Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A fork in the road

"You're pretty upset that they're moving away, aren't you," she said, more a statement than a question.

"No. Yes. I-I don't know," I replied.

I leaned back on the sofa, wrapped a hand around the tension at the back of my neck and looked away. I really didn't know what I felt.

For three years I had battled for my place in Mr. O's hierarchy. A place that was at least equal to The Best Man, a guy who had been Number One for so many years.

And now? Now I had my chance. The BMan had just told us that he and his young family would be moving to the confines of a remote western town that was at least 9 hours' driving time from our home.

Why was I so torn? I should have been elated. Even if only by default, I finally had a fighting chance.

I fell in love with Mr. O on our third date, the day I learned that wakeboarding is little more than a cold water enema when you're not naturally coordinated. He and The BMan were so patient with me.

And when patience didn't work, they tossed me another Bud Light.

Over the next several months I got sucked in by the magic of their brotherly affection for each other. I laughed myself to breathless tears at their stories, the tales of fun and troublemaking that are the core of college buddy friendships.

The 10 years of history they would always have, the history that didn't include me.

When we quarreled, his refuge was a stool at the workbench in The BMan's garage. When we had something to celebrate, it was The BMan and his wife who joined us. When Mr. O's dad died, it was The BMan who saw and felt Mr. O's devastation long before I did.

When we promised ourselves to each other for better or worse, it was The Best Man who stood by and claimed witness to it.

I knew what I was marrying into. I vowed to accept Mr. O + 1.

So why was this long-distance move such a tug of war between my heart and my head?

Maybe it was the giddy and loveable little boy that took over for Grown Up Mr. O when The BMan was around.

It could have been the pure, unadulterated fun that the two of them had in doing everything from replacing a radiator hose to coloring Easter eggs.

Just seeing the bond between them made my ovaries ache for the generation that would carry on the legacy.

I couldn't figure out if I was happy that I'd finally be in the spotlight, or scared because I had some big shoes to fill, or pissed that I'd have to figure out the formula for finding what made Mr. O the happiest.

I looked across at her.

"Are you afraid that you're getting what you asked for?" she posed.

"You mean am I worried that I can't fill the void?" I shot back.

The therapist in her didn't react, but she belied her buried empathy with the tears that welled in the corners of her eyes.

She knew. Better than I did.

I would miss him as much as Mr. O would.

Thanksgiving a year ago, The BMan and I were solving the problems of the world from our armchairs, long after everyone else had called it quits for the night. They were visiting from South Dakota.

"I can't imagine what it's been like for you guys since everything fell apart," he said, not moving his eyes from the TV.

"Yeah, it's been a bit of a challenge," I replied, trying not to give away the gnawing anxiety that beat me into sleepless submission each night.

I leaned away so I could swipe at the tears inconspicuously.

In silence, we finished watching whatever had our focus for the moment and then I hit the power button on the remote.

The hallway toward the back of the house forced us to see one another as we turned in for the night. I looked up at him, his tender and empathetic expression begging for my recognition.

I reached up to hug him hard, with the sincerity and appreciation I hadn't been able to offer before then.

"Get back here fast. Mr. O needs you -- bad," I mumbled into his comforting shoulder.

"Yeah, I know. We will," he replied.

I count my blessings.

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