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“Hey, Charlie?” I say.


“You’re gonna be a great dad.”

Charlie laughs. “You think so?”

I don’t actually have any idea. I have no evidence whatsoever. I just choose to believe in him. And for a second, I understand why everyone thinks my marriage will be OK. They don’t have any evidence. They just choose to believe in me.

Mila comes into the office the next morning with bloodshot eyes and a deep-seated frown.

“Whoa, are you OK?” I ask her.

“I’m fine,” she says, putting her keys down on her desk and taking her purse off her shoulder. It drops with a thud.

“You’re sure you’re good?”

She looks up at me. “Do you want to go grab coffee?” she asks. Ours isn’t the sort of office where people often just leave to go get coffee the minute they come in, but I doubt anyone will really notice.

“Sure,” I say. “Let me get my wallet.”

Mila puts her purse back on her shoulder as I run to my desk and grab my bag. We are quiet until we hit the elevator bank. I press the down button, the elevator dings, and luckily, there is no one on it.

“I didn’t sleep last night,” she says, as the doors close.

“At all?”

“Nope. And I got about four hours the night before but only about two the night before that.” Her posture is that of a defeated woman. She’s got her arm propped on her hip, as if it’s supporting her.


We unexpectedly stop on the fourth floor. A woman in a black skirt suit steps in and presses the button for the second floor. It’s clear we were talking. It’s also clear that we are now not going to talk because she’s in here. It’s an uncomfortable fifteen-second flight for all of us. When the elevator finally stops again, the woman steps out, the doors slowly close, and in perfect synchronicity, our conversation continues.

“Because Christina and I have been fighting all hours of the night lately,” she says.

“Fighting about what?”


We are on the first floor, making our way through the lobby, heading toward the coffee stand. Mila and I never come here, because we don’t like weak coffee and stale bagels. But sometimes you need to go get coffee more than you actually need coffee. And this is one of those times.

“We fight about everything. You name it! The kids, who should feed the dog, if we should be looking for a bigger place, when the right time to buy a house is, whether or not we should have sex.”

“Do you guys have sex a lot?” I ask. I think, on some level, I’m looking for empirical evidence that I am normal. That all couples have trouble with sex. Maybe they don’t have sex that often, either. “Is it sort of a problem with you two?”

“No, we have plenty of sex,” she says. “That’s rarely the issue. It’s more like should we when the kids are awake?”

So there goes that theory. The cheese stands alone.

She steps up to the coffee stand. “Hazelnut latte, please,” Mila says to the man running the place.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry, we are out of milk,” he says to her. He said he was sorry, but he doesn’t seem the slightest bit concerned.

“You’re out of milk?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“So you just have black coffee?”

“And sugar,” he adds.

This is what happens when people will buy your coffee regardless of the quality. If your location is good enough, you don’t even have to have anything to sell.

“OK,” she says. “Regular coffee, black. You want anything?” she asks, gesturing to me.

I wave my hand to say no. The man hands Mila a cup of coffee and charges her two bucks.

“So you guys are just fighting about a lot of stuff ?” I ask, getting us back on track. Mila sits down on a bench in the lobby, and I sit down next to her.

“Yeah, and then, when we’re done fighting, one of the twins gets up, and I can’t go back to sleep.”

“Jesus,” I say. “What do you think is going on?”

“With the fighting?”


Mila looks despondent. “I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. We didn’t use to fight that often. A squabble here or there, you know? None of this scream-until-you-see-the-­sunrise crap.”

“Has anything happened that might have put you two on edge?”

She shrugs, sipping her coffee cautiously. “Raising kids is hard. Taking care of a family is hard. And I think sometimes it gets to one or the other of us. Right now, it’s getting to both of us at the same time. Which is not good.”

Her purse beeps, and she fishes through it to find her cell phone. I’m assuming it’s a text from Christina, because her face grows furious.

“I swear to God,” she says, shaking her head, “I’m going to kill her. I am going to kill her.”

“What did she do?”

She shows me the text message. It just says, “Can’t pick up Brendan and Jackson from day care. You do it?” It seems relatively harmless, and yet I know there is a context that turns that text into an infuriating betrayal. I can imagine when you add up the sleepless nights and the unkind words, the history, and the resentments, that simple text might be enough to break the camel’s back.

“What are you gonna do?” I ask.

Mila breathes in deeply, takes a sip of coffee, and stands up. “I’m going to get over it,” she says. “That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to drink about five of these,” she says, gesturing to the coffee, “to get me to five o’clock, then I’m gonna pick up my kids, I’m going to find a way to be nice to my partner, and I’m going to go to bed. That’s what I’m going to do.”

I nod. “Sounds like a plan.”

We head back toward the elevators, and as we do, I wonder why I couldn’t do that. Why couldn’t I find the answer in five cups of coffee and being nice when I got home? I don’t know. I don’t know that I’ll ever know. Maybe part of it is that I’m not Mila. Maybe part of it is that Ryan’s not Christina. Maybe part of it is that we don’t have kids. Maybe if we had kids, we would have fought through this all differently. I don’t know why Ryan and I are different. I just know that it’s OK that we are.

Because I don’t want to go home tonight and work hard at being nice to somebody. I just don’t feel like it right now. I like that I get to go home and do whatever I want. I get to watch what I want on TV. I get to take a really long shower. I get to order Venezuelan food. Thumper and I will get into bed around midnight, and we will sleep soundly, a luxurious amount of room between us in our bed.

And I think if you like your evening plans, you’re not allowed to regret what led you to them. I think that should be a rule.

When Mila and I get into the elevator, she thanks me for listening. “I feel better. Much better. I just needed to vent, I think. How are you? Let’s talk about you.”

I laugh. “Nothing much to report,” I say. “Things are fine.”

“That’s good,” she says.

It’s quiet, and I try to fill the silence. “You can do it,” I say. “You can set me up on that date.”

I don’t know why I say it. I guess I’m trying to make her feel better.

Mila pushes the stop button on the elevator, and it halts, forcing me to push off of the wall for balance.

“Are you just doing this to make me feel better?” she asks me.

“No,” I say. “I just . . . I think it’s time I had some fun.” I guess that’s true. I do think it might be kind of fun. Sort of.

She smiles wide. “Oh, this is going to be great!”

Mila hits the button again, and we start to ascend.

“I’m proud of you,” she says.

“You are?” I ask her, as the doors open and we start walking.

“Yeah,” she says. “This is a big step for you.”

It is? Ah. I guess it is. I think I should have thought about this more.