Sue L was a failure; it's the only thing that she knew for sure, that she even pretended to know for sure.
"Look around, kid, and tell me what you see," she said to herself with a note of finality in her voice.
When she did that, the things that she saw didn't even come close to convincing her that her 'failurehood' was anything but the truth. After all, 'the Ultimate John' was gone. (She knew that she could put her finger on why she'd begun calling him 'the Ultimate John', if she really tried. She just never thought that it was worth the effort.)
So, 'the Ultimate John' was gone off with his Bimbo and here she was living in her self proclaimed land of shadows.
If reality were tested, of course, one would see quickly enough that things were not all a bust. After all, 'the Ultimate John' sent her money regularly, which she recognized as the fee that he was paying for being free to go off with the Bimbo.
And, her job was secure and she was good at it. She had been able to sufficiently compartmentalize her life to not let her contemporary and total ennui spill over into her work life. She knew that she had to live. But as soon as she was home--another 'victory' prize in her struggle with 'the Ultimate John'--an had closed the door, she allowed the gray funk, the clouds of her own self proclaimed failure to simply gather around her.
Initially, she thought that she could lose the funk in certain kinds of activities. She had, at first, thrust herself into the world of sex and chat rooms, but found it stilted, infantile and certainly not satisfying. She also discovered that she was not really any good at sexual small talk. She gave it up as lost. It was one more 'notch' in the long line of personal failures that Sue was gathering to herself.
Her next line of personal defense was in smoking and drinking. She'd while away even hours with a bottle of wine and a pack of cigarettes. This lasted an even shorter time than the sex chat rooms. After all, the cigarettes made her mouth taste really foul, and the wine gave her a headache in the mornings. When she had no answer for the obvious question of 'Is this worth it', she simply gave both of them up.
She had her period of spectacular, and continuous house cleaning. For a while, it was her nightly passion, cleaning, straightening, making everything right around the house. Eventually, however, the little voice that seemed to invade every one of her compensation tasks, spoke to her and asked politely, if somewhat smugly, 'just why she was doing all the cleaning, and who was going to see the clean house anyway?'
Sue, having no correct answer for this whispered question, gave up on the furious house cleaning. Things got lax but the place looked 'lived in', was what she told herself. But secretly she knew that she added the 'house cleaning' to her list of things at which she had failed.
She didn't even consider the outside; it had been 'the Ultimate John's' area of expertise and she never did much with it. Now she did nothing at all with it, and all of her attempts to force herself to think of what needed to be done were not availing her of anything.
She would sit, of an evening, and allow her foggy mind to swirl around these 'failures' and contemplate what else was in store for her to be dreadful at. It was cold comfort to have these negative sessions but they did help her pass the time. They passed the time along with a long line of tv shows that she never really watched, didn't really remember, and certainly didn't care about.
At times she'd talk to herself and ask the necessary question of whether 'the Ultimate John' was really that much of a prize to live with. These sessions brought her too close to a reality that she wasn't ready for at all, and normally, if not always, they ended with her crying.
But then that was something that she could count on. In the midst of all of the funk, Sue realized that there were three things to which she could and did still cling: taking long hot baths, dressing in a really sloppy fashion at home, and crying.
It ended up giving her a vision of herself as nice smelling, disheveled, and red eyed. This became the center of her universe, as the tv took up less time and the baths took up a little more of the time.
She hated to admit it but there was really also something that was vaguely comforting about knowing where she was at; she at least knew that she was a failure. She had that to count on, and reckoned that there were no extra surprises to be had in that direction.
She had stopped looking in the mirror also. During those first days, after 'the Ultimate John' was gone, she'd spent the requisite amount of time in front of the mirror. She'd gone through the whole gamut in her sessions to try to come to grips with what was wrong with her that 'the Ultimate John' had slipped from her grasp.
There were times, when she stood in front of the mirror, 'in those days', as she thought of them, though they were only a few weeks in the past; she stood in front of the mirror in just panties and tried to take an objective look at herself.
"Hmm," she said to herself then, "Breasts don't sag; not huge but still kind of nicely grapefruit rounded; nice tushy, flat belly, legs not too bad." This was the conversation in front of the mirror, whether she was waring panties or, as on some occasions, nothing at all.
At those times, her conclusions about the way she looked at the age of 40, simply contradicted her unforeseen loss of 'the Ultimate John', and so, she just gave up on looking at herself in the mirror. Instead she started wearing sweat pants and baggy, shapeless tee shirts at home. It became her cultivated 'slob' look, and it was comforting to her in a kind of perverse way.
"After all," she thought, "If all of this about me is so drab and gray, why shouldn't I look that way?"
She got no answer to that one, and so she extended her 'pity party' to include her new 'slob' look.
"Well, 'the Ultimate John' is not coming back," she reasoned with herself, 'So why not just be comfortable around the house, like I want?"
"Why indeed," was the only answer that she ever got to that and so, she was content with the way she dressed around the house.
The only semi-bright light in those days, those long gray days of funk, were her phone calls for her "Johnnie", her son. He was away finishing his schooling and called her a few times each week.
She began with a determination to lie to him about how she felt and how she was doing. It rarely worked for long with Johnnie.
He was angry, and he told her so, about his father's irresponsible behavior in running after 'the Bimbo.' She appreciated his attitude about 'the Ultimate John, ' which she began to call him in talking to Johnnie, but that didn't seem to help her that much.
The one thing that the calls from Johnnie showed Sue was that the hurt that led to the funk and all of her self proclaimed 'failures' was so inward and personal that even her Johnnie's calls weren't lifting her from the depths to which she allowed herself to sink.
It was a grim world for her but one that she recognized, had in a large part created, was familiar with, was comfortable with, and, as the days went on, one that she reveled in. It was a solitary world; no one was trying to break in, no one was applying for 'the Ultimate John's' job as the provider of those interminable 5 minute passion sessions, which were always shrouded in dark, and inevitably left her wondering about the hoopla about sex.
This was Sue's world in those days; it was her entire package. It almost existed for her as her defense against the outer world, and she took her baths and clung to it.
The early Saturday morning knock on the door, was startling for Sue; after all, she realized, no one came to see her these days. Even friends stopped coming around, when they realized that she was so serious about her doom and gloom.
She answered the knock warily. It was Wayne B, a friend of her son Johnnie's.
"Hey, Mrs. L," he said with simple enthusiasm, "How are you doin'."
"Wayne," she said with obvious surprise, "It's, uh, nice to see you; what's going on these days."
Sue was both surprised and chagrined at Wayne appearing at her door. She was, after all, still dressed in the sweats that she'd worn now for two days. Her bath that morning had made her all fresh and lovely smelling but the sweats certainly counteracted that impression.
She stood for a moment, and then finally remembered her manners:
"Oh, I'm sorry, Wayne," she said, "Come in; I don't know what has happened to my manners."
He followed her into the foyer trying not to notice the somewhat messy house. He was becoming embarrassed now at being faced with such obvious signs of how unhappy Johnnie's mom was. It affected him because he had always had a soft spot for her, and considered her one the loveliest women he knew.
"She looked for all the world now," he thought to himself, "Like she somehow desperately lost."
He just smiled at her. She, for her part, looked around and was chagrined at the disarray of the house. She ran her fingers through her hair, and began to make an excuse:
"I'm sorry, Wayne, that the house is such a mess; I ... I just haven't gotten to it, it seems..."
Then she retreated to one of her proven methods of dealing with things in those days: she cried.
Wayne was really uncomfortable now; he just stood there not knowing what to do.
Sue straightened herself out soon enough, after her cry.
"I need to apologize again, Wayne, I have no excuse at all; it's just the way I am these days, since Johnnie's dad left."
.... There is more of this story ...