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کتاب: زندگی در چند بخش / فصل 28

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Divorcé

About two years into our marriage, Mickey wanted to buy a house. We focused our search on Saugus in Santa Clarita Valley, off Interstate 5. The same town where my mom took me to swap meets to sell our belongings.

Mickey and I couldn’t afford to buy in the San Fernando Valley, and even out in Saugus the most we could swing was a mobile home. Maybe not even a new mobile home. Maybe one that was “gently used.”

There were a million questions. Are there any hidden fees? How much is insurance? The more we delved into the particulars, the more real it became. And the more real it became, the more uncertain I felt. All the mobile homes looked so, I don’t know, settled. And then there was Saugus. It meant an hour commute each way—if there was no traffic. When you’re spending that much time in the car, it’s not like you’re reading or learning a part. Driving is just driving. I suddenly felt as if I were trying to be a New York actor and weighing a move to Rhode Island.

Back in Van Nuys, I was splayed on my bed in the middle of the afternoon, and all of this was weighing on me. Saugus, the mobile homes, Mickey, our conversations about children. I was on track in my career, but nothing else felt right. Mickey was in the other room, and I called her name. She came in and sat down on the bed. I remember the sunlight streaming into the room. I remember lounging for a while, just looking at each other. I asked her: Is this what you want? I meant everything, all of it.

She said, Yes.

You want a home. You want a baby.

Yes, she said. That’s what I want.

How could I deny that? Those were perfectly legitimate desires. I said, Can I ask you something honestly? You were ready for that when we met in Daytona?

Yes, I was.

That was four years ago. She’d been very patient.

And you thought I was a good prospect, the right guy, to have this happen with?

Yes.

Did you feel that when we first met?

Yeah, I did.

Before we even knew each other, you felt I represented the best possibility for you to have those things you wanted?

Yeah.

And I said: I think we made a mistake. I never had the courage to confront this. I was just going along with it all. That’s not what I want. I don’t want to have a baby right now. I don’t have a desire to own a home. Because I know what that means. And I don’t think I would be a good husband or father at this moment.

Maybe I was thinking of my dad’s impulsivity. Let’s build a pool! Let’s run a coffee shop and a nightclub! Maybe I was scared of repeating his mistakes. Whatever the reason, I knew I wasn’t ready. I finally realized that I wasn’t able to make a commitment.

I owe you an apology, I said. I was too immature and passive when we met to be able to do what I should have done, which was to say: I’m not ready. Let’s not get married. I want something other than what you want.

She nodded sadly. She knew. If either of us had been honest, we would have gone our separate ways much earlier.

She was a sweetheart. No arguing. No bitterness. We were just mismatched.

Once we’d both confessed, a sense of relief washed over us, and we became closer than we had been in our two years of marriage. Even when she moved back home to the panhandle of Florida, we would talk on the phone. An hour, once a week, giving each other support and friendship.

She soon slipped back into her southern accent, and six months later she was married to a guy named Steve, who already had four girls from a previous relationship. Mickey got pregnant quickly. Suddenly, she had a big family. She got what she wanted. I was happy for her.

We lost touch over the years, naturally. We both moved on. Then, I was promoting a film in Florida several years ago and Mickey saw the interview and called the station. When I called her back, a man with a deep voice answered the phone. It was her son. A grown man. I’d forgotten how many years had passed.

And then Mickey got on the phone. We chatted briefly. Pleasantly. We were old friends—but when we said good-bye, it felt final. We were just kids when we were together, and that was a long time ago.

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