When I got off the phone, I walked into the living room and joined Ryan.
“They will pay for it,” I said. I was trying to keep my tone polite, but the truth was, I wanted him to know that he had been wrong.
“Cool,” he said.
“We just have to pay a deductible.”
“Got it. Sounds like it would have been better if we’d gotten the license plate. I guess we know for next time.”
It took everything I had not to call him an ass**le.
SIX MONTHS AGO
Where do you want to go for dinner?” I asked Ryan. He was twenty minutes late coming home from work. He seemed to always be late coming home from work. Sometimes he’d call, sometimes he wouldn’t. But regardless, I was always starving by the time he got home.
“I don’t care,” he said. “What do you want to eat? I just don’t want Italian.”
I groaned. He would never just pick a place. “Vietnamese?” I said, standing by the front door, grabbing my coat. As soon as we agreed on a place, I wanted to get moving.
“Ugh,” he said. His voice was grumpy. He didn’t want Vietnamese.
“Greek? Thai? Indian?”
“Let’s just order pizza,” he said. He took off his jacket when he said it. He was deciding that we would stay home. But I wanted to go out.
“You just said you didn’t want Italian,” I said.
“It’s pizza.” His tone was a little bit pointed. “You asked me what I wanted. I want pizza.”
“Sorry, did I do something?” I asked him. “You seem frustrated with me.”
“I was going to say the same to you.”
“No,” I said, trying to back off, trying to seem pleasant. “I just want to eat dinner.”
“I’ll get the pizza menu.”
“Wait.” I stopped him. “Can’t we go out? I feel like I’ve been eating such junk lately. I’d love to go out someplace.”
“Well, call Rachel, then. I’m sorry. I’ve had a long day at work. I’m exhausted. Can’t I sit this one out?”
“Fine,” I said. “Fine. I’ll call Rachel.”
I picked up my phone and walked out the door.
“Do you want to get dinner?” I asked her before she said hello.
“Tonight?” Rachel asked me, surprised.
“Yeah,” I said. “Why not tonight?” Sure, I had seen her for lunch the day before, and we went out for drinks two nights before that, but c’mon. “I can’t see my own sister three times in four days?”
Rachel laughed. “Well, no, I mean, you know very well I’d see you seven times in four days. Eight. Nine. Ten times in four days. I just mean, it’s Valentine’s Day. I assumed you and Ryan had plans.”
Valentine’s Day. It was Valentine’s Day. I found myself unable to admit, even to my own sister, that Ryan and I had forgotten.
“Right, no, totally, but Ryan has to work late,” I said to her. “So I thought maybe we could get dinner, you and me.”
“Well, obviously, I’m up for it!” she said. “I am, as always, sans Valentine. Come on over.”
FOUR MONTHS AGO
Ryan was supposed to go to San Francisco for work one week. He was going to be gone from Monday night to Saturday morning.
He asked me if I wanted to go with him.
“No,” I said, without hesitation. “Better to save the vacation time.”
“Got it,” he said. “I’ll tell the travel department it’s just me, then.”
“Yeah, sounds good.”
The weeks went by, and I found myself desperately looking forward to time alone. I thought about it the way I thought about going to Disneyland as a kid.
And then a week before he was supposed to leave, he called me at work and told me the trip was canceled.
“Canceled?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “So I’ll be home all next week.”
“That’s great!” I said, hoping my voice was convincing.
“Yeah,” Ryan said. His voice was not.
THREE MONTHS AGO
I lost my wallet. I’d had it when we were at the store. I remembered pulling my credit card out to pay for the dress I was buying. Ryan was in the men’s section at the time.
Then we walked around a bit more, got into the car, and came home. And that’s when I realized it was gone.
We searched the living room, the couch cushions, the car, and the driveway. I knew I had to go back to the mall. I had to retrace our steps from the store to the car.
“I guess we have to go back to the store,” I said. My voice was apologetic. I felt bad. This wasn’t the first time I’d lost my wallet. In fact, I probably lost it about once every six months. Only three times had I never found it again.
“You go,” Ryan said, heading back into the house. We had just finished checking the car. “I’m going to stay here.”
“You don’t want to come?” I said. “We could get dinner while we are out.”
“No, I’ll just grab something here.”
“Without me?” I asked.
“You’re gonna eat dinner without me?”
“I’ll wait, then,” he said, as if he was doing me a favor.
“No, it’s OK. You seem mad, though. Are you mad?”
I smiled at him, trying to warm him up. “You used to think it was cute, remember? How I always lost my wallet? You said my lack of organization was endearing.”
He looked at me, impatient. “Yeah, well,” he said to me, “it gets old after eleven years of it.”
And then he went inside the house.
When I got into the car and started driving away, my wallet slid out from underneath the passenger’s seat.
Didn’t matter, though. I cried anyway.
SIX WEEKS AGO
It was Ryan’s thirtieth birthday. We spent the night out with his friends, going from sports bar to sports bar.
When we got home, Ryan started undressing me in the bedroom. He unbuttoned my shirt, and then he took the tie out of my hair, letting it fall onto my shoulders. I had a flash of how this would all go. He would kiss my neck and push us onto the bed. He would do the same things he always did, say the same stuff he always said. I’d stare up at the ceiling, counting the minutes. I wasn’t in the mood. I wanted to go to sleep.
I held on to the sides of my open shirt and pulled them closer. “I’m not up for it,” I said, moving away from him toward my pajamas.
He sighed. “It’s my birthday,” he said, keeping his hands on my shirt, staying close to me.
“Just not tonight, I’m sorry, I’m just . . . my head hurts, and I’m so tired. We’ve been out at the smoky bar all night, and I’m feeling . . . not very sexy.”
“We could get in the shower,” he said.
“Maybe tomorrow,” I offered, putting on my sweatpants, ending the discussion. “Would that be OK? Tomorrow?”
“Lauren, it’s my birthday.” His tone wasn’t playful or pleading. He was letting me know he expected me to change my mind. And suddenly, that enraged me.
I looked at him, incredulous. “So what? I owe you or something?”
Ryan asked me where his leftover burger was from the night before.
“I fed it to Thumper for dinner,” I said. “I added it to his dog food.”
“I was going to eat that,” he said, looking at me as if I’d stolen something from him.
“Sorry,” I said, laughing at how serious he was being. “It was pretty nasty, though,” I added. “I don’t think you would have wanted it.”
“Like you have any idea what I want,” he said, and he grabbed a bottle of water and walked away.
The ride home from Dodger Stadium is cold and lonely despite it being eighty degrees out and that there are two of us in the car. We use the radio to gracefully ignore each other for a little while, but it eventually becomes clear that there is nothing graceful about it.
When we pull into the driveway, I am relieved to be able to get away from him. By the time we get to the front of our house, we can hear Thumper whimpering at the door. He is fine being alone, but the minute he can hear us, and I swear he can hear us from blocks away, he suddenly becomes overtaken with dependence. He forgets how to live without us the minute he knows we are there.