I’ve known Joe my entire life. He has always been a pretty down to Earth kind of guy. Well traveled and cultured. Quiet and shy, yet wild and free. I always looked up to him, always wanted to be more like him. He reached a point in his life when he wanted to settle down, get married and raise a family. So when he when found himself traveling through a small New England town, he decided it was the perfect place to rest. He married a nurse from the local hospital and they had a daughter within the first year. Before too long more children came, along with a house, a dog and a two car garage. Joe left everything he knew behind and threw himself into his job and his family.
He always thought that having a family of his own would make up for the one he never had. He was an only child in a broken home. He thought that it would somehow complete him and give his life meaning. The years of wandering and reckless abandonment were taking their toll on him.
As the children came into the world Joe found a love he never thought existed. The way they could touch his heart simply by the way they looked at him. It was the most beautiful and purest love he had ever experienced. But as the years went by there was something that he never thought to add into the equation. The wife. She was once fun and energetic. She was adventurous and desirable. But something somewhere changed.
She became bitter and angry. Her words delivered in abusive tones. Yelling has replaced speaking. She belittles him and laughs at him. Somewhere down the line she stopped seeing him and only sees an obstacle that’s forever in her way. She stopped cleaning, anything. He is left to do the floors, the dishes, the bedrooms and the bathrooms. He takes care of the lawn, the leaves and the flower beds. He washes the cars and worries about the repairs.
He shops for the food, and cooks the meals. He does the Christmas shopping and decorates for the holidays. The constant stress of the forever breaking down cars, the mounting pile of bills and the never-ending house work has started wearing him down. He can’t turn to his wife for relief because not only do they live in two completely different worlds, but she is the very thing he needs relief from.
The abusive words she screams in the ears of the children always breaks his heart. Sex defines a relationship to her. It’s all she ever wants from him. Not the intimacy or the passion. He finds himself on the couch most nights so not to wake her. Sleep is no longer really an option these days.
He is trapped in this life, bound by the love he has for his children. Waking up without her does not out weigh waking up without them. He finds himself stopping by the tavern on his way home from work most nights, because he can not bear the thought of facing her sober.
So as I am sitting here on the bar stool next to Joe. Listening to his woes. He won’t speak of them in words of course, but I can hear it in his tone. Joe has never been one to complain but I can see it in his eyes. He laughs and carries on in hopes no one’s the wiser. But I have to wonder how I’ll know which road I am to take when I approach that cross-road of my own.
I hope that somewhere down the line, his life with turn back around. And even though he is a hell of a father, he is a shell of the man he once was. He just needs a little strength to weather out the storm. And maybe then he can find some peace somewhere under a big old sombrero on a white sand Mexican beach. The path he chose not to take.
I have known Jane for most of my adult life. We worked together in a fancy Italian Restaurant on the east side of town. She waited tables and I cooked the pasta and sauce. She had dreams of traveling the world and seeing the seven wonders. She was working her way through nursing school and was always ambitious and driven.
She met her husband one afternoon when he came into her work. He was a rough-looking man who spoke with charm and appeal. They married within a year and started a family soon after. She gave up her dreams to take care of the kids. And as the years passed by the charm wore away and the appeal was gone. She saw her friends move up and move on as she stayed in one place. She wonders how she ended up in her life. She never wanted to be a mother, or a wife. She never wanted to settle down and live the quiet life.
She finds it hard to speak without yelling. The words always come out vulgar and harsh. She has stopped caring about anything. She can’t find the energy to get up off the couch. The depression weighs heavy. She doesn’t take care of herself. There is no need to prolong the inevitable. She doesn’t care to clean and help out with a house she never wanted to begin with. She finds it hard to contribute to a relationship she feels has become her prison. She pushes the issue of sex because she knows it’s an issue with him. She wishes she could just run away. She prays she will wake up one morning and everything will have changed.
As I sit with her having coffee, she is making excuses not to go home. She tells me that she sometimes dreams, her husband will stay for just another round. And the phone will ring late at night and tell her she is free.
I am not sure what will ever become of my friends. I hope that they can somehow get back on the path they were meant to be on. Sometimes life doesn’t turn out as we planned, but it doesn’t mean there’s still not time to change. It’s all a state of mind after all. Happiness is always within reach, we just have to see it. We have to know that this life is temporary. You either smile and enjoy the ride or you fight it and remain in its prison. We have to see things for what they are and not for what they lack.
Maybe I’ll run into Average Joe and Plain Jane somewhere down the road. I’ll meet them on a sandy beach, Margarita in hand and straw in mouth. And together we will raise a toast, to the path most likely traveled.