An Unwise Choice

There wasn’t a knock on the door or a phone call. Hell, there wasn’t even a missed text message. Terry just stormed into the house with foggy eyes and a slimy grin. Kevin couldn’t have been sure without an explanation, but he knew immediately that there was probably something wrong.

“So I decided to do it.” Terry announced as plainly as anyone might have if they thought their friend knew what was supposed to have happened. Kevin, unfortunately, had no clue. Still – he pretended to go along with it.

“Did you? How long were you waiting to do it again?” Faked enthusiasm poured out of his mouth easily enough. He’d never been the type to lie but Kevin was known to be forgetful at times. Over the last few months his life changed quite dramatically as his marriage opened, and they shared this choice with their closest friends and family. This decision had been discreet and freeing, but they knew not everyone would support the change.

Terry had been one of the only friends that actually encouraged Kevin as he hesitantly prepared for his first date a few weeks back. In hindsight, perhaps this should have been a warning sign. At the time it had not raised any red flags, and it might not have ever done so if that day Terry hadn’t been so very transparent.

“I slept with Karen. We have been dancing around it for years but we finally took the dive. Man, let me tell you, it was worth it.” This man even had the audacity to laugh with sincerity. As far as Kevin knew, Terry’s wife thought Julie was – bonkers, he recalled, was the word. It was not even close to possible that Terry had been given permission to sleep with someone else.

For as close of friends as they managed to be, Kevin could not remember whose face belonged to the name ‘Karen’ in Terry’s life. Close as they were, most of their friendship was reliably casual. They both enjoyed bar hopping on holiday weekends, and touring tri-county food festivals three seasons of the year. Feeling as though he didn’t have enough information to really question Terry further about this action he’s taken, Kevin merely stalls. Part of him hadn’t been completely sure that this admission was even real; “Karen, did I hear she dyed her hair? Maybe it wasn’t her…”

Terry confirmed very quickly that she had trimmed it and darkened it a bit. After surpassing shear amazement at being right with his vague inquisition, Kevin found himself buried in a five-minute long bragging session. Karen looks so young! Someone mistook her for a twenty-something the other day! She’s gotten her body back into shape and is so stunning! Everyone is taking a peak at her when she walks by! Meanwhile, Kevin filled in the tiny breaths Terry managed to draw with double-time effort put into recalling who Karen actually was and if he’d ever met her in person.

“You think you guys will hook up again?” Stopping the dialogue made little sense with Terry being so frank. By not interrupting the conversation to forcefully interrogate his friend about his marriage the conversation naturally provided answers. As it turns out Karen lives in the home directly behind him behind him. For this reason he is sure that if he wished to sleep with her again there would be no issues in having it arranged. He did briefly whine about work schedules that conflicted, and also about Karen’s husband. Apparently he’d only supported an open marriage if he didn’t see it or know it had happened at all.

By that time, which seemed to have taken both forever and no time at all, it felt totally organic to bring up what had pressing him since the beginning, “What does Caidy think about it? Does she want you to stay out of the house too?” Unsure what he may have expected, Kevin had no reaction that he felt was appropriate for what his friend did. Terry had blown out a hearty laugh…

Like sleeping with other people was a joke his wife couldn’t understand…

“What Caidy doesn’t know doesn’t hurt her, right?” Terry snatched a beer from the refrigerator. Once replaced on his stool he jabbered on about the ins-and-outs of being married for so long to a woman only interested in monogamy. Complaints spewed minute after minute about how not all wives were “progressive like Julie” and accepting of their male partners’ needs to explore other options. The way he spoke disgusted Kevin to the point of physical illness. He pushed aside his own drink and shook his head with fury.

It was misogynistic at best the way Terry discussed his affair. Each recount of his exploit with Karen, a mere neighborhood friend, reflected deep conflict within his marriage. Each excuse consisted of statements blaming his wife for his affair: Caidy wouldn’t do all of the things he told her in bed; Caidy refused to do things when he wanted to do them; Caidy didn’t submit to him when he was ready. He cited the biggest motivator as: “that they simply couldn’t be attracted to each other anymore, just the idea of doing it.”

“Caidy is still your wife and you owe her the respect you promised. You’d defied those vows so you now owe her the truth and an apology. Maybe Karen doesn’t have to account for herself but you certainly do!” Kevin wasn’t about to drop the topic like it was coffee conversation before work. There was a difference between two spouses happily agreeing to have an open marriage and one spouse forcing the other to accepting. Both of those scenarios were extremely different from one spouse going behind the other’s back entirely. Only one of those methods was healthy – and Kevin couldn’t help but silently thank his wife for being such a great person so perfectly matched for him in all the ways that mattered.

It wasn’t even that he thought Terry had done anything wrong. Who was Kevin to judge the yearning to sleep with people outside a marriage? He himself had done just that with another woman. Several times no less! Going behind Caidy’s back is the defining factor making what Kevin does so much more acceptable than what Terry had enacted. What Terry had done was an affair. He betrayed the monogamous relationship to which he committed voluntarily. All Kevin could hope for at that point was that maybe Caidy would have an open heart and find a way to let Terry live his life without her own being sabotaged.

Of course, his friend has no intention of doing what was instructed. This was something he intended to keep hidden; “I ain’t telling her a goddamn thing. Caidy would divorce me without letting me explain myself. She doesn’t take any shit.”

The silence between the two that followed confirmed exactly what Kevin wanted to proclaim. Terry heard it in his own words. The fact that he realized that what he’d done would mess his entire life up – there was nothing more to be said. Well, there should have been nothing more to say, anyway. Kevin managed to let out a deflated cough just before Terry decided to shout in pure rage.

“WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO TELL ME HOW TO BE MARRIED? YOU ARE SLEEPING WITH SOME YOUNG BITCH YOU WORK WITH EVERY DAY! YOU THINK YOU’RE JUST FUCKING HER BUT YOU’RE JUST LYING TO JULIE! YOU’RE MAKING A FOOL OF YOURSELF!”

Before long Julie stumbled down the stairs with dark eyes and crooked pants. As she asked what all the raucous Terry met her in the doorway. Angrily he actually spat at her feet and insulted her for thinking her husband loved her in anyway. With raised brows she simply waved him out the door, not even bothering to ask what transpired or why. All that fantastic woman did was kiss her husband’s cheek and suggest, “I suppose you have a call to make?”

Kevin didn’t know if it was call to make because it wasn’t his mistake to apologize for, but he supposed that someone would have to tell the truth. Especially if Terry firmly believed that lying was the “respectable” thing to do…

A Bad Day to Get Married…

The cool water is bound to smear my make-up but I dab my face with a damp washcloth anyway. Presently – I’m having a panic attack and feel as though I cannot breathe. This feeling of suffocation became unyielding approximately twenty-five minutes ago when I started slinking into the lingerie I picked out for my gown.

And by ‘for my gown’ I mean my…

I mean my…

“Wedding dress.” The wedding dress is what ultimately triggered my full-blown anxiety. For years I dreamt of what kind of outlandish, and extravagant, and lavish, and totally unnecessary ceremony I would have when I finally wed – but somewhere in my late teens I realized that love isn’t as delicious when it’s forced.

Maybe it’s because I watched my mother divorce for a second time.

Maybe it’s because I watched my uncle get cheated year after year.

Maybe it’s because my brother brags about his one-night stands as though they were conquests in some story mode of his favorite video games.

Maybe – just maybe – it is because I’ve never dumped anyone, only ever been dumped…

“This stupid fucking wedding dress.” I groan in an attempt to prevent any more tears from slipping past my lashes. My beautician says the make-up is waterproof but I don’t trust that this is true. Nothing is as good as it seems. Unfortunately, it would seem that after $30,000 – I’ve realized my disdain for this ceremony far too late. I can barely stand in front of my full-length mirror, let alone walk down the aisle into the arms of a man I know I love…

…Who is also a man that asked me to do something I was never interested in doing…a man who wanted to smother me in his love to prove that I was all wrong about the way things work…a man so caught up in his ‘save the princess’ complex that he failed to see that I never once needed saving…

There’s a knock on the door – it’s my mother.

Who else has it ever been? She doesn’t wait long after knocking before coming in – because I know she suspects I’m trying to psyche myself out of this whole thing. The fact that she’s paid for the majority of this extravaganza – with her retirement savings, my grandparent’s savings, my father’s meager earnings, and just about any other penny she could scrounge up – she’ll never forgive me if I don’t pull myself together for the vows. This is why I told her I should have paid for some of it. It’s not like I don’t have enough money for it.

As she’s whispering what she believes to be words of encouragement, I consciously conclude that if I go through with the vows that I may as well just turn the license in too. If I’m going to sign away my passion for my soon-to-be-husband then I may as well make it legally official. I’ve never been the “half ass” type.

That is, in part, to the constant mantra of my hard-working mother while growing up; never half ass anything. As a single mother and well-known businesswoman, the struggles were certainly real. Reminding herself that everything must be done to her fully abilities was probably the only way she made it through our teenage years. I know that for me, personally, it was the only thing that kept me honest. My siblings all learned from her motto, adapting it ourselves as we breached adulthood. I understand that that’s what I must do today – even if it feels as if every particle in my body is demanding me to do the opposite.

Revisiting these aspects of my life forces me into a certain calm. As I center myself, I absently nod to whatever nonsense my mother is spewing at me. I think I hear something about my father waiting just outside the hall for me – that she’s getting ready to lead the bridesmaids down the aisle, just after she bribes the flower girl to try going potty one more time before “throwing flower petals at the devil.”

I chuckle airily as she prances away with an excited energy. The family that I have is so incredibly unconventional and it’s oddly popular among our friends. Once upon a time I thought it might have been our brutal honesty that they loved, but I think it might be the reasoning behind our honesty that makes us such an enjoyably bunch. Perhaps all these people that flock to our formal events, our business displays, and any other informal gathering we may host – because they know that we respect each other enough to tell the truth without traditional delicacy. If I truly believe this, though, why haven’t I stopped to tell someone that I don’t want to get married? Surely they understand that dreaming of getting married is easy and glamorous, but only in theory. Actually doing it is a task that tests your every nerve. It’s like having a second job! Or a third, if you’re already working a second job.

Getting married is nothing like the movies would have you believe. I can’t believe I ever thought, even for a second, that maybe I was just getting wedding jitters. I should have known when finding a floral arrangement proved to be harder than deciding to have sex with my fiancé.

So much happened that night – but nothing like what’s about to happen. By the time I saddle myself up to my father, who is scrolling through his missed text messages when I arrive, I find that I’m making a full circle back to my original concerns – the ones that sent me into an impromptu panic attack. I can almost hear how hard we argued about the types of flowers his family members couldn’t handle – and the fact that the flowers I had picked were a tradition for my family – and the fact that I didn’t have to have real flowers – and the fact that fake flowers aren’t recyclable – and SO. MANY. FACTS! I ended up breaking a vase on the floor in a fit of rage. He ended up sleeping at the neighbor’s house.

And yet that fight didn’t deter us; it wasn’t a sign to me that we shouldn’t get married. In fact, I never once suggested to him that we cancel it and get everyone’s money back. His family was too excited to see the youngest son marry, and my family was ready for one of the kids to actually commit to someone.

“I was already committed, dad.” I whispered, looking down to my bouquet that suddenly reminds me of the sort of arrangement you leave at a tombstone. This feels like a funeral to me, not a wedding.

He shrugs his shoulders; “You don’t need to prove that to me, sunshine.”

There’s that brutal honesty. He says that it’s what broke up his marriage to my mom. I think maybe it wasn’t on his part, though. For years he and my mother got along perfectly fine – especially through her second divorce. They love each other so deeply in a way that nothing could ever change.

Is it possible that seeing them like this is what fucked me up so badly that I can’t allow myself to get married? Is it possible that I don’t want to be married because I think the freedom to come and go as you wish is better than staying because a law dictates that you do? How can I possibly go through with this if I’d rather stay unmarried?

And I’m not kidding when I ask myself this question. Slowly, almost hesitantly, the bridesmaids go into the sanctuary with forced smiles and worried glances towards me. Deep down, I think everyone knows that I can’t go through with this damned wedding. Something in my gut tells me that everyone knew that at the end of the day I couldn’t commit to a marriage that would make me hate my partner.

I can’t remember how I got her, but somehow I’m ascending the alter stairs before I decide firmly that I have to call it all off.

I have to call it off.

It’s not fair to my fiancé to get married with this eating away at me.

It’s not fair to me to be this unhappy about a decision that I’ve made.

When did the vows happen? I don’t remember there being any talking, I don’t remember his voice sounding off. Did those things occur? How could they have played out without my knowledge?

“Amelia?” The questioning in my fiancé’s voice is warm and familiar. It brings me back down to reality – to the present, not just in my head either. I stop having my silent break down immediately. The home I have found in him is no less inviting than it was a year ago before we randomly joked about wanting to get married.

“Amelia, are you okay?” He doesn’t even seem surprised by this, which has to mean that he’s questioned whether or not this was the right course of action too. Right? Or am I reading too much into this?

Maybe I am – but there are so many ‘maybes’ bouncing around my unstable mind and breaking heart that I can’t let anything else uncertain enter into my head. So I turn to the hundreds of guests that are sitting in pews and standing propped against pillars…and with loud confidence I reveal the struggle that I’ve been having.

“I can’t get married. I was much happier before I started planning this wedding. My family is awesome. My family is happy. I’m happy. But this wedding won’t allow me to keep being happy.” I drop my flowers onto the floor as jaws drop in a similar fashion. There are even gasps from a group of particularly shocked people – particularly from my fiancé’s family.

There’s more to it, though, and I owe them at least that much of an explanation; “For as social and relaxed as I may seem, inside I’m scared and shy. My life was never conventional, even if it was always successful. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy life in spite of the highs and lows that plague every family and couple. I can’t say what it is that makes marriage seem so awful to me and I won’t discount that maybe I need some therapy to help me understand. I don’t know if someday I’ll change my mind and elope in a courthouse, but I know that I can’t get married today. All I want is for my fiancé and I to take our trip to the Bahamas and enjoy the alone time. We were happy before and I know that we’ll be happy after – because this decision will ultimately bring us closer together.”

During my selfish monologue I never once turned to my fiancé to see if he was devastated or relieved. Judging by the looks on the faces of those in the crowd, I will never be ready for what I’ll see when I turn around. This, at the very least, allows me to expect the unexpected.

And this was unexpected. From his jacket that he’s removing, my fiancé pulls the plane tickets for the Bahamas and car keys. The jacket is tossed onto the podium with the preacher faster than I can blink. Once he hooks his arm around mine – I know that I wasn’t giving him enough credit. He knew I couldn’t do this – and it makes me wonder if everyone had a back-up plan this whole time.

I guess I won’t know for at least two weeks, though, because my fiancé announces very cheerily, “We have a plane to catch in a few hours so why don’t you guys enjoy the reception on our fine families, yeah?” His sassy ass even blows a kiss to the stunned folk left behind in his usually dramatic fashion. I knew there was a reason I chose to stay with him year after year after year…

And I never needed to be married to keep making that decision.

Red Revenge

 

Until three years ago, I was the most successful kid from my family. My cousins were in and out of court for not paying their child support. My two brothers decided to skip the college option and went straight into the shitty minimum wage workforce. My half-sister was on her third kid from yet another one-night stand; and my half-brother was just serving asshole big wigs at a catering company.

My five-year stint as a well-respected manager and bartender at the pub beneath my apartment was one of the more reputable things about my trashy family. For years my parents gloated on the fact that I was able to care for myself. Since the pub was small, my managerial duties only took up part of my day. Since I had no kids, no serious relationship, and already obtained my associates degree from an accelerated college – I just worked. Bartending was my “fun” job.

Unfortunately, my “fun” job ended up being nothing in comparison to what some of my other family members started to put together. My two brothers that skipped college, they joined the carpentry union together. Within a year or two they’ll have more money than they could ever need as single men. All of my cousins took up factory jobs and started paying child support. Word was that they were evening going to try and work things out with the mothers so that they can be apart of the kids’ lives.

The half sister with three kids – she landed a job in hospital administration. It’s just a entry level position, but it will make good enough money that she will be able take care of herself without much help from the rest of the family. To top all of the great news off, though, my half-brother just recently announced his engagement to a wealthy politician’s daughter and that he’d finally opted for the college course and would be starting in the fall to become a teacher.

All of this positive progression made my bar manager job look like shit.

And don’t get me wrong, I was extremely happy for them. Figuring yourself out and getting your life straight is a fantastic feeling. That’s how I felt after I started working as a manager at a bar I loved visiting with my friends. There is no part of me that would want to deny my siblings and cousins this opportunity to finally feel as though they fit into a puzzle.

But we do family reunions every three months – just so that everyone can stay in touch, you know? There are so many of us to keep track of anymore that it is just easier to do it that way. So every three months on the third Wednesday – everyone meets up at my folks’ home to dine and drink the night away. Generally, I always made the drinks for the obvious reason. It was my specialty – the thing everyone bragged about me doing for so many years.

The last three times, though, my father asked that I stop doing a mini bar. Everyone started to bring a personal pick of poison. Everyone, in turn, got drunk faster with those rarity favorites. I was attentive to the people whom were lightweights and those whom needed some loosening up. I always adjusted my drinks to fit the drinker – the sign of an incredibly thoughtful bartender, I believe very firmly. Anyway, with everyone getting drunker faster – truths came out more frequently.

The truths were never the problem, they were just things people used to say in the quiet of their own homes. It never really caused drama. Sobriety was something of my super power. For someone who makes drinks for a living, I really don’t ever drink in excess. So I had been sipping away on my soda pop, because I want to be available if anyone needed a ride home, and then my father walked up to me with a stern look and a slur in his voice…

“Put the drink down, son. Don’t you waste enough of your life on alcohol? You’re just a bartender. You don’t do anything with your life except order alcohol, make alcohol, and drink alcohol. How do you hide your addiction so well for such a fuck up?”      I pretended he didn’t say it at first because drunk people can say some really shitty things. Nobody else had heard it because I’d been in the kitchen alone when he stumbled by to condemn my life choices. I’d gone to there for the silence because sometimes things just get too rowdy for me to think straight. As someone working in a pub – I frequently attested that there is never a quiet moment. There’s always someone drunkenly mumbling about the sorrows of life. When it’s not drunkards at the counter it’s vendors on the phone.

Within a week, though, my dad called me up and claimed that he felt bad for what he said that night. Then he explained why he said it – how he worried that he’ll have a son who isn’t capable of caring for himself in the future. He grumbled on about how being a bartender would provide me with no savings – how being a manager at a bar wouldn’t do anything for someone who will want to retire someday. I knew he was sober this time because he’d called earlier in the afternoon, likely when he’d gotten off work, which made his stupidity completely inexcusable this time.

For years he boasted alongside my mother about how I’d kept a steady job when none of the others could manage anything reliable. He showed off to anyone that would listen about me being a manager for a pub (which really is a nicer setting than your run of the mill bar – it has more of a homey and lounge sort of experience). I should have known when he stopped calling it a ‘pub’ that he’d stopped acknowledging my life as an actual success. Still, by the end of the phone call I was writhing mad with his impudence.

In fact, I was so mad that I called a bartender in to cover the hours I’d normally work. I left my office and told the crew I’d be in my apartment if they needed me for anything. Typically, they never need me. It’s not that my role is not important but rarely do the patrons of bars need to speak to a manager. On a normal night, those that need to see me usually just need to stop drinking and go home.

So I sat in my home office for a few hours staring at my business cards, staring at my associate degree, staring at the printed reviews of the pub. I’d done the owner proud and reaped so many benefits from this job. It wasn’t even just a job to me, it was a career, and it was high time that everyone around me started to acknowledge that as my reality.

It took me a few more hours, but I eventually realized that it was time for a bold change. It wasn’t to prove my family wrong but to prove to myself that I don’t need the people that would so easily change from supporting to judging me. I deserved to have something all my own that made me proud of myself. Running a pub in the same town as my family would never suffice that goal I’d laid out. I would always be compared and criticized for the work that I do in the restaurant industry. In the alcohol industry, as my father would have proclaimed with malice.

And that’s when I did it.

That’s when I wrote a business proposal for a new bar lounge – Red Revenge. It took me a few months to figure out where I wanted to go with this idea, but when I finally got an investor and found a good location? Everything fell into place perfectly. I guess I didn’t expect it to be so easy. Luckily, my regular patrons loved the idea and pulled some strings to get my through some hard-to-open doors. Turns out that the people that really cared about my future are the ones that showed up when I needed a hand to hold.

Funny how life works like that, huh?

Now I operate a successful bar lounge about sixty miles away from my hometown. A lot of my old patrons bring their friends out of town every other month or so just to treat them to my wonderful service. I keep a relatively low profile – dressing and acting no differently than I ever did before when I was just a manager. A lot of my new patrons don’t realize I’m the owner, which has been a great way to see what is and is not working for my business.

The support has been overwhelming, as has the constant social media exposure. Many reputable websites are naming my business as an up-and-coming hot spot for the area. I’ve even seen some critics suggest that I branch out when revenue starts topping out. I’d never considered that until recently when I saw just how much money the bar is raking in on a daily basis. Maybe someday I can make it a franchise – but that’s a long ways away.

For now, Red Revenge a popular place for dates. I love watching people come here to fall in love. Even better than that is when a couple has been together for years and they come here to reconnect. Red Revenge is a great place to be to get back at life for trying to always bring us down. Maybe I don’t keep in touch with my family these days, but that’s why I called the lounge ‘Red Revenge’ in the first place. It’s my “fuck you” statement to my family. They thought I couldn’t make a career out of serving people drinks they actually want and that I couldn’t make enough money to generate retirement savings. What I’ve done here has quietly proven them wrong. I don’t need their emotional support now that I’m successful – very similarly to the rest of my siblings and cousins. I’m not even bitter, because I recognize that they weren’t there for me when I stopped being the star kid. They didn’t encourage me, but rather kicked me when I wasn’t even down yet.

At least they kicked me through the right door, otherwise I wouldn’t have found the piece of me that I never knew I was missing.

Unconventional, But Mine

Giving birth makes ruining a marriage seem like having a really bad hangover…

Three weeks ago I pushed out an actual human being that I didn’t want with a man whom I don’t like and is asking me to be someone that I don’t like. There is a clear pattern here, and it all started when I let Deacon use me as a way to get out of a marriage that he didn’t like…

Basically, I hate what my life has become. Dirty diapers, waking up in the middle of the night to a screaming infant, and the fixed schedule of a man who wants a family; Deacon is a pretty nice person but having sex with him was way more fun than living with him. Deacon snores, he leaves his underwear all over the house, and to be frank – he laughs so much that it makes me actually nauseous. This man doesn’t care how miserable I am as long as I’m laughing and smiling with him.

Neither of us really discusses about how I fit into the picture, so my thoughts on him not caring aren’t ill conceived. He has never once queried if I even wanted to keep this baby. This little girl that looks more like him than me, thank goodness, and is the embodiment of everything I have never, ever wanted but he doesn’t know that because he never asked me. Being a mother was the last thing I wanted to do with my life. Again, he has no idea because there was never any talk about what we wanted – only what he wanted.

As for me, I love travelling the world in the summertime when I’m not teaching art throughout the school year. I love buying an excessive amount of alcohol on grocery day. More than anything, easily my favorite thing is being able to pretty much make my own schedule and decisions without really concerning myself with how others feel about it.

Now that there is a child in the mix – I will have to use my travel funds for baby clothes and doctor visits. I’ll have to stop drinking and going out with the girls so that I can buy diapers and feed an extra mouth. Some people in the world have to do these things, of course, because there are a ton of kids needing care in the world. If every single person thought the same way as me then all of society would fail.

I know I can’t continue pretending to be someone that I’m not, though. People who do that for too long can turn into monsters. They can turn into adult babies. I will cry at stupid hours in the night. I will become so lethargic that I will need Deacon to feed me, to comfort me, and to make sure I continue doing what I’m supposed to be doing so that I can fit the standards of those around me occupying the same roles. Eventually I would require an adult telling me how to be “normal.”

“Where is my baby girl?” Deacon shouts before he even gets the front door open. His voice has gone from funnily pleasant to nails on a chalkboard over the last seven months. Being with and around him is exhausting. Anyway, I know that he’s not talking about me so I tell him that Lee is napping in the bedroom. Only when I let him know this does he greet me with a kiss on my forehead that makes me cringe. He also sports a seductive grin that boldly foreshadows his thoughts; “I guess play time is coming early for mom and dad tonight, then.”

Hearing myself be referred to as a ‘mom’ again pushes me over the edge in my already contemplative state of mind; “I can’t do this.”

Watching someone’s face go from ‘excited’ to ‘disappointed’ – I think it is my one true gift to make people feel horrified because at some point everyone I know looks at me in this exact way. Features contort as if a rotten egg has just been shoved into their noses and their mouths, tainting everything immediately. Grandma had this expression when I announced that I was bisexual. My mother did the same thing when I said I wanted to be a teacher instead of marketer so that I can more easily experience everything life has to offer – on my terms, no less. My high school sweetheart – yeah, he definitely looked exactly like this when I told him that I wasn’t interested in marriage conceptually. Truthfully, I do love others very much but at the end of the day I love myself most. Everyone deserves to be happy and I would be much happier not doing any of what I’ve gotten myself into now.

“I am very sorry but I don’t want to be a mom. I don’t want to be a wife. This is life is strangling me because I am not this person.”

Somewhere in the world there is an old woman suffocating with a cigarette on her back porch, arms folded over her chest. Her brows are furrowed and smoke is rolling from her mouth as she zones out, wishing for the life that she could have had instead the one she has lived. That woman resents her husband, her ex-husbands, and her kids; all because someone convinced her that it was her obligation to be a mother and a wife. That woman wasn’t exposed to a world that let her know that she had options.

“You are still young, Natalia. This is just post-partum depression. A lot of women having kids at your age go through this, but I promise I’m here to help you. Together we can get past this and we can raise Lee as a happy family.” Did you hear that, Nat? Did you hear the world trying to tell you how you feel yet again? Deacon is trying to do what everyone does when they don’t support my realities.

So I do to him what I did to all of the others; “Nobody tells me what I want except me. Believe me when I say that I want nothing to do with Lee or with you. I kept my mouth shut about your divorce and I expressed my gratitude when you helped pay for the baby stuff, but being silent has to stop. I hate kids. I only had that baby because you wanted it. Now you have it and all I need right now is to walk out that front door with all of my stuff and never look back.” Deacon seems to be absorbing the seriousness of my woes. Surely his heart is pounding so fast that he worries more of a heart attack than he does of being alone. As the two of us meet in the middle of the living room, it is him who throws his hands in the air. Not that I’m surprised….

Initially, I expect him to yell. To think that anything else would happen after I admit that I hate this arrangement, I would have to be completely delusional. Selfish is not the same thing as ignorant. Nothing comes through his teeth and he just keeps waving his arms, sometimes stopping to rub his chin. My mind shifts to alternative actions he might take – is he going to hit me? Is he going to say terrible things? Is he going to leave and force me to care for this baby?

Deacon breaks the mold, though, by saying something that I’m sure I’ll never hear in the movies; “If you really want to go then just go. All I ask is that if you walk out that door – never come back. This isn’t something that you can fix later. I will not raise my daughter in a loving household only to have a birth mother show up in nine years wanting the life she gave up back.”

Claiming that relief resonates through my body – supreme understatement. Calm courses through my body almost violently in an effort to get rid of any tension; I feel a genuine smile curling my lips. A toothy expression sends me propelling into Deacon’s arms with appreciation. By the time I thank him and apologize for never bringing it up before, I find that I am crying without having noticed. Deacon dries my tears before telling me that I should go and that he will reach out once he’s met with his attorney. I promise to work with him on figuring out the best way to contribute anonymously to him and his daughter.

Because at the end of the day – I was never going to be a mother…

…   ….   ….

A month can do a lot of good for someone. One month, four weeks, thirty days; it goes by faster than a blink in the grand scheme of things. Somehow, though, in that same time frame a person can change his or her life entirely.

I will never know how Deacon spun everything to his attorney but he is releasing me of any obligation to the child. As soon as I got the letter I explained to him that I’ve decide to move to Italy and that his mature acceptance of my desires has encouraged me to pursue something that I needed for a very long time.

My family took the final step in ostracizing me after my revealing that I abandoned Deacon and Lee. Everyone has a line and it just seems that I, Natalia Escotto, have simply crossed it. All is well as Deacon is going to move into my old apartment and assuming the lease. Until my flight next week, I’m just staying with a friend. In six days I will be leaving behind everything that has ever hindered my personal growth.

And no matter what the world thinks of me – I know that this is right.

I finally know how happiness tastes on my lips.