I got the job. And I already didn’t like it.
It wasn’t hard. Usually, people are pretty impressed by me upon the first meeting. And second. And third. It’s not until months in that they get disillusioned, realizing they built me up in their heads to something I am actually not.
Regardless, after a day long-writing interview and a boot-licking meeting with the head of the organization, a former television news anchor who had his head up his own ass, I was offered the position.
Jack couldn’t have been more pleased. I don’t know if he was just happy I’d be out of the house, or happy I’d be making some money, or just genuinely, selflessly happy for me because he knew I wanted a job. Either way, he was very supportive and I appreciated it. My schedule was weird. I was meant to work Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., and meant to write 8 short articles a day. It didn’t seem too hard. What I knew, however, was that I already couldn’t stand the position. I didn’t like the person directly above me, I didn’t like the person above him, I didn’t like the people I worked with, I didn’t like the office and I really, really didn’t like being told what to do by a bunch of people my age, that I thought were dumber than me, after being a practicing attorney for nearly a year.
I was having another one of what I called my “Steve Jobs” moments.
See, I have this theory. It’s pretty simple, really. Here it is: You’re not Steve Jobs until you’re Steve-Fucking-Jobs. Before Steve Jobs became Steve-Fucking-Jobs, the head of Apple, the man that brought beautiful, sleek and technologically advanced hand-held devices to the masses, he was Steve Jobs, the guy that dropped out of college to travel around India and learn about Buddhism, the guy that was weird and eccentric and particular. Before he was Steve-Fucking-Jobs, he was the guy that was ousted from the company he started. Then, one day, he was Steve-Fucking-Jobs, the guy that started one of the most successful fucking companies in the world, and no one called him weird anymore: they called him a genius.
Sure, I might be building myself up more than I mean to, but maybe that’s how you fucking cope with day-to-day life. And I had always liked to think of myself Steve Jobs, poised at any moment to become Steve-Fucking-Jobs.
This wasn’t the first position I hated. I hated the one before, working at the law firm doing stupid work for a thankless imbecile. I hated the position before that, interning my 2L summer at a terrible insurance company, where even the upper management didn’t seem to know what they were doing.
I wasn’t great about working for other people, clearly.
Hell, I wasn’t great about working. I just hadn’t found my flow yet, or so I told myself.
These were all fantastic thoughts to have while walking home alone from the train station in the cold, wet, New York rain. It wasn’t even November yet and already the weather was sucking so badly that I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, let alone to go to a crappy job with an arrogant boss I hated.
Let me rephrase: to go to another crappy job with another arrogant boss I hated.
I was wearing rain boots and carrying an umbrella but yet still somehow felt soaked, through and through. Though my long black hair was pulled back into a ponytail, it was long enough that the ends were soaking wet and smacking me in the face every time a heavy wind went by. Perfect, I thought.
My phone buzzed in my coat pocket and I looked down at the caller ID: Jack. I thought about letting it go to voicemail and ducking into my favorite Chinese place to grab some delicious vegan hot and sour soup but thought better of it and decided to answer. I didn’t know if he was home or still at work and I didn’t want to run the risk of letting myself get to the “happily alone with a piping hot bowl of hot and sour soup” mental state only to get home and find out that Jack was starving and wanted to go out or cook.
Come to think of it, I think my most Zen place to be is actually “happily alone with a piping hot bowl of hot and sour soup.” Or maybe it was just “happily alone with some food.”
Who the fuck am I kidding, I thought. Despite being married at 26, my favorite place was, bar none, “happily-fucking-alone.”
“Hey babe, what’s up?”
My lips were already freezing just by saying that one small sentence. Damn New York and damn its weather.
“Hi monkey! Nothing, I just wanted to see where you were and if you had any thoughts on dinner.”
Apparently, I was psychic.
“I actually just got off the train. I was thinking of ducking into New China and grabbing some hot and sour soup and dumplings but I’m still open regarding food choices. Not married to anything. Except you.”
He laughed at the other end of the line. Jack’s laugh was definitely one of my favorite things about him. It was deep and hearty and showed no evidence that he was holding back. When he laughed, it was with his heart and I loved it.
“Okay then what do you think of taking the pooch for a quick walk and going out to get some Thai food?”
“That sounds good babe. I’ll be home in a few minutes. Tell that puppy I’m on my way!”
He laughed again, “I certainly will, she will be very excited. See you soon.”
As I walked home, I thought once again about what a good man Jack really was. Sometimes, when we fought I felt like he was the worst person on earth, but the rest of the time, when I was being logical, I thought he was a good man that was just trying to do his best.
Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way about myself. I felt like I was actually kind of a terrible partner but I didn’t know how to get my shit together.
Really, it was because I felt lost as hell.
Since before I graduated law school, I felt like I spent most of my days walking around with a kind of haziness. Like it didn’t matter what I was doing or who I was with or what time of day or month or year it was, it was like I couldn’t see the world clearly.
There were so many moments in my short marriage so far where I wished I hadn’t gotten married, and more importantly, that I hadn’t dragged Jack into my twisted, depressed world.
He was sometimes a good husband, but what bothered me most about our marriage was that I could see and analyze all the ways in which I was a truly shitty wife. But I couldn’t seem to do anything about it.
I knew that I was demanding and immature and selfish and I knew that I really wasn’t fit to be anybody’s long-term partner. But somehow, even before Jack, I kept finding myself in relationship after relationship.
Every time I got in one, I’d realize I didn’t want to be in one, then thrash to get out, until I created a fake problem so big, and turned into such an asshole, that there was no choice but to end it. Then I’d learn…something. But then, I’d repeat the same damn cycle.
The wind was becoming more and more biting as I walked and I realized I was looking forward to getting a relaxed dinner out with Jack. Just because my marriage was a shit-show didn’t mean I couldn’t have a few hours of a delicious Thai meal.
I turned the key in the lock of my apartment building and started up the steps. I could already hear the click of Holly’s nails as she bounced around excitedly, waiting for me.
When I opened the door slowly and started shaking my hair out, Jack rushed over and picked me up, then kissed me on the lips.
“Well, that was awesome,” I said. “Is there more to that story?”
Jack grinned, “Maybe after dinner. Now, how was your day?”
“It was okay, boring as usual. I wish the articles were more interesting but it’s nice to be paid,” I said. “How was yours?”
“It was really good. Actually, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
I looked up, a bit startled. His tone had changed on those last few words and it sounded like whatever was coming wouldn’t be something I was thrilled to hear.
“What’s up, love?” I tried to keep my tone light, even though I was already concerned about what he was about to say.
This is how all of our fights started. Pleasant conversation, followed by one of us dropping a bomb and pretending it wouldn’t lead to another huge blow-up.
“So you know how George is dating that big Disney exec or whatever?”
I cringed… Two things in that sentence bugged me. The “or whatever” verbal filler, which I couldn’t stand because I was a grammar snob. And the more pressing one – George, Jack’s gay best friend – who was a nightmare. He was my age, 9 years younger than Jack, and for some reason, always felt the need to compete with me. He had been the cause of more than one fight between Jack and me. Especially when I had started going out of my way to be nice to him, including doing things like baking him sugar-free cookies when he went on some stupid cleanse. I did it to make my husband’s life easier – and I had immediately regretted it because not only did Jack not notice, he always seemed to land on George’s side about any issues.
I learned through that, though, you can’t actually kill people with kindness.
“Sure. What’s up?”
“Well, that guy is apparently always getting him tickets to things and just gave George a couple of tickets for a show that he asked if he could take me to.”
Oh, that was all? I thought to myself. Sounds cool. The only reason I could see Jack being at all worried or nervous would be if it was some day when we already had significant plans, but I didn’t think we were doing anything coming up that couldn’t be moved around for a Broadway show. Odd.
“That sounds awesome babe! It seems like it’ll be a blast. You should definitely go!”
“Well…” Jack paused and gave me a somewhat pained look. “The thing is…the show is Newsies.”
Now it was my turn to pause. What the fuck. Not only was Newsies one of my absolute favorite Disney movies since childhood, but I had been talking about the new Broadway show for weeks. WEEKS. Last I remembered, Jack and I were planning to go on my birthday. He had made a big deal of telling me about the ticket research he was doing and where we were going to have dinner and that he felt happy I was so happy with his birthday plan.
This was some bullshit.
Because not only was Jack a party to all of that, but so was George. George also knew that Newsies was a favorite of mine and that Jack was planning on taking me for my birthday.
And the fact that Jack was bringing it up to me meant he was definitely thinking about going.
Welcome to your marriage, Ace, I thought to myself. The kind of marriage where your partner doesn’t think much of you.
“Okay.” I said, slowly. I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I wasn’t sure what my reaction was supposed to be, but I had a feeling it was something along the lines of cheerful happiness that he would be going to see a childhood favorite of mine, of his wife’s, for fuck’s sake, without me.
“I won’t go if you don’t want me to. I mean, it’s not even my favorite movie, it’s yours. It’s just that George asked me and I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t really think you’d mind…” His voice trailed off at this juncture, and this is when I started to get angry.
I looked at him incredulously. “You didn’t think I’d mind? You seriously are going to tell me that you didn’t think I’d mind, for fuck’s sake? It has been my favorite movie since I was a little kid. Not to mention the fact that George has once again found another opportunity to compete with me, and you didn’t say to him, ‘No, George, this is my wife’s favorite movie, I was planning on taking her for her birthday, you will have to find someone else.’ No. You fucking came home and threw the whole story at me and somehow, want me to be miraculously cool with it! This is some bullshit.”
I knew, of course, by that point, I had completely overreacted. I was logically aware of this, just as I was logically aware that there were other methods to making Jack understand how I felt that did not involve yelling at him and making him feel like he had done something wrong. But in that moment, I couldn’t have given less of a fuck.
I wasn’t reacting to the situation with George and Jack in that moment: I was reacting to the thousands of times Jack had made me feel like I mattered less than everything else in his life. I was reacting to the time that I had gotten my own office at the law firm and Jack had to struggle with whether or not to come see it because George had something he wanted him to do. I was reacting to one of Jack’s employees badmouthing me to other people and Jack not standing up for me. I was reacting to all the times I asked Jack to get up and go running with me, and he couldn’t or wouldn’t because he always seemed to have something better to do. I was reacting to Jack forgetting my birthday and running two hours later to my law school graduation party because “something came up.”
He was loving when it just involved talking about being loving. Not necessarily when it came to showing it.
All the years I had spent with Jack had just been me clamoring for his attention, and him sending it, voluntarily, elsewhere.
Was I completely fucked up or is this how it worked in a relationship where nothing ever got healed?
Once again, just like all of those other times, it felt like a battle I was going to lose, anyway. Regardless of whether Jack ultimately decided to go to the show with George, another small part of our marriage had already been chipped away for me, and I knew would be chipping away for Jack the longer and harder we argued.
I exhaled a breath I hadn’t realize I was holding.
“Okay. Yeah, it sucks and yeah, I’m not in love with the idea, but what can I do? If you want to go to the show with George, that’s fine. I’ll take Michelle with me later for my birthday.”
“Do you mean that, babe?! Thanks!”
“No, I don’t mean it. Fuck George and this whole thing. I’m sick of this shit and just don’t want to argue.”
“Okay….” He looked me cautiously, not sure what to do. A sad looked quickly passed across his face and then he switched back over to false happiness. I’m sure he was hoping I missed the look, but I couldn’t: it was exactly how I felt about our marriage, as well. Mostly lonely moments with a false pretense of joy, sometimes. Why was love so fucking stupid? There was not a doubt in my mind that I actually loved this man as much as I was capable of and that he loved me as much as he was capable of. Maybe it just wasn’t that much, since we were two decidedly broken individuals.
“Okay then, I’ll let George know we’re good and to pick a date.” He looked at me slowly, expecting me to blow up again.
I considered it, but didn’t have the fight in me when it didn’t even matter.
I sighed. “Okay. I’m not feeling dinner out. Can you just take Holly for a walk and I’ll figure something out?”
He looked crushed but didn’t argue. Instead, he walked over and kissed me on top of my head. “I love you, monkey.”
If he looked crushed before, that short statement from me devastated him.
Those two words might have been the absolute worst response I could have given him in that moment, where he needed the reassurance that I loved him. Well, I thought selfishly, I spent this entire marriage with no reassurance, so fuck that.
God. What had happened to me?
I felt like a monster.
He silently picked up Holly’s leash and beckoned her out the door. He shut it behind him with a click and without another word to me.