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The other night I had some wine after I got all three kids into
bed. I sipped my drink and grabbed the damp rag I use to wipe the kitchen
island down and I wiped the thing down again, even though it was already clean
because I wipe it 50 times a day. I don’t know why. I’m losing it, that’s
what I’m trying to tell you. I’m losing my mind.
I hung the rag back on the faucet and walked over to look at
my phone and there was a text message from Monica. God, it’s so dumb but I
always get excited about getting one of those, even after all these years, even
after all we’re going through, separated and all. I don’t understand the
giddiness either, since they’re always a picture of one of our kids doing
something fun or just some dumb sentence or two about what time tomorrow I’m
dropping the kids back off to her or whatever.
The fool in me wants some other message, some long lost text
message from nine years ago hacked up and coughed out by the ghost of our past.
Hey. What are you
doing? Come over. I have wine. Leave the kids in bed. To hell with the kids.
Just get over here.I want you back,
you sexy son of a bitch.
Why do I even want that text?
It makes no sense. Or does it? No one can say for sure, especially
me. It doesn’t matter anyway, because her little stupid words were another
Hey, can you help me
hang that heavy mirror in my house one day this week? I have wall anchors.
Still, I read the text and I guess I just got caught up in
my own version of things. That happens a lot lately. I pretend everything is
different. It makes life interesting. It pours ice-cold lemonade down my pukey
Then guess what I did.
I took my shirt off.
I know, I know.
Look, I don’t get it myself. I guess I was feeling that
feeling you feel when the first sips of Chianti are honey in your hive and I
had a little sunset glow happening and I must’ve felt a tinge of romance or
something like it. But you know what? I don’t care what anyone says — no matter
who you are or how strong you are or what you’re made of, when it all comes
down, when love hurts you you can only hold yourself back for so long, you
know? And there comes a time, an unexpected random time, when everything
sensible and "right" just eventually pisses you off so much that you tend to
want to spit a stream of Siracha in the eye of all of it.
Even though I’ve been operating with a relatively full deck
socially, handling myself out in public and respecting our separation, feeling
it creeping closer to bona-fide divorce, a few inches a
day like the summer fading away, I
think I missed her a little.
Or the idea of her.
I was sinking lower than I’d ever sunk before. None of that is lost on me now.
I wrestle with that one a lot. Do I miss the girl or do I miss the idea of the girl?
Who freaking cares?
I caved then. Like a lot of desperately sad people who have
been walking around in a wide-awake relationship coma for way too long, not
only had I buried my brain under a mound of gelatinous lazy fat, but I’d also gained
a bunch of weight the last couple of years of our marriage. I ate pizza and
drank cans of beer and I stopped working out and I would tell myself that it
was all OK, that I was older now and this was how you had to sustain older
guy happiness, by feeding it horse shit and letting it relax by suffocating it
Then, when Monica and I parted ways, I woke up from the bad
dream. Fast. It’s funny how that can happen when you’re faced with a big loss. I
started exercising like a demon. I lost like 45 pounds in a few months and I
looked better than I had in awhile. That gave me a dose of that kind of
confidence and control that people whose lives are hydroplaning out from under
them often seek out. When all else fails, get a little ripped and stare at
yourself in the mirror. It’s like a drug, like a long line of Hollywood blow.
But there’s confidence buried in there somewhere, and when you’re starved for
it, you find it wherever you can.
I ignored Monica’s text message and walked into the
downstairs bathroom and I did the deed. I posed in front of my mirror and
pointed my cheap cell phone at the glass version of me in there and I let her
I took one of those shirtless man selfies that have a
special place in hell.
Then I took another.
I took probably 10 of them until I got the one I wanted.
Upstairs, in the room we’ve all been crashing in, in the air conditioning and
the soft lamplight, my three kids were probably dreaming of water slides and
puppies and SpongeBob showing up with a sack of popsicles the size of a
Volkswagen. Downstairs, I was sinking lower than I’d ever sunk before. None of
that is lost on me now.
But like I said, the wine made me do it.
I didn’t hesitate to send it to her, to Monica — that’s the
funny thing, really. I was actually excited to jam it in her inbox. That sounds
dirty, huh? That says a lot about my confusion, I think. But so be it. I sent
it off. No caption, no words. Just me, shirtless. Send. What a button, huh?
It’s such a line in the sand. Whole careers and friendships and love affairs
and even murders, so many of them come down to someone simply hitting send or
I went outside on my back porch and had a smoke, and I
finished my glass of wine and waited for the tone of return, the sound of her
reaction coming back at me from miles away.
I kind of regretted sending it right away, of course. That’s
the way these things go. You hit send and then you want to send yourself into
outer space on the first rocket ship out. It hit me all at once. What the hell was she going to say?
I had just sent my estranged wife a pathetic half-nude
What did I think was going to happen? That she was going to
get all hot and horny or something? I don’t even look even remotely sexy, to be
honest. At best, I look like my head on David Hasselhoff’s current body.
It didn’t take long before I heard the sound of her message
ping and I poured myself another bit of wine just to even out the chill. I went back out on the porch and sat down on my big block of wood that I like to sit on and, for a second there, I honestly thought about the real possibility that
maybe this would somehow change everything. Maybe all those push-ups and curls
and all those crunches were all about to come soaring back down at
me from high up in the galaxy and slam into my world with so much magic I wouldn’t
even know where to start, you know? Stranger things have happened, man. Not to
me, but they have happened.
I opened her message, let her up onto my porch.
"Getting a very distinct Anthony Weiner vibe."
That’s what she said. That’s all she wrote, as the night sky
came crashing down all over this town.
In this new column, "Separating, Together" Serge and Monica Bielanko will be writing about parenting, separation and navigating their relationship in an entirely new way.