I have been afraid to laugh the last two weeks. Well, the first week plus after Jesika passed, I just didn’t have the urge. After her funeral however, whenever I started to feel that familiar tug at the corners of my mouth, I supressed it as quickly as possible. Humor felt disloyal, on the one hand to Kevin and others whose awful grieving process is only beginning. But more importantly, any experience of mirth also felt like a betrayal of Jesika, as if the world could ever go on as normal without her in it. To giggle seemed, on some level, as though I might be forgetting.
In recent days, I have begun to rethink my position. I could not forget Jesika, even if I really tried. She is still with me, every third or fourth thought throughout my day. 16 years of her light in my life is not so easily extinguished, and certainly not through the form of a good chuckle, an expression of humanity Jesika both enjoyed and encouraged like no other.
My new attitude toward laughter could not be more timely, as my husband Eddie powerfully tested my resolve to keep a continuous straight face yesterday. We drove out to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg for what seemed like an innocent day of lunching and shopping together, two activities we both enjoy. However, on this warm spring afternoon, my husband left an imprint of quirks, idiosyncracies, and downright hilarity across the Northwest suburbs.
We began with lunch at the Olive Garden. Now traditionally, I am reluctant to patronize chain restaurants, being the champion of urban individuality that I am known to be. But when it comes to the OG, I am powerless to resist. I lay the blame at the feet of the bottomless salad bowl, with that delicious and zesty dressing which must contain crack as its secret ingredient, given I have never consumed fewer than three full bowls per visit. But I digress…
The nice part of being in a committed relationship is that, with any luck, you can freely be yourself. I confess, I eat like a man in front of Eddie: both because I love food and secondly, because he seems to enjoy my hearty appetite. This works both ways. For as well-built and handsome as my husband is, his eating habits are very much akin to a seasoned sumo wrestler in training. Knowing these things about each other strengthens our bond, and yet even I was shocked as our waitress set the first of Eddie’s soup bowls in front of him, and he sort of nonchalantly reached down and undid his pants. Yes, he did. As though we were watching reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and eating sloppy joes in our living room. I do believe he was discreet enough so that none of the other patrons noticed. But at the end of the meal, I felt a sudden urge to jump up and stand in front of him as he calmly rebuttoned before we made our way out the door. Men of the world, I say to thee: if you must unfasten your drawers to enjoy a big meal, please, for the sake of your beloved, buy a bigger pair of pants to wear out to dine. I would have hoped it went without saying that your wife does not want to sit across from you as your boxers are on full display to the children crawling under neighboring tables, but apparently, it does not.
I managed to compose myself after this Mother’s Day lunch rush shame spiral, at least long enough for Eddie and I to enter Macy’s. I was after a new set of gym shoes and a bathrobe to replace my decade-old version, mottled with wine stains and burn marks. I confess in this case, I should have been able to anticipate Eddie’s coming somewhat unglued in the women’s lingerie section. He has never been able to so much as utter the word “panties” without becoming visibly excited (no I did not mean THAT way – get your minds out of the gutter!). Right before the section of the department dedicated to bath robes, there were three female manneguins on display, draped in expensive looking thong underwear. I was able to breeze right by this, but I should have had the presence of mind to ensure that Eddie was moving with me. Because the next thing I know, I wheel around the to the sight of my husband massaging the plastic buttocks of one of the aforementioned manneguins. I had a momentary Andrew McCarthy/Kim Cattral flashback before I sidled up to Eddie and hissed urgently in his ear, “Just what kind of perverted shit are you doing to embarass me now?”
The excuse given, wait for it, was the following, “I was thinking of purchasing some new panties (there’s that word again) for you, and I was feeling the quality of the fabric so I could decide if it was worthy of my wife.” It was at this moment that the bullshit sirens in my head began to blare excruciatingly loud. Instead, I merely yanked Eddie’s arm of out his socket as I pulled him away before any mothers with young children could complain about the freak feeling up plastic asses in the store.
Ok, I admit, it took me about a half hour to recover from this incident, but bravely I soldiered on. Eddie and I finished our shopping and made our way back to the City. He had been complaining about back pain for the last two days and repeated, for about the millionth time in 48 hours, that he wanted a massage. It is, however, stereotypical for a reason that people of Indian descent are woefully penurious. Eddie loves the pampering of a Mario Tricoci spa, but balks at paying more than $50 for things he feels ought to be a given in life. A cheap metrosexual – where did I find this guy?
But Eddie was in luck. There is a “massage parlor” on Lawrence, right down the street from our apartment. Why do I put this title in quotes? Because I have long been suspicious of this place of business, with its requirement that one rings the doorbell before entering, the darkly tinted windows and their odd business hours: open until 9 PM or later most days of the week. Let me put it this way: it’s no place I would ever step inside, and for quite some time I have referred to this storefront as the “Happy Ending Hut.” Well after a full of day behaving like a registered sex offender, I was hardly suprised when Eddie expressed a desire to find out how much a massage would cost him. I pulled the car over and he went in after inquiring if I were interested in going with him. I believe my look of profound disgust said it all. It turned out, Eddie could avail himself of a one hour massage and access to the sauna for the low price of $75. Now all jokes aside, I wouldn’t have tolerated this price inquiry were I the least concerned about Eddie’s fidelity. He is a weird one, never afraid to do what he pleases on the off chance that society might find him odd. But he is definitely all mine. So with my intellectual writer’s curosity leading the way, I encouraged him to go for it.
I went for a jog around the neighborhood and reviewed my Woodfield purchases. When Eddie came home 90 minutes later, surprise, surprise he found the experience a bit seedy. He mentioned low ceilings and dark light, bizarre music. But I finally had my “I told you so moment” when my husband revealed that, toward the end of his treatment, the masseuse firmly demanded he remove his towel. To hear Eddie tell it, they nearly got into a tug of war about it. Might this have been the inevitable attempt to provide my man with the “happy ending” I predicted, or simply the miscommunication of a language barrier? I will never know, but my warped sense of humor is dying to conclude the former.
Eddie left again this morning. He has started his first series of business trips for Blue Cross that will take him to Columbia, South Carolina for the next few weeks. How will I adjust to the lack of his presence, especially now that I am free from the 9-5 corporate world, and I do not have anyone else in my life who will drop trou, hit on plastic women and visit the Chicago version of the red light district, all in one day?