Sometimes life hands you a kick in the ass and at other times it hands you a rose. I got my kick in the ass one Saturday morning at breakfast. Mavis sat across from me fiddling with her cup of coffee. "Wilbur, I want to tell you something."
I looked up from my paper. I could see that my wife was serious, so I folded it and laid it beside my plate, giving her my full attention. She continued. "You know we have been married for twenty years next month. Mindy is almost nineteen and will be off to college in the fall. You have your circle of friends and I have mine. We have drifted apart these last few years. I haven't minded but I've decided I want more out of life than what we have.
"I have my career in real estate and you are in sales. We both make a good salary. Getting Mindy through four years of schooling isn't going to be a burden if we split the costs. What I'm leading up to is I think we should divorce and each go our own way."
"You are saying you don't love me? Twenty years invested in a fairly happy marriage means nothing?"
"Of course I still have a great amount of affection for you, but it isn't enough."
"Is there someone else?"
"Not at present, but there could be. I'm forty and life isn't exciting anymore. I know you too well to expect we will ever regain the spark that brought us together. You are home only two weeks out of the month. Once a year we go somewhere on vacation and it is the same as it is here at home. Our life is totally blah."
"Some of what you say is true. You haven't considered my feelings, though. You still excite me as much as when we were first married. Our chosen careers have kept us from being together as much as I would like. As you say, I'm on the road a lot, and when I'm home you are out most evenings showing property. On vacations you tend to want to shop continually. Is it lack of sex that brought this on?"
"No, I have no complaints about lack of sex. You still are an adequate lover."
"Shouldn't we consider counseling before you decide we should separate?"
"What good would that do? We would bare our souls and someone would tell us what to do with our life with information from a textbook. I don't see that it would do any good. It would cost a lot of money and wouldn't change a thing. I'd rather pay for a divorce and have it over with. We would still be friends and still be bound together through Mindy."
Being a salesman like I was, I knew when a sale was lost. I made one more attempt. "Have you told Mindy?"
"I have hinted about it some. So far she hasn't picked up on it. Would you be the one to tell her without trashing me? You have always been closer to her than I have."
"Okay, I can do that. I think you are making a mistake, but if you don't want me anymore, I won't beg. I still love you Mavis, and I must say this is quite the surprise to me. I had no indication whatsoever. I'll put together a list of my assets for the settlement. I should have them by Wednesday. You know what law firm I will be using. You can have the divorce papers delivered to them for perusal."
Mavis sat there staring at me. I picked up my cell and called the Radisson and booked a room, after negotiating for long-term weekly rates. I next called Mindy, who had stayed at a friend's house last night, asking her to meet me this afternoon at the Radisson.
"You're rushing this, aren't you?"
"Maybe, but you wanted a done deal, so I see no sense in dragging it out. You know my feelings and I know yours. Let's get it over with and move on." I went upstairs and packed a suitcase. This was easy for I spent half my life in hotel rooms and knew what I needed. As I was leaving I glanced to my side of the bed and saw our wedding picture displayed there. I opened the frame and cut my likeness away from hers. I then put it back together leaving her picture all alone in the frame. What I had taken, I threw in the wastebasket that still contained the tissues from last night's session of what I thought was love.
Carrying my bags down, I set them by the door and faced Mavis. "I'll arrange storage for the few things I've accumulated. Luckily I have never been into tools or collections. When I was home I wanted to spend my time with you and Mindy. Maybe that is why I'm so close to Mindy. She was often the only one here. You take care Mavis. I hope this move brings you happiness." I turned toward the door and picked up my bags.
"Willie Peter, aren't you even going to kiss me goodbye?"
"No. If I did, you might see a grown man cry." Mavis was standing in the doorway watching me back out into the street. I ignored her and slowly drove away.
The room booked for Wilbur Peter Johnston was ready and I moved in and unpacked my bags, which took all of fifteen minutes. My phone rang. "Dad, Mom just called and she was crying. What did you do to her?"
"Mindy, she asked for something and I gave it to her. If she didn't give you any of the details, I'm supposed to. Instead of waiting until this afternoon to meet me, I'll have a table at lunch here in the dining room. I'll tell you all about it then." I hung up and laid down on the bed.
I was blind-sided by this. I had no idea! If she was unhappy, why didn't she say something? What a time for this to happen too. In a month's time I was coming off the road and would be here in the home office. The promotion I had worked so hard for had come through and I was informed yesterday I was to be the new district manager. I felt to tell her now about my different situation would be begging. I didn't even know if I wanted to tell Mindy either.
One other little thing. I had a month off before starting my new duties. Mavis would have learned all of this if she had waited until after I had finished my paper this morning. She just started the conversation a few minutes too soon. Well, that's life I guess. Why did I put off telling her last night while we were lying in bed after making love--or why did I have to read my paper before giving her the good news?
I dozed while thinking back over our life together. Neither one of us were able to go to college, coming from lower middle-class as we did. Everything we both had accomplished came from dedication and hard work. Mavis didn't have to be out showing property in the evenings anymore, but she still did it. I resented that she left me home alone and I never let on, but maybe she sensed it. I was on the road so I could obtain the manager's job that came to me yesterday.
Mindy was born just a few days short of the first year's anniversary of our nuptials. Time and money were really tough at that time, but we worked through it. We were able to afford the necessities, but the luxuries didn't come until she was in high school and Mavis could give all of her time to the real estate agency. My employment had just been a steady long haul upward.
I got up and stripped. I stood in front of the full-length mirror to assess my looks. My hair was turning just a little gray. I might have two more inches around my middle that I didn't need, but I stood erect and I had learned to walk with confidence when meeting prospective clients. I knew I could attract women if I put my mind to it. That is why I always kept out of bars while on the road. A lonely salesman was too susceptible to the blandishments of the cougars that prowled the nightspots.
What about Mavis? Did she have someone waiting in the wings. It was a definite possibility. I hated to think that--but? I couldn't tell, because now I didn't know her anymore. She certainly was attractive enough. Damnit, life sucks!
Mindy was waiting for me outside the dining room at lunch time. I smiled and gave her a hug. She started to say something and I asked her to wait until after we had eaten. "Dad, what's going on?"
"Your Mom asked for a divorce. I'm a salesman and I couldn't sell her on keeping me, so I cut my losses and moved out. I have a room upstairs." I was curious. "What did she say?"
"She said you moved out on her. She said you destroyed your wedding picture before leaving. She was crying terribly hard."
"Look, she wanted a divorce and expected me to remain her friend. I don't see how that is possible. Mindy, I never saw this coming. I thought we had a good marriage. Maybe it isn't great, but at least we respected each other. Now for some reason she wants out. I'm not begging to remain. With me, it is all or nothing. Does it hurt? It hurts more than you can imagine. I've thought maybe she has another lover, although I can't imagine it. She said she can find someone else, although she doesn't have anyone now, but that may just be denial."
"So what are your plans?"
"Nothing solid. Go on with my life. Accept what life has given me. That means you and almost twenty years of what I thought was a happy marriage. If your Mom thinks she can find another mate, then I think I can too."
"But Dad, you belong with Mom."
"I thought I did, but how am I going to get beyond what she said this morning? I love you very much, but I think you should stay out of this. I told her to see my attorney and I would have my, or should I say our, assets listed by Wednesday. I'll be fair, but I'm not going to give her everything. Your schooling is safe. This year's tuition is paid and I'll pay next year if I have to without her help. I should be in a position to do that by then."
"Can I see your room?"
"Sure, it is the same as the million I have stayed in over the course of the last twenty years. Rooms that I have stayed in waiting to get home to my loving wife and beautiful little daughter." I couldn't help it. Tears came to my eyes. I tried to hide them, but I wasn't too successful. Mindy squeezed my hand as we entered the elevator.
Mindy stayed a couple of hours talking with me about everything except her mother. Finally I shooed her out. I was worn out from the mental upheaval that was taking place even as I conversed with my daughter. I let her know my schedule called for next week in the office and that I was on the road for a week. After that the next two weeks would be a repeat. I didn't mention that I had a month free for vacation before starting as district manager.
I slept for two hours and then was at a loss to know what to do. Deciding to get started on what information I would need for the divorce, I went to my office and got my laptop. Then I remembered I needed to print out the information, so I stayed and used the office printer. It was getting late for dinner so I picked up and carrying my computer with me, returned to the hotel.
There was a message left at the desk for me from Mavis, asking me to call. I ignored it and went in to dinner. Nine o'clock came and I thought, what-the-hell. I rang my former home. I didn't greet Mavis. "You asked me to call?"
"Yes I did. I wanted to tell you I'm sorry for hurting you." I let her expression hang there. Finally she continued, "Willie P, you're a salesman and so am I. You are supposed to negotiate if things aren't acceptable with the first offer. Why did you leave so suddenly? You also destroyed our wedding picture. That was mean."
"Mavis, the way you stated your position, I didn't see anything to negotiate. Most salesmen would be ecstatic to win on the first round. You won. I admit I destroyed the picture and maybe it was mean, but our marriage is over according to you. I guess a little bit of me hates a little bit of you and I just didn't want my image to be beside someone I hated even just a little bit." I let that sink in. "Do you want to be in the house when I get the rest of my belongings out, or do you trust me not to destroy things like I did with our picture?"
"It's still your home. You can come in anytime whether I'm here or not. I do trust you."
"Okay, I won't take time off from work to avoid you. I'll come over Thursday evening after you see what I have sent to my lawyer. We may have more to discuss at that time."
"Would you come for dinner? I'll cook whatever you like. Mindy will be here."
I hesitated. "No, I don't think I'd better. I'll see you Thursday after dinner. Good night." I hung up before I capitulated and accepted the invitation.
Sleep was a long time coming. Mavis was acting as if this was a game. Torture Willie Peter, being the name of it. Well maybe I should play one of my own.
I had a meeting with my attorney Wednesday morning. Mavis was coming in with her attorney in the afternoon. I wasn't being officially served, I was accepting the papers to save the cost of her hiring a person to do it. My attorney would hand them to me. I left an item for him to give to her when she appeared. I made a couple of stops Thursday morning and as I left work I wasn't too terribly surprised to find Mindy waiting by my car.
"Dad, you are an asshole. Mom invited you to dinner tonight. You said no, but you can't turn me down if I invite you. Now if you want to go change you can, but you are expected for dinner at seven."
I smiled. "Okay this asshole will be there, just for a daughter who shows no respect for her father. Can you imagine what would have happened if I had called my father an asshole?"
"Yes I can imagine, but you and Gramps are two different people and you would have no reason to call him that."
I made a stop at the salon in the hotel and had the barber shave me and give me a haircut. He suggested a couple of other little things to enhance my looks when I said I was taking my daughter out to dinner. When finished, I went up and put on my new expensive trousers and the new blazer I had purchased. White shirt or new pale green that I had been induced into buying when I was in the men's store? The green one won. I looked in the mirror. Yes, it definitely worked. I was ready to meet my daughter and my soon-to-be ex-wife for dinner at my former home.
I parked my car on the street, although my spot was empty. When I got out, Mrs. Busybody from next door was waiting for me. "Mr. Johnston, you aren't living here anymore? And my, don't you look smart--all tanned up and everything. I didn't realize you had so much gray hair either. It makes you look so distinguished." I escaped by saying I had been down south on business, hence the tan. I couldn't admit that the tan had been applied from a tube less than a short hour before.
I sauntered up to the door. I was going to rub Mavis's nose in how she was treating me by ringing the bell, but unfortunately Mindy opened the door as I reached it. "Dad, you were going to ring the bell weren't you? I couldn't let you do that to Mom. You are still being an asshole and I'm getting pissed with you."
"You mean you aren't pissed with your mother for kicking me out after twenty years?"
"Yes, I'm pissed at her too. Come in, dinner is ready." She whispered, "I love your new look. Some change from two hours ago. I approve. So distinguished. Mom is going to cream her jeans."
Mavis didn't have jeans on. I guess she had been shopping, for she had on a little black number that showed off everything I had come to love in the last twenty years. No comments from either of us and then tears came into her eyes. "Willie Peter, you did one of the nicest things for me you have ever done. Thank you so much for the copy of our wedding picture you left at the lawyer's for me."
I smiled and to cover my embarrassment I turned to Mindy, "I thought you invited me for dinner. I'm hungry."
Mindy's eyes were shining. I don't think she thought she had an asshole for a father now. She approved of my gesture in seeing to it her mother had her treasured wedding picture back. Dinner was relaxing although I had no idea what was coming after. We would be talking and only heaven knew what would be said.