Reluctantly, she answered the phone.
“Hello?” he asks expectantly.
“Hi,” she is calm and he sighs with relief.
“What are you up to tonight?” He already knows the answer to his question but asks it anyway.
“Nothing. I have no plans tonight,” she wants to leave it at that, to just continue along with her planless evening but she knows what’s coming next.
How does she say no without hurting his feelings? How does she explain to him that she has had a lifetime of company? There are voices still ringing in her head from a brief three hours ago, voices of her children and other people children. How does she explain to him, who lives in as empty a nest as they get, that no she does not want company not right now not tonight because right now she just wants to veg out in front of the tv with a chilled bottle of riesling and some potato chips. She does not want to pretty herself up or straighten up. The stains on the carpet are fine where they are for tonight. She doesn’t want to move the laundry baskets that have been sitting in the hallway so long they have actually begun to collect dust. She doesn’t want to put the dog out because he’s allergic. And she damn sure does not want to have to change her dinner plans because chips, riesling and a turkey sandwich are all she has the energy to scurry up.Well maybe she’ll add a pickle and a teddy graham sunday for dessert but that’s a dinner for one. She cannot think of a way to explain this to him and her pause extends too long.
“Well I know the kids are with their dad…so I thought maybe you’d like some company…” It’s too late and now his feelings are hurt and she feels guilty and GOD how she hates guilty sex and she knows that if he comes over the night is going to end with sex and she hasn’t even shaved her legs and has neglected the nether regions for so long the hair is probably permanently locked making visitation uncomfortable if not improbable.
She replies calmly and slowly, “The kids are with their dad…”
It was tough enough prying them off her for the night. They never want to go over there. They start issuing complaints the Thursday night before and she can’t stand the ‘there’s nothing to do’s’ coupled with ‘his girlfriend is stupid’ which usually rounds off into the grand whine finale of ‘why can’t we just stay home’. He’s not a bad guy, their father, he’s just a boring guy. A boring guy with a girlfriend who’s only 7 years older than their daughter. So she guesses he might not be that boring after all.
But the issue at hand is how to preserve her evening of solitude when this really nice and kind of cute guy is on the phone asking for “grown up” time. She can’t keep holding him off with ‘I’m just too tired’ and the ‘I have to wash my hair excuse’ went the way of college days so today she has no real excuse for him other than she just doesn’t want the company. There is no humane way to tell a man you don’t want to spend time with him when he wants to spend time with you, especially when you kind of like him and he’s jump through every hoop you’ve put out there to prove he’s into you.
I’m being selfish, she thinks. But doesn’t she deserve a minute of selfishness after 16 years of ‘what do you need’? What’s wrong with not wanting to change sheets in the morning? What’s wrong with just being lazy knowing she has to work first shift in the morning? Tada!
“I have to work first shift in the morning,” she inhales and waits.
Disappointed, he responds, “Can we meet for coffee on your break?”
Coffee dates do not required shaved legs or quick cleans, “Absolutely.”
“Do you want to tell me about your day?”
Although debriefing her day would be nice tonight is not the night. First shift for the first time since ever is a life saver, “I really need to get my head right so I can be at the hospital by quarter to 6. I appreciate you caring enough to ask though.”
“I care about you…alot.”
“I know.” She waits.
“I’d like to see more of you.”
You will, she thinks, but not before I tame the jungle. “Can we talk more about it tomorrow? I’ll ask Debbie to cover for a double at 10, that way we’ll have more time to talk.”
He’s appeased, “Ok, love.”
“Ok, love.” She hangs up and pours herself another glass of wine.
“TiVo don’t fail me now.”