I’m reading a book about two women who worked as embroiderers for the royal family’s dress designer in the 1940s. One of the lead characters has slowly replaced her small vegetable garden with flowers. In one scene, she shows the garden to another who is moved by the peonies still well in bloom past season. Before the chapter concludes, one woman cuts the peonies, drops the stems into a tin, and gives them to the other–a gift that starts an incredible friendship.
Both, at this point in the story, are very humble and self-deprecating. One has the look of a young Audrey Hepburn but has been imprisoned in her past, learned to mistrust everyone, and constantly lives in well-hidden fear. The other has always been called a “plain girl” by her mother–one made to hold up the wall with the other plain girls at dances–and so can hardly believe why a man would be attracted to her let alone ask her to dance during a night out with friends.
Meanwhile, he is reading a book about a mental institution in the 1930s. As he describes it, the author is perpetually introducing seemingly nice girls who, through the course of the novel, reveal themselves to be monsters inside. There’s heartbreak, betrayal, manipulation, sex as tactic, using men as tools, jealousy, possessiveness, cruelness, bitterness, emotional acceptance, and as he puts it–repulsiveness. These girls are only in their 20s, but have had such a hard life inside the institution, that one who uses her sexuality to gain favors is described as being repulsively thin, her breasts sagging and the blue veins bulging outward.
This is one book club selection I’ll pass on.
So, we’ve become readers. Of sorts.
As he’s describing his book to me, he interjects that he “doesn’t want to make it about us.” And I feel the sting of him indirectly pointing to the obvious: he regards me as a jealous and possessive person. Not to mention my borderline personality or codependency.
Do you still feel I’m possessive, I ask.
No, not really anymore, he says.
But he will say several times over in the conversation that jealousy is a killer.
Later in the evening, I talked about that morning’s counseling session–how I mentioned how well things were going between us and yet the few big areas for which we’re not on the same page seem to be surfacing in my mind. Like marriage.
Perhaps it’s because things are going so well, my counselor suggested. It’s natural for people in your situation to look to the future with hope and wonder where things are headed.
Thinking this was a good enough lead-in as I shared my counseling session with him over dinner, I asked: “Where do you see this headed?”
He ignored me. And when I asked if he was avoiding my question, he said he was.
“You blindsided me with it,” he said.
I’m just trying to get your thoughts on it, I responded in a relaxed tone.
“I don’t really have any.”
I brought it up only once again and he asked that we change the conversation to a lighter subject.
He tells me he loves me every morning before he walks out the door. And he gives me a quick kiss when we see each other again at the end of the day. But he does not call me pet names, nor does he compliment me. When I asked him about this recently, he suggested that it wouldn’t mean anything if he was compelled to say those things–he should only say them if he meant them.
Tonight, he said he would try to make it to my CoDA meeting with me, but has said twice now that he doesn’t feel like he should have to go every week. I understand this to be true.
Somehow, I feel let down.
I’m meeting the pastor for lunch today.