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PROLOGUE

   "So, Darren, you're willing to move by yourself and abandon your wife," Dr. Larz opened the

session with a question.

   "I want Minnie to move to Pompano with me—what's all this talk of abandonment," exclaimed Darren. My husband had inherited his uncle's business—Rosner Reel Ends—a company that restored and digitized old films. I'm not saying that it wasn't a wonderful opportunity, albeit a complete change of careers—at that time Darren had toiled as a code-writer for a healthcare company—but our lives were centered in Fort Pierce while the business was further south. Common sense dictated that he wouldn't make the one-way, one hundred mile trip, twice every day.            

   "Your son hasn't been dead six months yet—why are you surprised that your wife feels she's being abandoned," argued Dr. Larz on my behalf. When death had finally claimed our son, Lonnie, after two years of torture, the last thing I needed was to relocate—so I had steadfastly refused.

   "Isn't life for the living?" countered my husband, "I see the move as a new beginning for both of us!"

   "Minnie," my shrink responded, "sees the move as a unilateral decision."

   "Why isn't she speaking for herself?" Darren fired back at Larz but didn't wait for a reply as, instead, he turned on me, "Why is he meddling in our affairs?"

   "You were being unreasonable and I had no one else to turn to."

   "Larz is your doctor, not mine." Darren had finally relented to my pleas and agreed to a session—most likely just to shut me up. He didn't agree that we needed help in getting over the loss of our son—or in fixing our deteriorating marriage.

   "He can help both of us, if you'd give him a chance," I half-screamed at my husband.  

   "He can't bring back Lonnie, can he?" Darren shouted just as loudly right back at me.      

   "Maybe he can keep us together, how much more do you want to lose?" My tears were flowing and I hardly managed to finish the sentence.

   "Is that a threat, Minnie?  

   "Maybe," I snapped at Darren, "if you accepted the Doctor's help you'd understand me and my needs!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

   Look, speaking of my needs, I wasn't talking about sex. Darren and I had never been a sexually active couple—we had never progressed past the missionary style and, while it’s hard to believe, hadn’t had sex since the beginning of my third trimester. So, in other words, it shouldn’t be any secret that Darren’s penis had never been in my mouth—nor for that matter has his tongue ever been below my waist. Truthfully though, we had both been uninterested in finding different ways of getting one another off and weren’t very experimental. Instead we spent most of our dating days playing Blackjack trying to develop a system to beat the house. Our dream was to honeymoon in Vegas with our numerical strings as cheat sheets, but our parents, all of whom are gone now, didn’t feel that particularly romantic—so Maui ended up being our destination. Somehow in the middle of the Pacific, where Darren and I both struggled through sex for the very first time, we became pregnant. Truthfully, since our damaged son entered the world—we hadn't slept in the same room, let alone the same bed, all of which led to my general feeling of failure. So, in regards to my needs, I'm talking about everything beginning with the basic interactions of a married couple!  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

   "Minnie," declared Darren, "you're pathetic—always with this needs stuff!"

   "Darren," Larz spoke sternly, "do you even understand what your wife is saying?"

   "Her message is very clear," Darren parried. "She wants to hold me back."

"That's not what I'm saying," I defended myself. "Why can't you just listen?"

   "Regardless of what I hear from your mouth, or your proxy over here," he pointed at Larz, "the bottom line is, that's what you're saying!"

   "Right now, what you want from me, is just too much of an emotional risk for me."

   "That's really something coming from you," my husband accused me, vitriol in his voice, "considering that our entire relationship is based on gambling!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

   I originally met my husband via our mutual love of mathematics, in which we both have advanced degrees. However, for a relationship that had started based on algorithms we were suddenly uncommon denominators! I completely understood Darren and his need for a fresh start, and I knew that a fresh start would have also been good for me, but at that time I saw the move as yet another massive upheaval. Childbirth had brought more pain to Darren and me than a young marriage should ever have to survive. I can't count the number of times I had wished Lonnie hadn't survived the day of his birth. What should have ended sadly, but quickly, stretched out over two agonizing years. However, at the time of that session in Larz office, Darren and I hadn't even disassembled Lonnie's room—yet, not that our son had actually spent much time at home. I was well aware that a new beginning meant people wouldn't look at us like a living tragedy, although we never should have been embarrassed. We had sought out dozens of potential treatments for our son that were eventually doomed to fail. In fact, it kills me to admit, but what we really accomplished was the extension of Lonnie's pain. To hastily empty our entire home and, to me, destroy our lone child's room in the process was hypocritical. Don't get me wrong, I didn't see Lonnie's room as some kind of shrine, but I wanted it to come apart slowly, at my speed and when that room was no longer Lonnie's I didn't want it to stay vacant. It needed another purpose. It hadn't died, our son had. To me, in that delicate moment deserting our home was the same as abandoning Lonnie. I simply couldn't do that to him even if it meant Darren was leaving me behind.

   Perhaps I should clarify; inheriting Ends—as Darren began referring to his company—was a huge step forward in our lives. The projected income was a life changer, perhaps the only positive amongst the despair in which we had settled. I understood Darren's need to escape. Truthfully, the money wasn't drawing me, although I fully realized that Darren could now afford to live elsewhere without affecting my lifestyle. However, the feeling that my body had failed Darren, myself, and our son was overwhelming. I didn't think that I could move on until that feeling was resolved. Finding Dr. Larz had been an effort in itself—I had seen five shrinks before landing on his office couch and I didn't want to lose him.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

   "You speak of gambling," I fired back, managing to hold back my tears, "but if we're living apart, we're not going to grow closer."

   "I'll come home on the weekends."

   "Like that’s going to get us in the same bed!"

   "Here I have a job. In Pompano, I have my own company with my name on it! Why would I walk away from that opportunity when there's nothing here to hold me?"

   "I'm here!"

   "But you can move! There's nothing keeping you here, either, except enough bad memories to last a lifetime! Are you moving with me or not? It's as simple as that!"

   As I shook my head silently from left to right, Darren stalked out and slammed the door behind him.  

. . . . . .

   I couldn't get the idea of failure out of my mind. I thought of myself as a luckless heroine from some Sidney Sheldon novel. Once home, alone, I went into the bathroom and stripped, then stood in front of the mirror. Never before had I ever examined my body to such a degree, except when I wanted side views of myself during my pregnancy. I started with my facial features and worked all the way down to my toes. What was my vital flaw? Why had my body failed me? Fail Darren? And Lonnie? However, after nearly an hour of self-examination, no answers appeared on my skin or beneath my fingers, so I went online. I didn't Google causes of pediatric diseases—I'd already been through that hundreds of times. Instead, I compared my body to that of others—even to those of celebrities—and decided that I could use some improvements. No, not the plastic kind of improvement! Exercise, or fitness, appeared before me as the natural reaction to being abandoned after my multiple failures. That being said, there were several other things I wanted to change.

   I increased my weekly visits with Dr. Larz to two sessions—there was just too much to discuss in forty-five minutes. I needed more introspection. Second, that evening, for a reason I still don't completely understand to this day, I started a journal. I wanted to record the restart of my life. Therefore, if I slipped again, I'd have a better understanding of why. Third, I restarted the tutoring business that I had dropped mid-way through my pregnancy. Finally, I dove into vintage shopping, turning a hobby into something that quickly took on a life of its own! Then, I quickly settled into a pattern for life—or actually, two different patterns. Allow me to explain.

   With the good doctor's aid, control was something I promised myself that I would never cede to anyone again. My life was my life and I'd live it on my own terms. As Larz described it, I fell in to my weekday pattern which was based mainly around my twice-a-week afternoon visits with him, working out, as well as tutoring sessions in the late afternoon and evenings, which I held in my home. I never scheduled tutoring sessions for the weekend, because Darren was expected to return home, which fostered a pattern of its own. It probably won’t come as a surprise that I became obsessive and compulsive. Everything I did was done to excess, because everything I did was intended to keep my mind off my failures. Everything I did was part of a pattern and everything I did was for me. Sadly, it was done for me alone.