"What I can't figure out is why you are here."
"You mean tonight? Yeah, I know, I'm not even married so what am I doing hanging out in your open marriage support group, right? I just came here because Liz is a good friend of mine and this was the best Christmas party I could find on short notice, having only been in town for a couple of months."
"Well, that wasn't what I meant. I was talking about why you are here in Orlando in general. Liz told me you moved here to be with a woman who broke up with you before you moved, so I was just wondering."
"It is a long story. I'm here because I need to be here. In Orlando, that is, not at this party."
"Does that mean you wouldn't be interested in maybe, you know, getting to know Cindy, my wife a little better?"
"I suppose that depends on what you mean by that."
"You could ask her to dance."
"Maybe I will."
It might have been the beginning of something. It might have been a new circle of friends who seemed to like me, who seemed to laugh at all my jokes and warmly embrace them as if I was one of their own. Most of them had known each other for several years, having been part of an online group for people who were very open to the idea of sharing their spouses with other lovers. They were actually a very normal group of people. Two or three might have been a bit on the creepy side, but those were the ones who generally came without their spouses but talked about them as if they really existed. They just figured this was an easy way to get laid.
It wasn't. Not that I ever actually tried.
There were a few times after that Christmas party that I spent time with these people. They loved to go out, catch a good band playing live, dance, drink and enjoy the night. The only thing I noticed that was different than other groups of people I'd been around in similar circumstances was that you could flirt openly and without fear of getting the evil eye from their "date." We just had a lot of fun, and my connection with them lasted no more than three months, but it remains a cherished memory.
I have this habit, which might be a good habit or a bad habit depending on how you prefer to score these things. Whenever I'm out on the dance floor with a woman I tend to kiss her, and I'm not talking about a peck on the cheek. I'm also not talking about forcing my lips onto her face. It tends to be a mutual moment that has nothing to do with "making a move" or trying to get into someone's pants. It just seems to happen to me, and it might have more to do with me being a really bad dancer than anything else.
I think her name was Lisa, but she'd respect me more if I forgot her name, so I hope I got it wrong. She was the penultimate black widow. She was the last in a long line of women I had come to know who derived pleasure from making a man fall in love with her and then making him squirm as she tortured him with inconclusive separation. You see, the secret to being an effective black widow is that you must make certain you give the man reason to hold onto you. Once he has professed his love and desire for you, this is when the game begins. You can be cruel, torturing him with accusations and insults, especially those directed at his ability to deal with you and the skeletons in your closet. Once you establish this, you must then make it clear, in the foggiest way possible, that you need him to save you from driving over the side of one of life's many cliffs. It isn't a very fun game.
"Why are you wasting your time with these whiney little bitches?"
"I'm not sure I know how to answer that."
"I am so bored of these guys who think they are so tough and worldly but are really just wimps who miss their mommies."
"Is that an invitation?"
"Draw your own conclusions. You aren't like the rest of these wife swapping morons."
"Yeah. I don't have a wife."
"Why is that?"
"Couldn't tell you."
"Are you harping over some poor little girl you left back at home wishing she would call and ask you to come back and take care of her? That would be my guess."
"You could say that if you wanted to, but I'm actually here trying to figure out why this woman who appeared in my dreams for years is working as a waitress at Chili's."
"That's almost original. I'm almost impressed."
"I'm almost interested."
I bought her a drink. Maybe I bought her two rounds, but I'm not sure I remember. It was all I gave her, and when I left the bar that night with someone else, it really pissed her off. I got e-mails from her for the next two weeks. "How was she? I would guess pretty lame." It started there and went on to bits about how I was afraid I wouldn't be able to "perform" up to what "a woman like me is used to."
The e-mails stopped when I told her, "Does it matter? I've been used, too."
Two weeks later the "open marriage support group" disbanded. They didn't actually disband as much as they asked the growing number of single people who were hanging with them to go away. "Nothing personal, but this is just turning into 'Sluts Anonymous.'"
My wedding was a strange and chaotic affair. That did not change the fact that my wife, Monica, is one of the most wonderful people I've ever met in my life. She always has that glimmer of hope and faith in her eyes, and while she has struggled with remaining focused on her dreams, she often has trouble believing in herself.
She was scared. She had come to the United States from Costa Rica with a dream. She was a fashion designer who was well connected with some very influential people in her country, but there was only so far she could take her dream there. She sought to make the next step, but when she arrived in America she found herself basically becoming a slave after accepting a job as a nanny for a couple who had more money than anyone really needs and four kids they simply didn't have time to deal with. Their careers were far more important than their children. Raising children was the nanny's business, and so Monica was all but chained to their house and children, effectively ending any hope she had of pursuing her dreams. They were her sponsors. They owned her ass and they were going to play that for everything it was worth.
I married her because she needed my help and it was the only way I could help her. She never asked me to. She never wanted me to. She just needed to get back that hope and faith that meant so much to her. She needed to be able to go to school. She needed to get a job related to her field. She needed to be free. That was what I tried to do. I never meant to make her cry.
It was falling apart quickly. I had tried for more than a year to attempt to put a square peg in a round hole. I have never really been Monica's husband. She has never really been my wife. We use those words when we talk to each other in an almost sarcastic tone. We love each other very much. There is not, and never has been, an absence of love. It is a different kind of love than what you usually find between a husband and a wife. There is only one person who really seems to understand the nature of the love between us. That person is her father.
He took care of her and protected her because he knew she was special. I do the same damned thing. And she deserves it. She is daddy's little girl. I've known a lot of daddy's little girls in my life. She's the first one I've ever met who had two younger sisters, not to mention the other half-sister she has from an affair her father had for many years.
"I don't want to become my mother. I don't want to ever think myself so helpless than I need to hold onto someone no matter what."
"I won't let that happen."
It was my birthday and everyone I knew in town was getting together to celebrate at the bar we often called home. Monica showed up late. She had been on edge for several weeks, concerned that school wasn't leading her anywhere and that her new job, running the office for a dance studio, was turning into a similar scenario as the nanny job. The couple that ran the studio were a pair of professional dancers that competed worldwide and were highly focused on doing seminars for companies on dance as a way to bring people in the workplace closer, or something to that effect. They frequently cancelled lessons that were already paid for in advance and asked the office manager, Monica, to call people and cancel with no more than a couple hours of notice. They lost a lot of clients, and Monica took their complaints, anger and threats as well as she could. She offered to teach lessons, being a tango dancer herself, as well as a fashion designer, but they insisted only they could give lessons. You know, when they could fit those lessons into their busy schedule.
She showed up at the birthday gathering on edge, going on at length to everyone about how horrible her life had become and how no one cared. She had complained to me for weeks, and I had always tried to help her, but for the first time in months I was finally having a good time and I was upset that she did not even remember it was my birthday. It was the night I gave her my wedding band for the first time, telling her that our marriage was over and that I could no longer deal with her constant meltdowns. I had hoped it would shake her and bring her around, but I was also drunk and tired of dealing with it.
Two weeks later we put our wedding bands back on and vowed to try to find each other again.
Chris was a woman I came to know in my early days in Orlando. She had been married for many years and had three children from that marriage. After the third child, her husband left her, citing the primary reason as being that he was tired of having children.
Chris was a friend, and I loved her very much, to the point where I tried to help her in her quest to find romance with this guy who played in the band at this club we would frequent. She had tried everything, from talking to him about his life, writing him poetry, buying him drinks and offering herself to him freely. He always took the pass, until the day he found out he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and suddenly he was all about getting to know Chris in a more personal way. That was the point at which she lost interest in him. Soon after, the guy from the band married his pregnant girlfriend and Chris stopped coming to the club.
I would still go to the club after that, and one night I found myself talking to a very attractive woman. She was throwing out all the signals and when we danced, the kiss we shared on the dance floor was very remarkable. I remember holding her in my arms and feeling incredible waves of passion washing over me. I had not been in that position for several years and had not known it with Monica since before our marriage.
And then I got hit in the head with a microphone.
The band's singer had taken the microphone stand, lifted it up and over the dance floor and used it to hit me in the head, fairly hard. I looked up at her, trying to figure out what this was all about, and she yelled down to me, "That's his wife!" while pointing to that same guy in the band Chris had long been obsessed with.
Later, at the bar, I bought the guy from the band a drink. I held up my hand and showed him my wedding band. He laughed for a minute before nodding sadly, an acknowledgment about how nothing was really all that simple. We both proceeded to take off our wedding bands and slip them into our pockets simultaneously. I haven't seen him since.