the relationship that I loved, perhaps I could just accept the things that didn’t work for me as part and parcel of what journalist and author, Dan Savage, famously referred to as “the price of admission.” But being a creative man with a need for space forced to live with someone’s mother was a heavy cost. Having to take an involuntary vow of celibacy, in addition to this, went way beyond my budget. And so, I stopped buying the ticket.
I remember once hearing a strangely beautiful and obscure song from a well-known singer/songwriter that employed a chord structure where there was no resolution in certain phrases and it actually made you feel slightly uncomfortable to have to listen to. As I find myself about to wrap up this article, I am reminded of that song — which like my relationship with my daughter’s mother — had no resolution and makes me uncomfortable. And even more than that, it too, was and still is, strangely beautiful.