Life, As Is - Chapter 5 (Updated)
Jim and I met in our late teens through the church our parents were members of, although his family wasn't as prominent in the church as my family. This led to mine believing he wasn't good enough for me and literally scaring him away. I wouldn't know about what they did until years later, though...specifically during our reunion in 1997. Before finding that out I had thought his cutting off all communication with me was personal.
Anyway, during that reunion we reconnected and began seeing each other again but this time I was the one to cut things off. We were both very different people with different priorities; other than that I found him to be a very nice guy. Not long after I ended things with him is when I woke up where I am now. I couldn't help but wonder if Jim somehow had something to do with this time warp into which I entered. Before my involuntary time traveling I hadn't seen nor spoken to him for almost twenty years.
Jim answered his phone after the first ring. I told him where I was and my response was met with more questions.
"I thought you were too tired to go to the gym?"
"You told me you were too tired to work out. How come you're not home resting?"
Was he kidding me?
"Not that it should matter to you but I simply didn't feel like staying home!"
"Whoa! Why are you snapping at me? I'm just asking because you haven't worked out for the last two days..."
"And I told you that not going for more than a couple of days can make you slip out of your routine, then you'll start going less and less and you know that's going to..."
"Jim, please. You're stressing me out." He was starting to sound borderline hysterical.
"It's just that we go through this every couple of months, Bri, and you know how working out and staying in good shape is important to me...us...how important it is to us. I just don't want you to lose focus."
Wow! The caller ID beeped. I glanced at the screen and noticed it was Katrina.
"I have to go, I have a call on the other line." As I hung up with him I could hear that he was about to ask me a question beginning with "are you." I just assumed he was going to ask me "are you going to work out tomorrow" or "are you going to buy more tofu or soy beans or goats milk" or whatever other health nut crap we ate.
I answered Katrina's call and after greeting her asked, "So whose idea was it to start denying myself of everything I ever loved?"
"You know, giving up caffein, sugar, alcohol, food, oxygen..."
"Oh that. That was Jim but you were totally on board with it. You have to admit you do feel much better don't you? Oh wait..."
"Yeah, exactly. Literally two nights ago I was in a completely different decade so I honestly have no idea how I'm supposed to feel in this one. Or for that matter, where I'm supposed to go, what I'm supposed to be doing...oh, and how I allowed myself to get involved with a child who works at the Starbucks right where I live! How could you not tell me about that?"
"I didn't think it was my place."
"That's kind of a big thing, don't you think? How long has this been going on? How did it start? What...what happened to me?"
"It's not a big deal. It started just a month or two ago. It's just a casual fling. He's in college..."
"It's a big deal to me! And it seems like kind of a big deal to him."
"You talked to him?" She sounded a little too excited.
"He asked me why I haven't called him."
"It's not cute, Katrina! This can turn into a mess and I have more than enough to deal with."
I sighed. "What?"
"You always call me Trina. It's weird hearing you say my whole name."
"Oh, I get it, you're Trina and you call me Bri Bri like you did the other day."
"Well, that's just adorable."
"Listen. You and Jim have been going through some tough times lately and you and Barista Boy have only been doing some harmless flirting. Nothing more. You've been pretty depressed lately and he's been a distraction. That's all there is to it."
I couldn't say I was surprised about being unhappy. I knew during our second go-around that Jim and I weren't right for each other. I wished I knew what exactly compelled me to venture into a serious relationship with him. Now I had become the cliché middle-aged woman who is unhappy with how her life turned out and she's using a younger man to boost her ego!
"Ok, I better go. I need to study up on the drugs I now push," I said glancing over at the brochures I initially planned on reading.
"Before you go, I think I should tell you one thing," for once Katrina sounded somewhat grounded, "on some level you've always known the two of you were completely wrong together. Yes, he was the safe and secure choice in a lot of ways and, of course, there was the attraction. But even before you woke up here in this...dimension...or whatever you want to call it...you told me, yourself, that you no longer recognize the person you've become since you two have been together. You kind of lost yourself. Actually, you did lose yourself. Maybe that's one of the reasons you're back here."
I thought about what Katrina said...about losing myself, forgetting who I was. At some point I had to ask myself if I ever really knew who I was. Although my brother and I never really got into serious trouble, it was no secret to us that we grew up to be disappointments to our parents. Our parents had high hopes for us becoming full time preachers for the family religion. This never happened. At the ripe old age of twenty I married someone my parents didn't approve of for the sole purpose of getting away from them; I wasn't allowed to move out of the house without being married. The joke was on me as the guy I married turned out to be an abusive jerk.
My brother was a disappointment in a different way. The church we grew up in forbade college as it would take time away from "preaching the Word" and converting more members. Not only did my brother defy them by going to college, he also dropped out. Mom and dad weren't so much angry about Caelum not following through on college as they were angry about the fact that his dropping out didn't mean he was going to fulfill their dream of becoming a minister. Caelum was never a bad kid; he never hurt anyone, never got in trouble with the law or anything, he was more of a "lost kid." He always had a tough time keeping jobs and having successful relationships. Although, after seeing his Facebook page it looked like he finally got his act together; most likely after he moved in with me during my second go-around at life in 1997. So what happened to me?
I checked my phone to see if there was a message from Caelum. Nothing yet. Not sure what I was expecting. If he has a family the last thing he's doing is checking his Facebook messages on a regular basis.
As I got about half a block away from my apartment building I spotted Greg walking up the other end of the block with a woman. I assumed it was his wife. I stepped into the doorway of a little bodega, hoping they wouldn't see me. I peeked around the doorway at them and caught them laughing about something and he grabbed her hand. I felt my stomach drop. Before my inexplicable venture back to 1997 Greg was my husband! I hated to admit it since it makes me sound like a petty sixteen year old, but I took some solace in the fact that his current wife was not attractive at all. I'm well aware that thought was showing a very ugly side of myself.
The door to the bodega swung open and a little Middle Eastern man who couldn't have been more than five feet tall, holding a broom glared at me.
"What do you need? Why are you standing here?" he shouted.
I shushed him and said, "I'll leave in a minute. I have to...I can't..."
"What do you want?"
"Nothing! Just let me hide here for a minute," I shushed him again which only made him talk louder.
"Who you hiding from? Police? You hiding from police?"
"No! No! Just stop!" I looked toward my building and it looked as if Greg and his wife might have gone inside.
"Ok, I'm leaving. Goodbye!"
He yelled something then shut the door.
I waited outside the building for about five minutes before walking in, worried that I might end up in the elevator with them. As the elevator reached our floor and the doors opened I poked my head out and looked down the hallway to make sure the coast was clear. It was bad enough that I lived in the same building with the man who was supposed to be my husband, but he had to live on the same floor as me?
They were nowhere to be found so I hustled over to my apartment, unlocked the door as quickly as possible and ran inside. Without thinking about it, I double-locked the door as if Greg was going to try and force his way in. When I turned around, Jim was standing at the doorway to the kitchen wearing nothing but a confused look on his face.
"Oh my God," I exclaimed, covering my eyes, "why are you naked, again? I thought we talked about this!"
"Babe, what is wrong with you?"
"I just don't feel comfortable with this...anymore." I couldn't believe I was ever comfortable with this in the first place.
"Bri, sit down."
"Will you put some shorts on first?"
"Fine!" He made his way to the bedroom and a minute later came out wearing bicycle shorts. A little better but not much. I sat on the couch while he sat on the love seat.
Bri, I don't know what's happening lately but I can tell something's up and it's freaking me out."
"I...I haven't been myself the last couple of days, I know that..."
"It hasn't just been the last couple of days. For the past few months I feel like...I don't know...things haven't been the same between us. Yeah, this weekend has been worse, that's for sure."
I began to smell something disgusting coming from the kitchen.
"What is that smell?" I tried to keep from gagging.
"I'm making lunch. Kale, shiitake mushrooms..."
"I'm ordering a pizza."
"What???" He looked at me as if I had told him I had my dad's head in the freezer.
"I'm not eating that. It smells like something died in there."
"Pizza? Where is this coming from? First you refuse to go to the gym or even ride your bike, now you wanna eat junk food?"
"It's not junk food, it's normal, human food. And I didn't "refuse" to do anything this morning, I needed some time to myself."
"And that's been happening more often. Bri, I told you before if we want this to work we need to be on the same page."
"What does that mean?"
"Staying healthy and fit is a priority to me. You know that. If you...I mean we...start to let yourself go..."
"I'm sorry...letting myself go?"
"That's not what I mean."
"So being in this relationship means I have to bust my ass, literally, so that I look the way you want me to look?"
"That's...that's not what I mean. You agreed..."
"I'm sure I never agreed to allow you to determine how I take care of my body. Got it? My body!"
"Wow! Ok. I'm only looking for out for you because I love and care about you. It has nothing to do with you looking a certain way. I've always been in to health and fitness, I offered to help you and you accepted. No reason to go off on me."
"I never had any intention of 'letting myself go' but if I do, it's my business and no one elses. Not even yours!"
"Ok, then," was the only response Jim seemed able to come up with before he stood up and stormed into the bedroom. I wondered if i should go after him m or let him be, my cell phone rang. I immediately recognized the voice on the other line.
(C) 2014 Brenda Thornlow
Brenda Thornlow was voted one of the 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading for 2015. She is the author of the new fiction series My Life as I Knew It; the short story, The Revolving Door and A Godless Love. Available at Amazon. (Link below)
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© 2014 Brenda Thornlow