Penelope and I spent the evening going back over familiar ground. She restated her absolute need to "be out there," which means socializing, going across the country to seminars to get spiritual growth, and so on, and I said still again that I’m totally unfamiliar with her personality type, and that I have no real control over the way I feel about most things, especially romance.
Three quarters of the way into this latest round of head-butting, I said, "I think this was a big mistake," meaning I should not have accepted her dinner invitation that evening. I should have stayed home and watched the Eagles beat Dallas.
We continued the discussion until the place closed, and we went out to her car and spoke darkly about how it just might be that we weren't meant for each other, that we would never be able to overcome these painfully embarrassing and awkward encounters. She said she felt like we were in big trouble and that she just didn't know how or if we'd ever be able to resolve it, and rather than argue against it I just nodded in agreement. Yes, I said, that's a very strong possibility.
And yet, I said, there seems to me to be too much complication here, and it might be better to just keep it simple. Surprised, she asked how could we do that since we’re both so utterly hyperverbal? And I said, well, since the sexual part seems to be working all right we ought to focus more on that than on this "dating" thing. Maybe we ought to set some evening during the week where I could come over and we'd spend the night together, a dedicated evening, once a week, which would relieve me of the frenzied socializing part she insists on, dragging me to various dinner parties, and so on.
"I presume we're sexually compatible," I said, intending the sarcasm, since she tends to contradict anything I say just to be contrary or to get a rise out of me. She said she'd have to think about that for a while. Of course, I thought. Take all the time you need. Dear.
On the long, dark drive back to Manhattan I felt a rush of sadness, thinking about Mary, and our three-year marriage, and how much I regretted it didn't work out. There I was in the middle of the night, driving a highway, after so much gut-wrenching and embarrassing back-and-forth, and it made me feel so empty and lost.
It was clear to me that of the two women, Penelope and Mary, I would much prefer Mary. I wished I was still married, wished that Mary still loved me, and I thought, hell, why should I even be bothering with this Penelope with all her frantic running around? Her aloofness, distance, intellectualizing everything, her pathological ambivalence about intimacy, etc., etc. And in July she turns 40. Do I want to be with a 40 year old woman? Especially after the delightful experience with 25-year-old Mary?
I went to bed and remembered our wedding day on the beach in Southampton. The sunshine, the warmth, the sense that I had just done something important and special, the gratitude and tenderness I felt for that lovely girl in the white dress, and my deep regret the past year for losing her.
Ten fifteen Saturday morning I awoke refreshed, invigorated and positive, so I called Penelope and left a short message to the effect that, bottom line, I felt optimistic about our relationship because there was much of value in it and thus we’d be wrong to prematurely break up. And I said again that my offer to take her to the airport still stood, but that if she didn't think it was a good idea I would feel comfortable with that as well.
At the Bistro Penelope startled me by saying that she thinks about me all the time, that she talks at length about me to her shrink, and about me to her friends, here and in Colorado and California, about all aspects of what was happening between us, and she even showed my picture to some psychic/healer in SoHo who gave her a "reading" based on the photo.
Intense. He’s sooooo intense!
Yet at the very same time she said that she was NOT in love with me, although she wished she could fall in love...madly in love.
What can I do but experience classic ambivalence? You know what they say about neurotics. They just can’t stand not knowing something for sure.
"I think our troubles stem from my need for intimacy bumping up against your need for autonomy....or whatever you want to call what you feel."
"Exactly,” she said happily, eagerly. “That's it!"
My solution to the difficulties we almost certainly will encounter when she returns from two weeks of touchy-feely group therapy in San Francisco is for us to hold off on any discussion of what she experienced at that ritzy spa until we've had sex. That's exactly right. We should postpone that discussion--which she will almost certainly insist on having because it is so important to her--until we've each had an orgasm, because only then I will feel we are lovers again, and it’s only as a lover that I wish to hear of her experiences away from me.
Then she said something that struck me as bizarre.
"Maybe we ought to get married, and just try to work it out."
I turned and looked out into the darkness, suddenly feeling a nearly overwhelming poignant sadness realizing what the word marriage has meant to me over the years.
"I don't think so," I said quietly, without bitterness.
She said she hated the idea that we might be "joined at the hip," and that when I ask her, "how are we doing?" it sounds so gooey and it makes her feel suffocated and that's why she got so angry at the Greek restaurant the other day.
"It sounds like you're talking out of both sides of your mouth."
"Because on the one hand you say that you can't stand that gooey stuff, and yet you insist that you wouldn't mind being courted. Those are mutually exclusive propositions."
"No, I don't think so," she said.
With Penelope it’s always come here, go away.
I wish she’d make up her mind.