Single In The Suburbs, Installment 20

Our columnist’s ex says he needs to talk to her right away—and it doesn’t sound like good news…what could be going on?

By Sara Susannah Katz

To read the entire series of articles from the beginning, click here.

n our last installment, our writer had invited her guy Leo to meet the kids for what turned out to be a very uncomfortable date. Now her ex has just called saying they need to have a serious talk—ASAP.

Tuesday, 10:37 p.m.
I may not be married to Craig anymore, but his tone of voice — grim, exasperated, chastising — still intimidates me. How many years do I have to be divorced before I’m fully immune to him?

“Can we talk about this later?” I ask, buying myself some time to emotionally
“You remember our deal…or don’t you?”

When it comes to arguing, Craig is a human steamroller, and I am a marshmallow. I wasn’t in the mood to be flattened.

“Yeah. Fine. Whatever.”

Wednesday, 6:15 p.m.
I stop at the supermarket to grab a bag of dried pasta and a jar of sauce, the only thing my daughter will eat these days. I race around the salad bar and quickly fill a plastic container and head for the check out. I’m not hungry, though. I’m planning on calling Craig back tonight, and I have no appetite.

Wednesday, 9:30 p.m.
I’ve finished dinner, cleaned the kitchen, paid a few bills, checked my Internet dating email box (one tantalizing response, one dud) and, when I could procrastinate no longer, finally mustered the courage to call Craig back. I am fairly sure he wants to talk about Leo; my guess is that one of the kids mentioned Leo’s visit and now Craig, ever the protective parent, wants to be sure Mr. Sex Offender hasn’t behaved inappropriately toward our nubile teenage daughter.

Wednesday, 9:35 p.m.
Ring. Ring. Ring. “Hello?”

“It’s Sara. I can talk now.”

“Our daughter tells me you want to move. You can’t be serious.”

Damn. Here we go again. The last time I wanted to move — to a pristine restored four-square in my price range — my daughter threw a fit, and I had to withdraw my offer. I also lost $2,000.

“What on earth are you thinking, Sara?”

What I am thinking is that I cannot bear to spend another year in this house. I’ve replaced my bed and dresser, repainted the family room and basement, replaced the art on the walls, rearranged the living room furniture and re-carpeted my bedroom—and still this house feels haunted with the ghosts of marriage past.

I have been jealous of Craig’s house with its new furniture and absence of memories. It was the first house he decorated on his own, and he filled it with simple muted Danish furniture, the antithesis of the overstuffed, vividly hued pieces I’d chosen for our house. I walk into Craig’s house and there is no trace of me there. In my house, Craig is almost everywhere. The room that was his office is now filled with storage tubs and junk but every time I walk in I can see him at his computer. Then I
I want to make happy memories in a new house.
remember, bitterly, all the time he spent on his computer emailing Katherine, a co-worker. I found their email correspondence, so caring and flirty and even though Craig swears there was nothing physical going on, I knew then that I had lost him.

Not that I’m a big believer in such things, but if this house has a “vibe,” I’m afraid it’s not a very happy one. Two miserably married people lived here for almost ten years. I need to start fresh. I want to make happy memories in a new house.

The problem is simply that my daughter does not want to move. Last time I tried, I received a phone call from the camp director. My daughter had been crying inconsolably for hours and wanted to come home. “I know why you’d want to start fresh,” she choked out in the car ride home, “but how about me and my memories? This is the only house I ever had. It’s bad enough you and dad had to get a divorce. Do you have to take the house away, too?” How could I argue with that? I felt guilty enough about leaving Craig. I couldn’t bear to dismantle life as she knew it by moving.

That was almost a year ago. I started looking again last weekend and found a sweet little bungalow close to downtown. The house had a fine brick porch and a brand new back deck. It had been lovingly restored, the red gum woodwork polished to a warm glow. It had three bedrooms and a small but adorable kitchen with vintage metal cabinets. Unlike most of the homes in the neighborhood, this one had a two-car garage and a dry, functional, finished basement. I was in love.

“I swear, I just don’t understand you sometimes,” Craig scolds as I feel my face redden with shame. “You know how she feels about moving, Sara. You can be so childish and impulsive. Why would you do this to her?”

“I thought she was ready,” I hear myself mutter.

“You remember our deal, don’t you, Sara? Or do I have to remind you once again?”

When Craig and I got divorced, I pushed hard to keep the house. I didn’t have a job and wasn’t sure I could afford to live anywhere even remotely comparable to my current upscale subdivision. At an uncertain and unstable time, the house was my security. Craig moved into a tiny apartment, and we both understood, tacitly, that I would keep the house as much for our daughter’s security as my own. Now I have a job and firmer footing in the world. Craig never fails, however, to remind me that “we had a deal.”

I hear a beep. Call-waiting. I ask Craig to hold while I switch lines. It’s Leo.

“Sara, we need to talk.”

Never a dull moment.

Sara Susannah Katz is a writer in the Midwest.

Read Single In The Suburbs, Part 21

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