Another Year, Another Photo

The Geneticist and I went for manicures and Fancy Dinner on Monday as an alternative to our usual dinner-before-I-work-and-he-comes-to-the-club routine. My nails, sparkly pink shellac. I decided against half of a pedicure.

Conversation was dull and forced in the nail salon, and I could tell he was either nearly finished with my companionship — a good possibility after a few years and predictability sets in — or that something was bothering him. We headed back to his hotel, and I straightened my hair and threw on makeup. The clothing was a little informal for the restaurant, and I wore a long black shirt with grey patterned tights, zebra-striped slippers, a thin black sweater, but I couldn’t change the fact that I have to wear slippers until my foot gets x-ray’d again. We joked. We sent a picture of our faces next to each other to a traveling dancer we both enjoy.

I realized this picture was nearly identical to one taken the year before in late winter, in the same hotel room, under the same light, with the same phone, each of us on the same side of the photo (with him on the right), he in nearly identical clothes and wearing the same expression he’s probably worn in photos for sixty years of his life. We’d even taken last year’s photo for the same reason: to send to the same traveling dancer to say hello while she was away. 

This year’s photo showed, in strange detail, change. He’s lost forty pounds, deepened a wrinkle, lost much of his chin, the point of his head sporting a patch of grey-white hair that didn’t exist the year before. My smile more conservative, cautious, my face showing a year of wear in the summer sun, and last year’s photo showing a beaming, silly, cheesy smile on softer, tighter skin. It was incredible to see time in a find-the-differences-style photo. 

We left for the restaurant, making small talk. During our first drinks, we received a picture in return from the traveling dancer — her boobs, in case we’d missed them. I slid my phone under the table to show him, just as a waiter approached asking about the appetizers and wine list we were half-assed reviewing. His face reddened and he playfully spanked my hand away.

Liquor, salad, wine, dinner, a side, dessert on a full gluten-free menu.

Over a second glass of ’08 Magnificat (decent, but not my favorite red blend), he responds to “So, have any fun over the weekend? Get in any trouble?” with his story of putting his wife in rehab for alcohol for the third time. Two and a half years of seeing this man at least twice a month for hours on end, and this is the first time I’ve heard anything about his wife other than that he wants to ride motorcycles around the country with her when he retires someday. 

They always love their wives the most when they never say anything about them, when they’re a mystery to me.

I tried to offer him just listening, but he teared up as he told me. He’d speak and pause, pushing his food and pretending to think, and speak again. I offered him an out, and offered him a little piece of myself. My dad has been an alcoholic my entire life.

I learned to gamble on horses because my dad would lead me around the track with the racing form in my hands, filling me with hot dogs and sodas and ice cream, keeping me up too late so he could drink and play the ponies. Every summer, I’d be at the track a handful of times, waiting to see the horses charge out of the gate and barrel toward the finish line. I’d hold my breath, hoping the prettiest one would win and feeling like the seconds were heartbeat-less minutes. As I got older, I’d pick horses to bet on. And when I started earning my own money, he’d place the bets for me and let me keep the winnings. The one thing that never seemed to change was his total inability to stay in the correct lane on the very long drive home and his knack for picking horses despite lacking any useful knowledge that couldn’t be obtained in the daily racing form.

He’s lucky I wound up loving horses instead of booze and parimutuels, I guess.

The Geneticist and I finished our dinners and headed back to his hotel. We sprawled out on the couch, chatting, my feet kicked up on the coffee table. I showed him the nasty bruises on my feet, choosing the opportune time just before it was time to leave. He talked of wanting to meet, ironically, at a casino, to celebrate my upcoming birthday for a few days. We parted ways for the night, agreeing to meet later in the week for gambling and booze and food and birthday, just as we did for his birthday a month ago.

I counted the stash when I’d left, to make sure that I had enough to justify continuing to see him. I felt like I hadn’t made much when I’d really needed it when I saw him away from the club for his birthday, and chalked it up to it being a celebration for him. Wary, I had to count this time. I can’t take a steep cut in pay while I’m out of work, and I can’t take one for no reason. This time, I was very well compensated, even more so than usual.

What he doesn’t realize about the cash he gave me is that six hundred bucks buys me about two weeks’ worth of healthy, fresh, gluten-free food and two tanks of gas. Instead of hoping my savings will last long enough to feed me expensive, specific food while I heal, he’s guaranteed another two weeks of enough food and gas. Granted, I actually used some of it to buy a godsend of a much-needed dildo and a deserved, inexpensive vegan meal out with the Ex-I’m-Fucking, but nevertheless, I still have almost all of the cash set aside for groceries and gas. A weight has been lifted.

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~ by The Stiletto-Shod One on February 6, 2013.

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