A Long Time Coming
After Pauline left me, I had no interest or desire in starting a new relationship. Why would I have wanted to when the woman I loved and had been married to for seven years had just broken my heart? It wasn't all my fault, but I accepted most of the blame.
Pauline's daughter from her first marriage had Down syndrome, and everyone treated her as if she was a perpetual child who was never going to grow up. While Marie grew physically, her family talked to her like she was an infant in diapers and never pushed her to grow mentally. In public, she acted like a retarded freak. Other kids didn't want anything to do with her; even at family functions, she was usually by herself. I always noticed it when people would look at her like she was a complete weirdo, which was why I never wanted to be seen with her. I didn't want anyone thinking that I was her dad and allowed her to behave like she did.
At home, the only thing Marie ever did was watch the same videos on YouTube over and over all day long. I understood that she was very lonely, having no friends at all outside the family, but that was her family's fault. Although she couldn't sing to save her life, that didn't stop her from singing very loudly, which drove me bananas; and no matter how many times I told her to stop, she always did it again later.
When I first met Marie, she couldn't do anything for herself. She was seven years old at the time, and she didn't know how to buckle herself in a car; everyone always did it for her. Even worse, her mom was still bathing her. Three years later, at the age of ten, nothing had changed. I finally did start to teach her simple things, things kids half her age already knew how to do, like buckle herself into a car seat. I also put my foot down where her bathing was concerned, warning my wife that she would eventually be bathing her 21-year-old daughter if she didn't teach Marie to do it herself.
As it turned out, I was the only person who believed that Marie should be treated her age; everyone else stubbornly refused to recognize that she had potential, and thus were ruining her future. All of this came between my wife and me, though I have to confess to having allowed it to happen.
In the beginning, Pauline and I were deeply in love and inseparable. When it was necessary for us to be apart, such as while we were working, text messages to each other's phones kept us in constant contact. But because of Marie's continuous infantile behavior, the marriage began to disintegrate, eventually reaching a point where we were no longer having sex or even spending any sort of quality time together. In the back of my mind, I knew that sooner or later she might have an affair.
Early in October, 2012, I discovered that Pauline was indeed having an affair, with one of her coworkers. Two days after I confronted her about it, she left me. I was devastated to have lost her, but the sad truth is that I didn't miss her daughter at all. I couldn't afford to continue living where I was on just my income.
In the meantime, to combat my loneliness and grief, I turned to God and alcohol. I prayed constantly during the day and got drunk almost every night. Although I'm not Catholic, I nevertheless found some peace while reciting my own version of the Rosary, a sort of Protestant version. In trying to get closer to God, I tended to watch a Christian-themed movie every night while eating dinner. I also began to find that simple things I had once taken for granted were in fact enormous blessings, such as my job, my car, and my friends. Aside from praying for the forgiveness of my sins and for my daily bread, I asked God for nothing. My prayers were always to his son, Jesus Christ, and for Christ to pray for me. In being alone and very vulnerable, I found myself wondering what any of us really knows about what we truly need. The Bible says that God already knows what we need before we ask him, and so I surrendered myself to his will, believing that no matter how bad things got, he would never abandon me.
I had three cats that I loved dearly, and wherever I moved had to be able to accommodate them. God was merciful in allowing me to find a basement for rent that included two bedrooms, a family room, and a bathroom for a price I could afford, and the basement's owner allowed me to keep my cats. fo
As I said earlier, I had no desire or interest in finding someone to replace Pauline, and certainly not within the first month of our splitting up. There were a few women I worked with who other men might have found more attractive than Gina, but they didn't do anything for me. Gina did, although barely. Our paths crossed once or twice a week, and I felt an attraction to her. Aside from working as school bus drivers for the same company, all I knew about her was that she was a blonde, a bit on the voluptuous side, and attractive. Out on the road, when I would see her bus coming toward me, I waved eagerly.
It was a Friday afternoon early in November, 2012. At the end of my workday, I walked into the drivers' room and found Gina by herself. We had about a 30-minute conversation, and I was stunned to learn that she was fifty-three. She didn't look any older than me; I was forty-one. She tried to make a big deal of our age difference, but what's twelve years in this day and age? I asked her how many of the men she had been with were around her age, and she said that all of them were.
"How that working out for you?" I asked.
When it came right down to it, I was drawn to Gina for a reason or reasons I couldn't put my finger on. There was just something about this woman, who wore very odd-looking glasses that nevertheless seemed just right for her, that I found very attractive. I left the drivers' room that day feeling for the first time since my marriage ended happy to be single.
The following Monday Gina didn't come to work. Because of the very high turnover rate at our company, quite a few new drivers had disappeared before I got to know them. I didn't really miss any of them, except for Gina.
The next day was Election Day. Schools were closed, and I made up for the lost income by doing some last-minute campaigning for a Democratic candidate for state office. I didn't think about Gina at all that day. She was history, as far as I knew, and I had to move on with my life.
The next morning, however, I saw Gina on her bus and was filled with joy. I greeted her enthusiastically, and she flirted with me as we walked to the office. Again, it felt good to be single.
The next afternoon, in the drivers' room, Gina and I were sitting at the same table, and I played it cool by acting like she had not affected me in any way. In the meantime, another driver was talking to her in a very raunchy manner. I played Solitaire and occasionally snickered at what one driver or another was saying. After about a half-hour, Gina got up to leave. I felt a bit of separation anxiety in my heart as she walked out the door, and then suddenly she stopped and blew me a kiss. I was stunned, speechless, and could only smile bashfully at her. Being a pessimist, I quickly concluded that she had only blown me that kiss to tease the driver who had been talking raunchy to her.
I again found Gina in the drivers' room the next afternoon and sat down at her table. We chit-chatted for a few minutes, and then she told me about an accident she'd had that morning. Our company was a Union shop, the Teamsters having been voted in two years earlier, and I was the shop steward. The contract did not protect drivers who were in their probation period, which was the first sixty days after being hired. One such driver had had a minor accident and was terminated, and there was nothing I could do for him.
I remained calm while asking Gina if she had started paying Union dues yet, which would mean that she was protected by our contract, but deep down I was afraid. One thought kept going through my mind: the company was going to fire her, and I'd never see her again. At the end of our conversation, she got up and asked to borrow my pen. I resumed playing Solitaire while waiting for her to give me back my pen. When she did, she also slipped a piece of paper into my hand. On it were her name and phone number. I couldn't have been more delighted!
"I don't give my number to just anyone," Gina said; then as she exited the room, she mouthed the words 'call me'.
Who would have guessed that this mystery woman I had found myself looking forward to seeing for a few seconds once or twice a week, even before my wife left me, seemed interested in being my new girlfriend? If it wasn't too good to be true, then it had to be fate, destiny. In fact, it was the beginning of a love affair like no other.
Let me tell you about it.