Perfectly Adequate - Jewel E. Ann
A woman broke me, so I chose a woman to put me back together.
Probably not my most brilliant idea.
“It’s been a year.” I stare at my folded hands, ignoring cloudy downtown Portland just outside the window to my right.
My wife left me at the end of summer, two days after our son’s second birthday. Impeccable timing. I’d say out of the blue, but that would be a monumental understatement. She seduced me the previous night, after we shared a bottle of wine—and dare I say the best sex of our entire married life.
We met in high school and attended the same college. Medical school. Residency. Hobbies. Shared life goals.
“Yes. Time to move on. Julie’s not coming back to you. Have you thought about dating? You’re surrounded by women all day. Surely someone has a friend that might be a good match for you.”
“You’re the worst psychiatrist ever.” I close my eyes, shaking my head.
“My colleagues would disagree.” Dr. Lori Hawkins brushes her chin-length, silver hair away from her face etched with a few soft wrinkles. Her hazel eyes peer at me from over the black frames of her glasses. She excels in all the mom looks.
Don’t be a baby.
The family discount comes with an extra-large side of sarcasm and hardcore truth. My mom’s attention lingers a whole two seconds before returning to her salad.
“I haven’t dated since high school. Do you know how many years that’s been?”
“Twenty since you graduated. Twenty-four since you started high school. I’m good with math.” She dips her fork into basil-lime dressing before stabbing a grape tomato.
“It’s all online dating now. No one gets fixed up. I don’t think. I’m not really sure.” I rub the tension from the back of my neck.
“You’re a millennial. You’ll figure it out.” She blots her red lips with a napkin.
“I’m a millennial by fourteen days.” Leaning forward, I rest my elbows on her desk, framing my face with my hands. A deep sigh escapes me. I have lots of deep sigh moments. The previous year has felt like one big, deep sigh.
She fights her grin. “You look like the little dirty-blond-haired boy that your grandma used to bring into this very office thirty-plus years ago to have lunch with me. That baby face and cute nose.” The tip of her fork bops my nose as I wrinkle it. “Of course, now you’re all grown up. A tall, handsome doctor who needs to shave more often and could use a haircut. I wish your grandma was here to see you now. She’d be so proud.”
After a few seconds, I frown, scratching my scruffy face. “I hate her. I thought after this much time I’d stop hating her, but I think I hate her more now than I did then.”
“Grandma? That’s not very nice … she was a bit stubborn, and she liked to swat your ornery little ass sometimes, but—”
“Julie.” I roll my eyes.
Mom smirks. It quickly settles into a sad smile. “Why? What purpose does it serve to hold on to that hatred?”
My shoulders lift toward my ears, an excruciatingly hard feat given the way I’ve carried the weight of the world for so long. “I’m not sure it will ever make sense to me. We waited until our mid-thirties to start a family. Roman wasn’t an accident. We planned for him. We planned every part of our lives to fit around him. Julie scaled back her surgeries because she wanted to be home more with him. I turned down a promotion because the added hours would have taken away from time with my family. Then one day she’s just … done? I go from seeing my son every day to being a part-time parent? What is that? Who does that? Who just walks away because they’re…” I shake my head “…what were her words? Not that woman anymore?”
Mom bites her lips together, returning the lid to her salad. “I saw Julie with Roman the other day at Shemanski Park, buying flowers for her mom’s birthday. Julie has a tattoo on her ankle, a lotus. When I complimented her on it, she showed me Roman’s name tattooed at the nape of her neck with a heart next to it. Did you know about the tattoos? Or that she’s a redhead now instead of a blonde?”
“Yes. I know. My sophisticated wife—ex-wife—who obsessively ironed our clothes and wore her hair in the same long, straight style since we were in high school, has wavy, red hair,