Dana’s Story, Part 14

I met up with the group at Russell and Karens’ parents farm near Iowa City that afternoon. I was nervous about seeing my ex-in-laws, but they were more than gracious towards me, making me feel more than welcome. So much had changed in the last few years since divorce.

I had neither heard from Jess nor had I called her. When she left, our relationship seemed to be falling apart. I needed, I wanted to talk to her. I wanted to try to sort things out. So, late the first night at the farm I excused myself and went outside into a little garden area with several outdoor chairs and called. It would be early morning in Rome and I might catch her. Her cell went to voice mail. She had told me many times before each and every trip she took to always call her cell, never her hotel. That never did make any sense to me, so I decided to call her hotel and was quickly connected to her room. A man answered after the first ring.

“Bonjour, c’est Rémy.” (Good morning, this is Rémy.)

“Oh, I’m sorry. They must have connected me to the wrong room, I was calling for Jess . . .”

“Oh, Jessica. Of course. One moment. Jessica, Sweetheart. You have a phone call My Love.”

A moment later she answered, “Caio, Marco? We should be there around 10:30.”

“This isn’t Marco and who the hell is Rémy and what’s with the ‘sweetheart’ and my love’ stuff? What’s going on?”

“Goddammit! I told you to never call my room! I can’t talk now! Don’t call back!” Before she could click off I heard a child’s voice, “Maman, Qu’est-ce?” (Momma, who is it?)

I stood there starring off into the night with the phone still to my ear waiting for someone to tell me it was a wrong number, that it hadn’t been Jess, somebody else named Jess. I felt dizzy, like I was suddenly transported into another dimension where nothing made sense. Rémy? Sweetheart? My Love? Maman? I felt nausea rising and I went to a bench and sat. I was barely able to breathe. 

After a few minutes with my head between my knees, the nausea and dizziness passed. I called her cell which went straight to voice mail. What would I say anyway? Nothing made sense. I had been in a relationship with this woman for over three years. She had a child? A family in Europe? Was she married? I suddenly felt like the biggest fool in the world. Six week long trips to Europe every year interspersed with numerous week long trips to New York. She was not only print shopping, she was seeing her family. What had I gotten myself into? 

Karen came and joined me, “Hey, you’ve been out here a long time. Are you okay? My god, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s wrong?” 

My shock had turned to anger and now, with Karen, it turned to tears. I blathered out everything to her through my sobs.

“I’m such a fucking fool. How could I have been so blind and stupid? I don’t know what to do.”

Karen put her arm around me, “It will be okay. Truly. This is bullshit, but you’re gonna be alright. You’re with friends whether you believe it or not.”

We sat for a long time, not speaking. Karen’s arm around me was comforting and felt good. Things were rolling through my mind like a runaway freight train. I didn’t ever want to go back to Chicago, much less ever see Jess again. My life as I had known it was no more. 

The band was playing two nights in Iowa City. The next night I went in the to help Karen with the merch table. It was fun and took my mind off Jess. My anger with her had turned into seething hate. Neither Karen nor I had shared what had happened with the others. I tried to act normal and must have since no one seemed to notice my mood.

The next morning, Jess called, her first words, “What doesn’t, ‘never call my hotel’ mean to you, you stupid bitch. You could have ruined everything. Goddammit! Where are you?”

So I’m a bitch now? Interesting. I managed my cool, answering calmly, “I’m in Iowa at Russell and Karens’ parents farm and plan on hanging out with them for a week on the road or maybe longer if I feel like it.”

“So, what prompted that?” she asked incredulously and angry.

“They invited me, and since you’re off in Europe, I accepted their invite and took a week off to travel with them. I was lonely and needed a break.”

“Just like that?! How can you just up and leave your work on the spur of the moment?”

“I lied and told them I had a family emergency,” I answered with a chuckle.

“Dana, how could you be that stupid?! I they ever find out you’ll . . .”

I was smiling inwardly at her pathetic attempt to avoid the elephant lurking somewhere in the nether world of transatlantic cell phone connections.

“So what the fuck if they do. Right now I give a shit, Jess-i-c-a, m-y  l-o-v-e!” I drawled with an exaggerated French accent. “So who the fuck is Rémy? And Maman? You have a child?”

“He’s a friend, just a friend. Nothing more. And . . . ”

“Yeah right, ‘my love’, sweetheart.” Fuck you Jess. What are you? A fucking lesbian in Chicago and a hetro with a family in Europe? Fuck you!”

“You’re overreacting. Really. You don’t understand . There is an explanation.”

“Over reacting?! Explanation?! You’re the one with Rémy calling you ‘sweetheart’ and ‘my love’. And  who is calling you ‘maman’ a trained monkey?” I asked with sarcasm oozing from my words. “What the fuck is Rémy? A lesbian with a deep voice and a man’s name?”

“I can explain . . .”

“I’m sure you can conjure up more lies like all the lies of the last three years. Fuck you! I hope to god I never see you again. You’re dead to me . . . Bitch!”

I clicked off and turned off my phone.

Dana’s Story, Part 13

That Sunday night, I went again to see Strealth Movers. There was less of a crowd with a number of empty seats. Karen noticed I was by myself and came and sat down with me.

“Where’s Jess?” she asked.

I told her about her European business trip.

“So, are you okay with her gone for so long?”

“Yeah, I’m used to it. She usually goes at least twice a year, most times not as long as this trip. She has a lot lined up for the next few weeks.”

“So, do you ever go off on a trip by yourself when she’s gone?”

“No, I just get a lot of work done.”

“Must be hard knowing she’s traipsing around Europe. Does she ever want you to go with her?”

“No. She says I’d be bored and a distraction.”

“Oh. Hey, I have to get out to the merch table and get it organized. Enjoy. See you later.”

I sat there with my wine, feeling lonely, sad, worried, and wondering. They came on stage and did another great concert, again, with all different material. I admired their professionalism and enthusiasm. They ended with two encores. I walked out and stopped to say good-bye to Karen.

“Hey, we’re all going out as soon as everyone’s gone. Why don’t you come with us?” she asked eagerly.”

“No, thanks for asking, but I don’t want to intrude.”

“You won’t be intruding. Hanna and Mick keep asking about you. They’d love to get to know you. Trust me. You will be more than welcome. Russell kept talking about how great it was to have lunch with you. Come on.”

And then the three of them appeared. Mick asked, “Where’s Jess? We wanted you two to join us to celebrate a great gig here. Sold out two nights and pretty much sold out of our CDs and T-shirts.  Celebration-is-in-order. . . !”

I briefly explained about Jess and that just made them more enthusiastic about me joining them. “Can’t have you going home alone without some partying,” Mick said and everyone laughed. 

Their insistent enthusiasm was contagious and I reluctantly relented. I helped schlep gear to their large Mercedes cargo van parked behind the venue and we headed to a sports bar Russell knew from his time in Chicago. The van had a comfortable bench seat that sat Hanna, Karen, and myself while the two guys rode the front, Russell driving, Mick shotgun. All their gear stored neatly in shelves on the sides in the cargo area and there was a blow up mattress for when they needed to do an all night run. Their energy was infectious. I was laughing with them. For the first time in the last few days I wasn’t thinking about my life. I was having a good time.

We arrived at the bar and Russell stopped to let us out while he and Mick went to find a parking spot. Since it was Sunday night, the bar was about half full. I was already planning on calling in sick tomorrow as I guessed it might be a late night.

We found a large table. The two guys joined us shortly and we all ordered a round of drinks and an array of appetizers. They seemed to be so close and happy together and I liked them all. I was also envious. 

The night wore on with them sharing stories of their time on the road and at their homes in California. Hanna and Russell had recently moved into their own place, a two bedroom cottage a little inland from the coast, after camping at Hanna’s parents for almost two years. Karen and Mick lived in a one bedroom north of Sausalito. Their lives sounded to be full of friends, fun, and a lot of hard work with their music. I became even more envious with my imagination beginning to run wild, making me wonder even more about my own life.

The margarita, jealousy, the excitement all combined to make my mind start to flicker like an old black and white movie I  saw years go. Then I was suddenly overcome by a wave of emotion, both sadness and happiness at once. I felt tears coming and I excused myself and went to the front of the bar and pulled out some tissues. 

A moment later, Hanna joined me, “What’s wrong, Dana? Did we say something to upset you?”

“Nothing anyone said, it’s everything. You are all seem so happy and fun. My life is boring. It’s going nowhere. I’m sorry. Apparently I’m having a little crises.” 

I was realizing I really didn’t like Chicago. I wasn’t as happy with my work as I thought I’d be. I was unhappy about everything concerning my life. I never wanted to go back to Jess’s place again, even though she wasn’t there but was somewhere over the Atlantic probably drinking wine and chatting it up with anyone close. It wasn’t my home It never was. She never liked any ideas I had or anything of mine I wanted to add to the collection of items on shelves or on the walls. There was nothing of me there.

Hannah put here arm around my shoulders and pulled me to her. Her warmth just made me feel worse and I snuggled in and cried on her shoulder. 

Karen joined us, “What’s going on. Dana? What’s wrong?”

I was calmed down enough to tell them what I was feeling. 

Karen was the first to respond, “Jess is gone for what, seven weeks? Why don’t you take some time off and come with us for a few weeks. You can catch a flight back here when you want.”

“I couldn’t do that. With Russell and everything, he wouldn’t want me hanging around. With our history, it would be weird, awkward. I’d just be in the way.”

“No you wouldn’t. Russell will be fine with it. I know he will. And so will Mick. Us girls run the show, don’t we, Hannah?” Karen said with a smug smile.

“Yup, we make those fellas toe the mark. Come on, Dana. This sounds so fun. We’re leaving tomorrow for a few days at my folks place and we’ll do a gig in Iowa City. Then to Des Moines, Omaha, Lincoln, Denver, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Durango, Salt Lake, Lake Tahoe and home . . . about three weeks. You can help me at the merch table. It’ll be so fun. Come on, Say yes. Please?”

“Wait, hold on. This is too much. I can’t go off on the spur of the moment. I need to give more notice. What am I saying? No. This is crazy.”

“Tell them it’s a family emergency . . .  it’s kind of an emergency. And it’s sort of like family, you used to be anyway. Just a little lie. Your firm will never know.”

“But it they ever found out . . . I’m a junior partner. I’d be blackballed from ever making partner.”

“From what you were saying earlier, do you even want to be ‘partner’?” asked Hannah.

Before I could think about an answer, Russell and Mick appeared and Mick asked, “So what’s going on here? What are you three conspiring about?”

Karen told them everything we had been talking about. 

Mick said, “That’d be cool having you along. What do you think Russell?”

“Yeah, that’d be cool,” he said with a furrow in his brow, but smiling.

“No, it won’t work. Thanks for your concern, but no. I’d just be in the way. And going to your parents house, no thanks. They probably hate me.”

Karen said, “They’ve changed about 180 degrees from when you were around. They’d probably love to see you again.”

“Hannah said, “Oh come on. You won’t be in the way. They like having Mick and me around. That says a lot. We have a ton of room in the van. It’d be so nice to have you. Really. Do we have to beg?”

All four of them started talking at once about how fun it would be to have me along, someone new to break the monotony of just the four of them. I shut them all out. I was not going to go with them. I firmly rejected their pleas and called a cab. Before I left, Hannah, Karen and I exchanged contact information. My cab was there and I left.

I walked into Jess’s condo with a new understanding that it was indeed hers and I simply lived there with her to keep her company and give her some pleasure in bed, the later not appealing to me anymore if it ever had. I needed my own place and would begin a search tomorrow.

I lay awake with all that happened rolling around in my head like a looped tape. After a sleeping pill, I went into a restless sleep awaking before my alarm. I felt horrible from all the emotional trauma from the last few days and my restless night. I got up, made coffee and stared out the window into space. I hate lying, but called my office at 8:00 when I knew the phones would be on and told my secretary that I had a family emergency and needed to be out of town for at least a week. After the usual expressions of sympathy, we figured out who could take my case load and appointments and I was free for the week.

My call to the office had consumed over an hour. I called Karen and they were already outside of the city heading towards Interstate 80 and Iowa City. I could rent a car and meet them there. Screw it. Why not. A week on the road. It might do me good, clear my head.

I called a rental agency and they would pick me up in two hours, the time I would need to pack what clothes I thought I would need: some casual clothes I had, which wasn’t much, underwear, toiletries, and I was ready to go. The rental car arrived and I dropped the agent’s assistant back at his office and headed out of town. I cranked some tunes on the radio. Every mile from Chicago, I felt lighter, freer, more adventurous . . . and scared to death.

Dana’s Story, Part 12

 I walked into the condo late afternoon after my lunch with Russell. Jess called from the bedroom where she was busy packing for her annual European trip to visit auction houses and galleries looking for prints for her gallery. She was originally scheduled to leave the next week, but a rare print she had been looking for had emerged in a gallery in Rome and the owner, a long time friend, was holding it for her. She was off to get it before he changed his mind so she was leaving a week early on a late flight tomorrow.

“How was lunch?” she asked as I walked into the bedroom.

“Okay, I guess. Actually it was very strange. He’s changed so much and I felt . . . yeah, I felt dumb and uninteresting. He’s experienced so much done interesting things, let go of his old life, our old life. Am I in a rut? Do you think I’m in a rut?”

“No, not at all. You’re being a successful attorney in a good firm, doing what you have always wanted to do. Why would you think you’re in a rut?”

“I don’t know. You’re right. I am doing what I wanted, I guess. His life isn’t my life. He just got me thinking. Maybe we need more adventure. Do some traveling.”

“Dana, I have enough adventure and traveling. I’m leaving for seven weeks in Europe for work and I don’t think I could handle any more travel or adventure in my life. Maybe you need to take a trip somewhere, somewhere fun, like The Bahamas? Or maybe someplace in Mexico like Cozumel?”

“Maybe. Neither sound much fun . . . alone. Never mind. Sorry I brought it up.”

“I need to finish packing. Let’s go for dinner before the concert tonight. You still want to go, don’t you . . . after your lunch with him, I mean.”

“Sure, I really want to hear them again. How about Mexicali around 5:30. I can call for reservations. I’m going to lay down and rest for a while,” I responded all too unenthusiastically.

Dana finished her packing and went down to the gallery and I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes. Thoughts kept flooding my head: Am I happy? Am I really committed to Jess? Am I really a lesbian or does Jess just make me comfortable? Do I need a change in my life? She’s leaving for seven weeks. I have no real friends, just people from work. Do I do the same thing again while she runs around Europe . . . the same thing which is absolutely nothing? Russell and Hanna, Karen and Mick, they all seem so free and happy. Am I happy? God, Russell is so damn sexy. Was I stupid to let him go? Would he have changed? Probably not . . . not with me anyway. I’m not like Hannah, I’m just a boring lawyer.

I must have dozed off, I heard Jess calling me, “Hey, Dana, time to get ready to go.”

I know I was distant during our dinner and the concert. They did all different material from last night and it was great. Afterwards, we left without waiting around to see them. We didn’t talk on the way home and went directly to bed. I couldn’t sleep. Too many questions were running through my mind. I finally took a sleeping pill at 12:30 and awoke at 8:30 with Jess gently shaking my shoulder.

“Hey lazy girl, you going to sleep all day?” she said with forced cheeriness as she handed me a cup of coffee.

I blinked my eyes awake and saw the time. “It’s Sunday, a day to sleep in,” I said groggily with a sleeping pill hangover.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

I lied and said, “Yeah, I just had a hard time getting to sleep so I took a sleeping pill. Coffee’ll wake me up.”

“You take a whole one? A half is usually enough for you.”

“Yeah, a whole one. I know, I know.” I wanted to add, ‘Mother’, but held my tongue. “What time do you have to leave for the airport?”

“I have a cab coming at 3:00. That’ll give me plenty of time for check in, security, and a glass of wine or two before boarding.”

She was taking an all night flight and would sleep comfortably in her first class seat. She’d arrive in Rome sometime tomorrow. I usually worried about her flying and when she’d arrive, where she would be staying, if she’d be okay, but this time, none of it seemed to matter. I was ready for her to be gone. I wanted to be by myself. For the first time in three years, I didn’t want her around, I wanted to be alone.

I spent the day reading. There was little communication between us . . . an uncomfortable silence had settled in. As usual, Jess was going over and over her itinerary, trying to make sure all her time would be well spent and productive. She would have a number of auctions to be prepared for, meetings with gallery owners, drinks, dinners, a whirlwind schedule. Me, I would be here, wondering who the hell I really was, old boring me, alone and bored.

At 3:00, she took her suitcase and carry-on, gave me a kiss on the cheek, then looked straight into my eyes and asked hesitantly, “Will you be here when I return?”

I couldn’t meet her gaze and looked away, hesitated and, trying to keep my voice from shaking, replied, “I don’t know, Jess. I’m sorry, but I really don’t know.”

She took a deep quivering breath, turned and left.