Brenda smiled when she saw Petr on the corner of Laurier and Park Avenue. Here was a guy who looked better than his photo. Yes!
He took her for a drink and Brenda didn’t feel that she was the only one that had to hold up the conversational fort as she usually did.
“So what are you looking for?” he asked her.
She told him. “A long term relationships. Certainly not a one night stand.”
“I would certainly think not,” he replied military like.
She asked him what he did and when he told her he was between jobs she felt herself slipping into the familiar terrain of disappointment only to be uplifted when he announced that he was looking to buy himself a house.
She was beginning to feel the growth of affection for him. While she began to gravitate towards him, her mind warned her not to go so fast but her body was too far ahead to hear.
“I can hardly wait to be free.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“My wife. My ex-wife really. We still live together.”
“You live together?”
“I live in the basement. It’s over between us. I’m ready to move on.”
She asked how long he’d been divorced. Five months.
Brenda took in a lengthy breath and held it as she rattled off worst situations she could be in: A son killed in war. Being tortured in a foreign prison cell. Having her credit cards maxed out. The list was a long one and not even half way through it she realized how foolish it was to be upset over a blind date and decided to make the best of the situation by turning an empathetic attention to Petr.
“But she and I don’t speak to each other,” he went on to tell her as if that was something to be proud of and made everything right.
“What did you do to her that she’s so angry at you?” Brenda asked.
“Nothing. She’s just like that. I wish I’d never got married in the first place. Divorce is a real pain. She’s going to take me to the cleaners.”
Brenda’s thoughts went to Max and how generous he had been about their divorce even though she had stalked him and he had placed that humiliating restraining order on her.
As she sat next to Petr sipping her wine she began to have a longing of sorts for Max. How could Petr after five months be over his wife while she, after so many years, still felt a sorrow over Max’s leaving?
Perhaps it was Petr’s saying this that made her not like him as much anymore. It was cold of him to get over his wife so quickly. She on the other hand felt neurotic for now, straggling through her mind, was that he was still living with his ex-wife.
“Divorce can be very civilized,” she said. “People can develop qualities of kindness.”
“Not her,” he said, stomping his glass on the table. “She’s just mean.”
“So why did you marry her?”
He scrutinized her as if her brain were larva. “She wasn’t like that before,” he said sternly.
Brenda wanted to ask before what but Petr had changed the subject and was talking about a marathon race he was doing the next day.
She had such a soft spot for athletic guys and now all her previous impressions of him melted away right in front of her eyes. She didn’t even blink.
They talked about art and music and movies and then she surprised herself by saying, “want to come over to my place?”
On the way Petr bought a bottle of wine and they sat on her couch with their stocking feet touching each other and drinking wine.
Whatever they had in common began to fade in the distance and the more he spoke the more their differences startled her and she began to realize that what they didn’t have in common mattered more than what they did. He had political opinions she abhorred. His abscessed views on minorities revolted her.
“You think I can stay over?” he asked her. “It would be handy because I have the marathon tomorrow and so I won’t have to go back and forth the forty minute drive. I’ll sleep on your couch.”
Brenda was about to say no when she suddenly thought about some law that said if you were entertaining at home you were responsible for people you let go home drunk. She had enough problems as it was without adding a criminal charge against her and so she said okay you can stay.
He started to kiss her and so why not make the most of a bad situation and she had sex with him. After all he was young and handsome. Later, as she lay in her bed next to him she felt like she had betrayed herself. Sex without affection always did that. Was she so desperate for some romance in her life that she had fallen for an illusion? Was it because she had drunk a bit too much? Because she was disappointed that the relationship was not upholding to her expectations and so had said the hell with it all? Where was her strength when she needed it? Was her need to be touched so strong that it overpowered her sense of integrity? With all these answer-less questions ploughing through her mind Brenda hardly got a wink of sleep.
The next morning she practically shoved him out the door. Thank God he had an early marathon.
That afternoon he called. “Want to get together?” he asked.
“Listen,” she began. “I thought about us and it’s not going to work out.”
“Why not?” he asked.
Why not? Because you don’t have a job. Because your interest in me is mostly utilitarian. Because you have too many prejudices. Because you lack depth. Because you are negative. Because you lack maturity. Because you are not spiritual. Because you are too opinionated. Because the negative parts outweigh the positive ones. Because I can’t stand being with you anymore.
“Because you’re still living with your wife,” Brenda said. She felt like a fake using that as easy substitute for the truth.
“What about last night? Didn’t that mean anything to you?”
Of course it did she began and then stopped. She didn’t want to become like some of the guys she’d dated with their pathetic excuses that hurt more than the truth and so she simply said, “It was just sex for me. That’s all.”
She listened while he blasted her about her righteousness regarding not wanting one night stands and when he was through she said, “I’m sorry,” and then hung up.
She went into the bathroom and watched herself in the mirror fall apart. She was tired of struggling for a good relationship. Struggling in her writing. Struggling with her son. She felt like a failure. She wanted someone to take care of her. To carry her through this rough period she was experiencing. Where was she to find courage and hope? They were all band-aid illusions for this loneliness she felt. Did other women feel this way?
She then made herself some tea and opened her laptop to check her messages.