I didn’t realize the strangeness of Bob until I was talking about him to my cousin. The thing that’s strange is not that he exists as much as my daughter named him Bob. He is a presence that lives in our house.
He makes himself known by closing the cabinets in the upstairs bathroom or walking around. I hear him when the kids are gone. I use to think somebody lived in our attic and would come out when the they were visiting their dad but then I realized it wasn’t just me who heard him. We have all experienced him and my daughter named him Bob.
Last week I heard an audible knock on my door. My alarm had gone off moments before. As I lay in the bed contemplating what I was wearing to work and whether or not I was going to the gym, I heard it. I thought maybe it was one of the younger two so I waited for the “mom?” but it never came. I waited to hear footsteps walking up the stairs but that didn’t happen either.
A day or two later I mentioned the knock to the kiddos. My daughter said, “I guess Bob is back from vacation. He’s been gone for a while.” One of the younger two said he heard footsteps the other night.
Welcome back Bob.
She felt somebody looking at her. She scanned the area to see who it was. Their eyes connected. She smiled. He looked at her with an intensity that made her blush. She blinked, breaking eye contact, and turned her head.
In a matter of seconds she had completed a full assessment of him. He was an inch or two taller than her. It was obvious he worked out. She could see the definition of his pectoral muscles through the shirt he was wearing. He was casual but fashionable.
He made his way over to her. Leaning in and whispering in her ear he introduced himself. He td her his name and said he was from Tennesse. She agreed to dance with him. He held her hand and looked into her eyes then led her to the dance floor.
He leaned in again attempting to create an illusion of intimacy in the midst of a crowded dance floor. “Where is your man? I am sure a beautiful woman like you is dating or married.” She responded, “where is your wife? I noticed your wedding ring earlier but I see you have taken it off.”
Lauren was no more than about eight when she learned about this practice. Her best friend told her it would work and if she said so then it was true. She closed her eyes and giggled. She could see his face and laughed at the thought of him running from her as she chased him all over the play ground. As she sat in the middle of the field she picked a flower with lots of petals and began the ritual. As Lauren plucked a petal from the flower she said out loud, “He loves me”, then she pulled another and said “He loves me not”. She continued this pattern of plucking flower petals and reciting the words until she reached the last one, “He loves me not!” She picked up another flower and started again. He just had to love her.
Twenty years later she was sitting in a coffee shop thinking about her fiance Mark. She absent mindedly picked up a flower from the vase in the middle of the table and started plucking the petals and reciting the words. She knew it was a silly game but she continued until the last petal lay on the table, “He loves me not?”
She thought about the six years they had been dating. He was not perfect but then who is? They met her senior year in college. She has just ended a six year relationship year with her high school sweetheart. She was going through a tough time. Jeff had been her world since the end of their sophomore year. She would find herself sitting on a park bench crying. It wasn’t just any bench, it was their bench. At least they claimed it as theirs. It’s where they sat and talked for hours. It served as their dining room table. This bench was where they discussed their futures. It was also the place of their breakup.
As tears slid down her face she had an overwhelming sense of being watched. She raised her head and looked into his eyes. Those eyes were beauitiful, intense, questioning and sympathetic. She tried to smile but according to his version of the story it was more of a painful grimace. He did not say anything that day but he came back a few nights later and gave her a lace handkerchief. He later revealed to her why he brought her the lace handkerchief instead of tissue. He told his mother about her and she said a brokenhearted woman needs permanence in her life, not temporary.
Something was not right. Her intuition’s sirens had been blaring for a few weeks. She kept silencing the alarms. She could easily tune them out while focusing on the kids. But as soon as there was some semblance of silence the alarms would sound again. Louder. More determined. Warning!!!
They had been married for almost a decade. They had five children together. The youngest was a baby. They took on traditional roles in the home. She was a stay at home mom and he worked outside the home. She did all of the cooking and most of the cleaning. He gave her a much needed break from the chaos of five active kids when he arrived home.
Some things changed. They were subtle. If wasn’t for the insistent alarms she might have missed them. He started working out. Consistently. No big deal. It happens all the time. People make commitments towards better health every day. He began leaving for work earlier than normal. Shrug. He could have had a major project he was working on. That’s not uncommon. He stopped answering her calls or they had abbreviated phone conversations even while he was driving home. Okay. He decided one day that he needed to start working from a coffee shop rather than at home after the kids and she went to bed. Why?
If you look at each of the incidents separately you find yourself asking, what’s the big deal? But the alarms. The alarms were telling her something was not right.
One day she decided to do what she had never done in the near decade they had been husband and wife, she signed on to their carrier’s website and checked his cell phone records. The alarms went silent. There was the confirmation of the feeling that had plagued her for weeks. Every morning on the commute to work, every evening on the way home, late at night when the household was quiet the same phone number was there. The number had taken up residence on the phone bill and owned more real estate on the pages than hers. She didn’t cry. She didn’t get angry, initially. She called him at work and asked who she was. He denied it at first. Cheating man rule #1 deny, deny, deny. Then he finally confessed. It was infatuation. He would leave her alone. But he didn’t. Things were normal for about a week. Then the alarm sounded again. This time she was angry. She wasn’t thinking logically. Maybe she was. She went to their closet and gathered up his clothes hanging the the closet and began tossing them in the front yard. Next were his shoes. After that she pulled the drawers out of the dresser and tossed those in the yard as well. (Perhaps she had seen Waiting to Exhale one to many times) After a quick trip to the hardware store boom bam bop, the locks were changed on the doors. She manually locked the garage door. Then she called him.
Come get your %#&! out of my yard before I turn the sprinklers on!! He talked to the other woman on the way home. She watched through the window as he filled his van with his belongs. Her anger subsided but her heart was broken. That day they began a journey down a path that was filled with twists, turns, forgiveness, and repeated betrayal. They would eventually come to a fork in the road and choose separate paths. They would no longer walk as one.