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.

Dana’s Story, Part 11

I walked into the restaurant, wondering what I was doing meeting him, feeling very nervous and uncertain, I slid into the booth. 

He greeted me with a big warm smile and said, “Hi Dana. You look great. Thanks for coming.”

I blurted out, “You . . . you look so different. You seem different. Your hair. Playing music? Really? And . . . San Francisco? So what’s going on. What do your parents think about you?”

“Whoa, one at a time,” he said laughing. “Obviously things have changed a bit.”

“A bit? A BIT? God, what happened, Russell? What happened to the uptight banker I was married to?”

“Well, when you left me, and by the way, I don’t blame you. It took me a while, but I realized what an ass I was. I’m very sorry for how I treated you. I would have left me. Truth is, I didn’t know any better, but that’s a feeble excuse, I know. But I am truly sorry.” He paused for a long moment looking past me into some other space. “Forgive me?”

“Of course I forgive you. We were both too young and inexperienced in life. We never should have gotten married. But I have to say, leaving you was the hardest decision I ever had to make. Now, seeing you so happy, I’m happy for both of us that I did. You seem so, I don’t know, just different, so much at ease. And Hannah, she’s amazing. I’m guessing you’re together?” 

A clean cut waiter, dressed in the obligatory white shirt, black tie, black vest, pants, and shoes, appeared with water and menus. We each ordered iced tea.

He left and Russell continued, “Yeah, Hannah, she’s amazing, we’ve been hanging out together a little over two years now. I met her my second day on the road after I, for some unknown reason, decided to do a camping trip to the west. She was hitchhiking and, believe it or not, I picked her up. Still, to this day, I am surprised that I ever did that. You know as well as anyone what a social derelict I was. She,” he paused and I noticed his lips quiver and his eyes tearing up. Regaining his composure he continued, “She more or less saved me from myself. I don’t think I can ever tell her enough. Anyway, she was the complete opposite of me, a total free spirit which I discovered early on when we went swimming that first afternoon in Nebraska and she got in the water in her birthday suit.’

“What? Oh-my-god. What did you do?” I said laughing.

“Turned red as a beet, I’m sure. Looked the other way. Embarrassed to death. Didn’t phase her though. But she, I don’t really know, but she took me on an amazing adventure from a sweat lodge, to hiking and exploring, to Buddhism, to music of course, and to a life I never could have imagined. She taught me about love, not by sitting down and teaching me, but by example. She is an amazing woman who I am very grateful for and very much in love with.”

The waiter appeared with our teas and was ready to take our order. We both momentarily cleared our minds and ordered without ever having glanced at the menu. Both of us ordered salads, mine with chicken, Russell with brisket.

As soon as he left, I asked more excitedly than I wanted, “Are you married?”

“No,” he answered almost too quickly, “that’s the furthest thing from our minds. Maybe someday. Her mom and stepfather have been together over twenty years and never married. They’re and interesting couple . . . really, really interesting. So, enough about me, how are you? How are you really?”

“I’m good. Really good. Jess, like Hannah, saved me, I guess. She gave me the strength and support during that last year we were together. Without her, I don’t know what I’d ever have done. She’s good to me. Encourages me, gives me space, supports me. My parents hate her. My father hasn’t spoken to me since he found out I divorced you and am together with a woman. My mother barely speaks to me . . . makes me sad. But they’re locked into their belief system, worried about what their friends and pastor will think and don’t want anything to cause any chinks in their stone walls . . . sort of like we were back then. Funny how life works.”

“It is truly strange indeed. Back then, if someone told me I’d be playing music professionally, I’d have laughed in their face. But I love it and I’m having more fun than I could ever imagine. We even make some money. Are you still at the DA’s office?”

“No, actually, I started with a private firm about six months ago, family practice, which is what I always wanted. Overall, things are good.”

Our food arrived and we ate with smatterings of small talk. As we were finishing, I asked Russell to tell me what really happened. He hesitated for a moment and went on to tell me how his world fell apart after I left him. He told me about his depression, his mother’s criticism, his crazy idea of a solo camping trip, about his loneliness, about Hannah and how they fell in love, about her parents, about Sausalito, about music, about his time at a Buddhist retreat center, how he had started therapy, about his father’s heart attack, about how Donny was really his half brother and was serving time in prison for spousal abuse, about his mother, and finally about how he would never go back to banking.

I sat there and realized my mouth was hanging open as I tried to absorb this epistle.  He was so different now, so open. Our table had been cleared and when I looked at my watch, we had been talking way over an hour after finishing eating. We both came out of our trance at the same time and reached for the check, but Russell insisted it was his treat. The bill was paid and we got up to leave. He took my hand as we walked out into the Chicago sunlight. He turned and looked at me for a minute and I thought, even hoped, he might kiss me. But it was not to be. He said his good-bye with a short hug, an uncertain smile, then turned and walked away without another word, without looking back. 

 I stood watching him as he walked down the street until he disappeared around a corner. My mind was racing with questions. What would have happened if he had this epiphany while we were married? Before we were married? Would we still be married? I suddenly felt unsure of my decision to leave him. Maybe I should have hung in there. Did I still love him? Did I ever? Doubts about my relationship with Jess unexpectedly erupted. Why was I with her? Did I really love her? Was she just a temporary fix that I kept clinging to? Should I have stayed with Russell? Would he had ever became the man he now was if we were still married? I’d never know. I kept looking down the empty street maybe wishing deep down he might come back. He didn’t. I turned to walk back to the condo. Tears of uncertainty and fear fell onto the city sidewalk I somehow now felt a stranger to. And now a life I felt a stranger to.

Dana’s Story, Part 10 (Two years later)

I was reading the Chicago Times Sunday Supplement, scanning for upcoming events. I spotted an ad for a folk music club Jess and I went to on occasion for some acoustic music and obscure but talented singer-songwriters. There was a San Francisco based folk trio called The Stealth Movers appearing for a three night run in two weeks. The name caught my eye and I read the description of the group made up of singer/songwriter Hannah Morse, Russell Henderson, guitar, mandolin, and vocals, and Miguel (Mick) Espinoza on bass and vocals. 

I reread it several times, wondering. No, no way. It can’t be him. I had heard through my attorney that he had left the city and moved back to Iowa but had heard nothing more for almost two years. Jess was down at the gallery catching up on a few things. I went to my laptop and did a search for The Stealth Movers and found their website along with several other sites of reviews and some uTube videos. I watched two of the videos and, yup, there he was, playing music with a very talented female singer and a tall Mexican man on bass. This Russell had long hair and tanned features, dressed in blue jeans and an untucked loose fit button shirt open at the neck with rolled up sleeves, and with some sort of choker necklace. He looked healthier than I could ever remembered him being. And he was good on both guitar and mandolin. My god, this is the anal retentive jerk I married  . . . and divorced? Unbelievable. I was rewatching the videos again when Jess came in. 

“Hey who’s that? They sound really good.”

I stammered, “You won’t fucking believe this. Fucking unbelievable. Just fucking unbelievable. Take a look.”

“My god. It’s him? What the hell? They’re really good. We have got to go see them. I’ll get tickets for the first night, maybe all three nights. This is crazy weird from all you ever told me about him. What happened to the geeky guy you divorced?”

I was speechless, feeling like I was in some sort of time warp. This man who was a complete Type A jerk was playing in a folk trio. Finally I said, “I have no idea. Absolutely no idea. He looks so different. He actually looks like he’s having fun. And look at his hair. This is all very strange.”

We got tickets for all three nights. I didn’t care, if we needed to, we could always give them away, but I needed to experience all that I could of whatever had happened to this guy.

The two weeks of waiting for night of the first show seemed to never come. I was beside myself with trying understand what had happened to him. Jess and I crowded into the dark club, the seating of which consisted of small tables that sat four. It was a small intimate venue that seated less than 150 people. Wine, beer, coffee, and munchies were available and Jess and I each ordered a glass of wine and sat back and waited. The place filled up and another couple joined us right at 7:30 when a voice came over the sound system announcing, The Stealth Movers. The three of them walked onto the stage and there he was, Russell Henderson, in the flesh, long hair, untucked shirt, khaki shorts, running shoes, tanned arms and legs and all. 

They jumped into their first song. I immediately fell in love with the woman singer. Her voice was beautiful. The instrumentation was perfect and Russell was, I don’t know . . . interesting? I looked over the crowd and I spotted his sister Karen? What was she doing there? Maybe came in from Iowa to see them but she looked busy as she shuffled around and then disappeared behind the stage.

The first set flew by and I was already happy we had gotten tickets for the next nights. These folks were good. Most of their music was original with a few covers thrown in. The original tunes, I guessed, were written by the woman, Hanna. Her lyrics of love, loss, times and places struck a chord in me and I found myself choking up with emotion several times. We ordered another wine and waited for the next set. 

Another long set and two encore songs, and, after they announced that their three CDs and T-shirts would be for sale in the lobby and they were done. We ordered another wine and waited for crowd to thin out. After things settled, we went towards the lobby and there was Karen sitting behind the merch table selling t-shirts and CDs as fast as she could.

“Hello, Karen,” I said as I stood in front of her. She was busy sorting cash and when she looked up, her mouth dropped open and her eyes about popped out.

She was finally able to stammer, “Oh-my-god, Dana. You came, you actually came to see these guys, to see Russell? Oh-my-god . . . never expected you to show up. Holy crap. Wait ’til Russell sees you. Oh-my-god.”

I smiled at her, “How are you Karen? It’s truly nice to see you. This is Jess.”

She looked over, smiled and offered her hand. Jess took it and smiled back, “Nice to meet you, Karen.”

I sort of blurted out, “What are you doing here with them? You’re married and have those two little boys, bigger now after a few years?”

“Oh Dana, so much has happened, so much. My husband left me right after you and Russell, well, after your divorce. I’m with Mick, the bass player, and am sort of the  group manager: booking agent, website guru, T-shirt designer, and so on. I’ve never had so much fun in all my life as traveling around with those three crazies.”

“Crazies? With all due respect, Russell was one of the most uptight people I ever knew. Crazy wasn’t in his vocabulary.”

“I’ll let him explain. Here they come now.”

And there they were, Hannah and Russell, holding hands, and Mick. I thought Russell’s jaw was going to hit the floor and his eyes were going to pop out of their sockets.

“Holy shit, Dana. What are you doing here?”

“We came to hear some good music. You three are amazing. We have tickets for all three nights and plan on being here. Hi, Hannah, I love your voice and your music. All of you were great.”

She looked at me for a moment, smiled with a twinkle, “So you’re Dana? Nice to meet you,” offering her hand.

And then Mick said, “So you’re the ex. Cool. Good to see you. Thanks for coming.”

And I said, “And this is Jess, my partner.” Right then there was enough awkward to go around for the next few years. All six of us stood there for what seemed like an eternity when Russell finally broke the silence.

“Dana, it’s really great to see you. You look great. And, Jess, it’s nice to meet you. SInce we’re in town for the next few days, would you have lunch or something, Dana? I’d love to catch up with you and your life. How about tomorrow, it’s Saturday and hopefully you’re not working?” all said with a huge smile.

It was my turn for my jaw to drop. This did not seem to be the same sullen, self absorbed, non-caring man I was once married to. I glanced at Hannah who was smiling and nodding approval. I looked at Jess who gave me a ‘sure, go ahead’. I nodded and said, “How about 11:30 at Julio’s?’ trying not to sound as stunned as I felt, “It’ll be slow at noon on a Saturday. Will that work for?”

“Sounds great. I’ll see you then. Right now, all I want is to hit the sack.” He looked at Hannah and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She gave a coy smile and rolled her eyes.

We said our good-nights and parted. In the cab on our way home, Jess asked, “Are you okay? That was pretty weird from what you told me about him. Are you sure that’s the same guy?”

“Hard to believe, but it was certainly Russell Henderson. It was him but not the same guy I was married to. Not the same at all. Apparently he’s more than just a backup for this Hannah. Very interesting.” I lay awake a long time before my mind was quiet enough for sleep to finally come.

I got to Julio’s the next day about 11:45 and there he was waiting in a booth. He saw me and waved me over.

Dana’s Story, Part 9

It was after Thanksgiving, which Russell thankfully blew off because he was too busy, so I got to spend the day with Jess. The divorce papers were ready to go. It was a matter of me deciding when. I was petrified. Russell was his usual self, distant, even more so since all the fights we had been having about seeing parents and other disagreements we seemed to have more and more frequently. He was angry and didn’t speak to me for a week after I refused to go with him on the last time he went to see his parents. He was suspecting something was going on with me and he was right. I couldn’t believe it, but I was having an extra-marital affair. I had seen movies and T.V. shows about such things and here I was acting out my own indiscretions.

I hadn’t been to my parents in a long time and decided I needed to go to tell them in person about my impending divorce, rather than by a phone call or email. Jess said she’d go with me. We flew out on a Friday afternoon after a fierce fight with Russell about me going. It was nothing new, it seemed we fought over everything these days.

Once in the air, I took a deep breath and ordered a glass of wine. My mother would pick us up at the airport. She was already wondering why I was bringing a friend instead of my husband. As they say, the shit was going to hit the fan and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Thank god Jess was with me for moral support.

We got into Des Moines at 9:15 s0 we grabbed some fast food on the way back to the house, and after saying hi to my dad, we crawled into bed. I was stressed out and wanted to talk to Jess but she was in the other guest room and I thought better of it so my folks might not suspect what was going on with us and eventually drifted into sleep.

Saturday we spent doing small talk. I took Jess out for a tour of Des Moines and the newer shopping area by the capitol. Later Saturday afternoon we had had cocktails with mom and dad. Jess was her charming self. I was nervous as a cat on a tin roof. Mom excused herself to prepare some dinner and I joined her in the kitchen. I began making a salad while mom was getting some steaks ready for dad to grill and potatoes to bake in the oven.

“Mom, I need to tell you something, something that isn’t easy for me.”

“Oh-my-god, you’re pregnant?”

I laughed nervously, “No, that’s not it at all. I’m divorcing Russell, Mom. I’m getting a divorce. My marriage is awful and I’m getting a divorce. There, it’s out.”

She paused what she was doing and didn’t say a word for what seemed like hours, grasping for words. Then she blurted out, “This is such a shock! I don’t know what to say! What are you thinking! What do his parents say? Have you tried counseling. Your father . . . I can’t imagine what he’ll say. Why? Isn’t there something to do, work things out somehow? Why?”

“Mom, I’m sorry, but I’ve made up my mind. I am going to leave him and that’s that. Marrying him was a huge mistake from the get go.”
I went on to tell her about how things had been as of late. I did not mention anything about Jess other than we were best friends.

“But, Dana, what do your friends think?”

“Mom, that’s one of the problems with being with Russell, I have no friends, we have no friends, he has no friends . . . that I’m aware of anyway.”

“Oh Dana, this is so disappointing. You seemed so happy. And this Jess person? What about her? Who’s she to you? I see the way looks at you and I think she’s more than just a friend.”

I took a breath and said with maybe too much defensiveness, “She’s just a friend, Mom! She knows what is going on and she’s the only one who I can talk to and who gives me some support.”

“You don’t have to be so defensive! I thought you and Russell were happy together.”

“I was never happy. I just existed, simply existed from day to day. I like my colleagues at work and Russell got angry that I spent time with them after work on Friday nights and we fought. He doesn’t support my career. He doesn’t support anything I like to do. We fight over me not wanting to see his parents, over me coming here . . . over everything anymore. It’s awful being around him. We never talk. We never do anything. We never did anything. I’m tired of it.”

I started to cry. My mother huffed, said no more and continued to prepare for dinner. I felt tense during dinner and didn’t relax until we left on Sunday when my father took us to the airport. I never told my father, leaving it to my mother to figure it out. I was pissed at her for not giving me any support and was happy to have Jess to have a sounding board while I consumed too many glasses of wine on our short flight home and was fairly wasted when I was dropped off at our apartment. Thankfully Russell was out so I showered and went to bed.

But before I went to sleep, a wave of anger came over me and I decided to give Russell present for his birthday on December 13th, divorce papers.