Friday, January 21, 2011

Love Thy Self, Published 2002 in Psychotic Education

Love thy self
DL Stone

The tips of Robby’s fingers traced circles on my thigh, and I lay back against the pillows smiling.  He had a way with his hands, soft and tender, applying the right amount of pressure.  If he couldn’t speak I would be content.  Robby was a little on the dumb side.  Any conversation about life went over his head, but he knew how to be a good lover.  He knew how to move, and when to move, which is the most important thing.
The telephone rang in the kitchen, and I let the answering machine pick it up.  As the receptionist from the dentist office left her message, Robby whispered in my ear.  I tried to pay attention to what he was saying and the message at the same time, but in the mix I didn’t catch either one.  Some words infiltrated each ear, and the only thing I got was something about this weekend at my next scheduling. 
“I am sorry baby, what did you say?”  I asked.
“What are you doing this weekend?”
“Why does it matter?”
“I got the keys to my parent’s lake house.  I wanted you to go there with me.”  Robby said.
“Why do you always ask these stupid questions?  You know I can’t do that.”
“Yes you can.  You just have to pack your bags and go.”
“Right.  I guess you think Scott will just go along with that. ‘Honey, I am going off this weekend with my boyfriend.’  He may be stupid, but he will never agree to that.”  I said.
Scott was my husband.  He was kind, a good provider, and a smart man, but he just didn’t fulfill me.  Every moment with him was a dull moment.  When given the spontaneous opportunity to go to the beach, free of charge for a weekend, he would turn it down to rest on the sofa. Even on our honeymoon we went to a NASCAR race, and that is the dullest.  I loved him dearly, but he lacked in areas.  Robby was just the opposite.  He was exciting and dangerous.  We had been fooling around for a year, and his novelty had worn off, but he was spontaneous.  Of course he also had no ambition, a part time job at the local Pizza Hut, and no real skills to survive in the world.  Instead of the need to become someone, he preferred to leech off his parents.
“I don’t see why you won’t dump that loser and stay with me.”  Robby said.
“What, and stay in your parents garage?  I would rather go live in a halfway house!”
“But you know you would be happier with me.  We always have a good time together, and all you do is bitch about that stupid husband of yours.”
“What makes you think I don’t complain about you when he is here?”  I laughed as I said it.  He knew I never talked to Scott about him.  “I don’t know Robby.  If you had me you wouldn’t want me anymore.  The only reason you come around is because I am forbidden.  I would bet that if I were single you wouldn’t have anything to do with me.”
“That is a lie.  I love you, you know that.”  He said.
What I knew was the truth.  He liked the danger of being with a married woman.  I knew how shallow men were.  Robby wouldn’t love me if he could have me, just as my husband loves me out of the need to have someone.  The only time any man loved someone was when they needed something.  No matter how much Robby or Scott thought they did for me, they only did it to make themselves happy.  If I didn’t fill a need for them they wouldn’t come around me.
“Look Robby, it’s not a matter of wanting to, because you know I do.  I couldn’t think of anything better than spending the weekend with you.  It’s just that I can’t.  Scott needs me, and I love him too.  Do you know how difficult it is to be in love with two men at the same time?  Do you?  Everyday I carry around this guilt, and I wish I knew what the right answer was, but I don’t.  Let’s get up and put our clothes on.  I have to get dinner ready.”
I threw my legs over the side of the bed.  Robby didn’t move, and I could see him staring at me from the mirror on the outside of the closet door.  As I put my panties on he traced the tattoo on the small of my back with a sullen expression.  The funny thing about men was they pretended to be all tough, but after sex they have a softer personality than any girl I knew.  All the hard edges eroded away and for a brief second they were actually human.
The thing about my affair and my husband was that I didn’t want either one of them.  All my life I waited for that special guy who would sweep me off my feet, the guy who was handsome, strong, and understanding.  A guy who was a mixture of Robby and Scott.  Someone who had the resources to take care of me, who was exciting, confidant and, most importantly, someone with passion for life.  I never found anyone like that.If they were smart and creative, they were bad in bed, or they were so conceited they could only talk about themselves.  If they were cute, and good in bed, they would have some psychological problem, and no matter how much I tried to fix them, their baggage wouldn’t go away.
I pulled my hair up and wrapped a Scunci around it.  Scott got off work in less than an hour, and Robby hadn’t even got off the bed yet.  His clothes were scattered all over the bedroom as he propped himself on his side with his elbow. 
“You need to go.  We don’t have time to talk about this right now.  Scott is coming home and I have things to do before he gets here.”
“Can I come by on Monday?”
“I suppose so, but you need to call first.”
“Okay...Well,” he said as he got off of the bed “I guess I will call you Monday.”
He put his head through the hole of his shirt.  Robby had a nice body without an ounce of fat.  His frame was slightly smaller than a middleweight boxer with nice broad shoulders.  He quickly covered it all up with his slouchy clothes.  His pants were three times the size they should have been, so when he walked the fabric rubbed together and made the sound of a toy car revving up.
Walking to the door, he grabbed me by the hips and leaned in for a kiss.  We walked all the way to the front door of the apartment stuck together.  Like some exotic dance, he slowly staggered backwards as I let him take the lead.  Once the door opened he pulled away sucking on my bottom lip.  I wished I could pull him back to the bed so we could lie around for the rest of the day.  I also wanted him to quit ruining everything by planning a future.  How come he couldn’t just live in the moments we were together? 
“Are you sure you don’t want to go to the lake with me?”  He asked
“I can’t.  Maybe one day.”
“I will be looking forward to it.”
After the door shut, I lay my weight against it and let out a sigh.  Men were so complicated.  If there was just one, just one, that was half of what I looked for I would run off with him as far away from this place as I could.

Scott came in as I was turning the pork chops in the frying pan.  He laid his empty lunch-bag on the kitchen table and walked behind me.  Without a word, he slipped his arms in under mine and rubbed my stomach.  I held my head down as he kissed the back of my neck.  He groaned like a bear then stepped left of me and grabbed a cooked pork chop from the plate.
“Did you have a good day at work?”
“Terrible...just terrible.  I got stuck in the parts store all day and had to deal with customers.”
Scott was a mechanic.  The garage he worked at also had a parts shop built to the side of it.  Since none of the guys liked to work in the parts store, the owner designated one person every day.  Customers came in hollering about the high prices, and old women called every hour to find out if their car was finished so they wouldn’t have to drive in rush hour traffic.  Needless to say, Scott hated the parts store.
“You need me to help you seat the table or anything?”  Scott asked.
“No.  Just go ahead and wash your hands.  Dinner should be done in couple of minutes.  We are just waiting for the biscuits to come out of the oven.”  I realized I sounded like my mother and I wasn’t even twenty-six years old. 
Scott grabbed his glass off of the table and went to the refrigerator.  As he poured his tea the compressor for the refrigerator kicked on and the lights fluttered.  The neighbors upstairs sounded like they were having a square dance, and my eyes squinted as I developed a headache. 
“You want to go to Wal-Mart after dinner and buy a DVD player?  Jason said they got’em on sale for a hundred and fifty dollars.  We could go over to Blockbuster and get that sappy movie you been wantin’ to see?”  He asked as he rinsed his hands in the kitchen sink.
“I don’t really feel like it tonight.  Maybe tomorrow.”
I pulled the biscuits out of the stove, and made Scott a plate.  He sat down at the head of the table and began eating while I prepared my own.  Scott kept his head so close to his food I thought he was going to try sucking everything up.  He usually had everything eaten before I got started, and would go sit in the recliner while I cleared the dishes.  When I sat down, most of what I had piled up on his plate was gone.  He devoured everything like he had to fight off dogs so they wouldn’t get his food.
The roof continued pounding.  I held my fork on a green bean, and stared up at the ceiling.  The chandelier jumped on its chain.  Scott didn’t seem to notice.  He had half a porch chop stuffed in his mouth, and he held a biscuit like he was going to assault someone with it.
“Chucky made some stupid suggestion today about us donating money to the United Way.  He said they did it at that plant he used to work at.”  Scott said after he gulped down the meat.
“That sounds like a good idea.”
“Are you kidding me?  I am not donating money just so some rich executive can take a so-called ‘business trip’ to the Bahamas.  Besides, people only do that stuff just so they can say they did something for the community.  It’s not about helping people out.”
“I thought that money goes to poor children, and old people for medical services.  Stuff like that.”
“That’s not my point.  People are selfish to the core.  Everything we do is for self-gratification.  When people give money to the United Way they do it just to feel good.  It’s their way of thinking they make a difference.  There is no such thing as a selfless act.  Or I guess it would be better to say nothing you and I do, for that matter, is selfless. “
The grumble in his voice gripped me with contempt.  He wanted to start a fight and I wasn’t sure what I had done wrong.  He tore a mouthful out of a biscuit, and moved his fork back and forth in his hand like he was steadying a dart for a throw.  Calmly, he stared straight into my eyes. 
“Yep.  Everything you do for me is selfless.  You cook, clean, and take care of me just to have security.  I wouldn’t even doubt if you married me just to get out from under you parents house.  I go to work everyday to give you what you want.  I try to do everything I can to keep you happy.  I even overlook my bed and my wife smelling like another man because the thought of living without you is harder than the reality of you cheating on me.”
I was stunned.  He turned back to his dinner and wouldn’t look up at me.  Suddenly I was glad for the noise upstairs because the silence would have been too much.  I carried my full plate to the trash and scraped my dinner into it.  When I stood up straight I could see Robby’s baseball cap resting on the top of the couch.  It was red like a stop light with some emblem in the middle.  Not only did Scott know about my infidelities, but he also put up with them.  The water welted up in my eyes and I got up from the table.  I glanced back at him as I ran out the front door, but he sat there picking up stray green beans with his fork, and forcefully shoving them in his mouth.
Once I sat down on the steps outside the landing of our apartment I heard a plate shatter against the wall.  A little boy paused from bouncing his ball in the parking lot to look up at me.  Tears ran down my face and I tried to wipe them all away with my hands.  The little boy curiously walked up to the edge of the steps, and I could see him fifteen, twenty years from now.  Taller, stronger, and more prepared to disappoint someone.

 Originally published 2002 in Psychotic Education


  1. I often wonder how amazing when men can explore women's psychology and vice versa. This was very good reading.

  2. This was a gripping story from start to finish. I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to reading more from you.