Dearest Rachel –
I’ve been told that one way to keep a marriage fresh is to continue to treat each other as though you were still dating. Make an effort to keep winning your partner over; behave as if you were still young (to the best of your ability, of course – some things are past doing after a certain age, but fewer than you’d think), and you will keep each other youthful and happy. One way to do this is by deliberately setting aside dates and times for each other; in effect, continue to date your spouse.
All well and good to say, but not always the easiest thing to remember to do. I don’t know that we actually ‘dated’ all that much in our last few years together. Granted, the last year was rather pre-empted by the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, and thus out of our control, but to be honest, I think most of the times that we went out together, we went out together as a family rather than as a couple. Most of the things we enjoyed doing, we didn’t really want to leave Daniel out of, and so, we didn’t. Great for being a family, but not so much for being a couple, I guess. I don’t know that it bothered either of us – I can’t ask you now – so I don’t know if we would have considered that we were going about things the wrong way, but still… we weren’t exactly following those recommendations.
But I’ll be honest, we did these things – whether you could call him dates or not – a lot more frequently than I’m doing them now. Daniel’s a lot less keen to go out then he used to be (or maybe it’s just the fact that I can only exert so much pressure on him to do so, compared to the two of us), and, of course, there’s no one to go and do stuff with anymore. For all the things I have done in the last year or so, it gets under my skin that I haven’t exactly dated anybody since Labor Day weekend.
Although… I have taken Ellen out to dinner as a thank you once or twice, but whether that would count, I don’t know. Certainly, there weren’t the same intentions behind it as an actual date, on either of our parts. And if there were (say, on my part), I don’t think she would’ve appreciated it, and I wouldn’t blame her. Even if I was only using her as a surrogate, a stand in, I’d still be using her, and that wouldn’t be right.
As for Erin? Well… despite the fact that, whenever we’re apart, I can’t help but envision how she would be might be an wonderful life partner (she certainly makes for an ideal ‘conscience’ in a group dynamic), when we’re together, I’m always reminded of how different we are on so many subjects. That, and the fact that she’s not interested in a relationship of that nature – which she’s made clear isn’t against me personally, necessarily, so I’ve tried not to take it as such. And, of course, there’s the running gag about her never being able to allow anyone to pay her way for anything, which she’s never been able to explain to my satisfaction. So… dating her is out of the question.
But for a moment, things looked like they were about to change yesterday. I’ll be honest, E.C. is hard to get a read on. Not that she hasn’t provided sufficient information about herself; indeed, much the opposite. She’s practically an open book, a novel even, when she gets going. It’s just that I can’t quite determine what about it is fiction or not, as you know. And when she talks about her passion for reaching people for Jesus and feeding the hungry, well… it’s an impressive-sounding spirit she seems to have, but who talks like this in real life? At best, I get this vibe that she’s trying to sculpt a personality that would appeal to me. And while dating can be likened to a job interview from a certain perspective, I don’t like the fact that she seems to be trying to pad her résumé. I want to meet the real girl, and have her basically meet the real me. There isn’t time for putting up fake images of ourselves, only for them to fade and crumble over time as we discover the reality behind them.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The story actually starts on Thursday night, as we were having dinner at the folks’. As will happen from time to time, I got a message from E.C. during dinner. Now, bear in mind, this isn’t all that unexpected, and it’s not unique to E.C. It’s not like we know each other’s schedules – and that applies to any girl with whom I might refer to as ‘we’ – so this sort of inopportune timing is to be a part of life going forward for now.
But inevitably, I had to explain who was messaging me, and sort of ‘introduce’ her to them, including all the background and biography she had thus far shared with me. And, in light of all the other misadventures I’ve had with online connections, I shared some of the doubts that I had as well.
I’m not sure I should’ve done that. When I came in to the ‘office’ the next morning, Dad was waiting for me. He hadn’t slept much the night before, and spent some of that time worrying about E.C., and my connection to her. I found myself having to apologize to him, as I no longer lose sleep over these potential matches, and I’m sorry to think that he would. I’ve learned not to get my heart set on anyone, lest I get it damaged or broken; I have yet to recover from losing you, after all. This means that I approach everyone with a sort of clinical detachment, but it does keep me from any emotional suffering.
Intern, when she reached out to me yesterday, I decided to tell her about my dad’s concerns. After all, if she’s going to claim that she prayed about – and for – me, I ought to let her know about what’s going on on my side. Of course, she promptly made assurances that she would never wish to cause me harm or distress, but that’s a reaction one might expect, regardless of actual intention on her part – and here we go, with me being absolutely unable to allay my own suspicions.
However, as the topic turned toward what each of us was doing during the day, and the fact that our schedules were reasonably clear, it occurred to me that I could ask for a face-to-face meeting, if for no other reason then we all need to eat at some point in time. She seemed enthusiastic, even going so far as to suggest going out for seafood, which would be ideal because Daniel wouldn’t feel left out (not that she would be expected to know that).
So I looked for a few possibilities in the area, and, finding something with a decent customer ranking, made the suggestion to her. Again, her response seemed positive, but she didn’t have a specific time in mind at that point. I told her I could wait for her to sort out her schedule, but needed to know by a certain point in order to make a reservation.
And so I waited.
I did some work on the side, but there wasn’t really much that was pressing for me to take care of yesterday. I could’ve gone home early, and in fact was hoping to, if only to make sure that Daniel was taken care of for the evening before I headed out. However, I wanted to make sure the reservation had been placed before doing so. But what do you do, when you’re faced with six hours of silence? Nothing.
Five o’clock rolled around, and I hadn’t heard a word. For all of her apparent enthusiasm, she’d never given me a time that she might be available to meet me. So the reservation was never made, and our dinner date died from a pocket veto.
For what it’s worth, it’s not as if I went hungry last night. I’d gotten lunch for myself and mom, so it wasn’t as if I was ravenous even by dinner time. At least it was better than making the reservation, driving out there, and getting stood up. And my insistence on not getting too emotionally wrapped up in one person or another left me disappointed, but not distraught. It’s just enough for me to write you about it, and let you make of it what you will.
For what it’s worth, she contacted me again around 8 o’clock, telling me that it had been a busy day. I suppose it had been for her. She seemed to want to talk about various things – things we could’ve talked about over dinner. Stuff like hobbies, and activities, and… things I was passionate about.
Well, how do you answer that? It’s days like this that literally teach me not to get passionate about anything. I didn’t put it that way, exactly, but I did mention how I don’t have that much anymore that I can live without. After all, I set sports aside when I married you; I haven’t been watching much anime for some time; and most of the rest of the things I used to enjoy, I’m still trying to learn whether I still can without you, or anyone else… because I kind of have to.
And it looks like I still might for some time yet to come.
So I guess all I can ask for now, honey, is that you wish me luck; I’m going to need it.