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Sending My Ex a Shirtless Selfie

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.

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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 massive letdown.

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 throat.

Then guess what I did.

I took my shirt off.

I know, I know.

WTF?

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 knows?

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 slowly.

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 rip, ya’ll.

I took one of those shirtless man selfies that have a special place in hell.

Then I took another.

And 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 not.

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 selfie.

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.

Jesus.

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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.

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