Chapter 5: Susan
I suppose I’ll just have to accept that he’s no longer interested in my books, if he ever was.
Has our seven-year marriage been a sham?
I hate to think that way, but what if it’s true?
I go into the room we prepared for the child we haven’t had.
It’s my fault.
I haven’t stopped taking my pills but just sort of let Martin think I have.
He doesn’t look in my purse, and I never make the mistake of leaving them in the medicine cabinet.
At first, it was just because I was too young to have kids, but as time when on, I realized I didn’t want children.
I’ve never said this to Martin, but I think he might have some inkling of the truth. I don’t talk about kids, and I don’t cry or even comment when I don’t become pregnant.
The room’s very dusty. The crib even has sheets on it. The changing table has a mat on it, and the mobile’s there but needs to be dusted off.
Thank goodness I persuaded Martin we didn’t need to buy diapers and wipes until the baby was born.
He insisted on buying some pink clothes and some blue ones, and he agreed we could keep them in plastic wrap until they were needed.
I spend an hour cleaning the room, and then I go out and close the door behind me, happy to be out of there for another month or so.
I won’t ask, but I wish we could clean out that room and Martin could use it as an office or something.
He’s fairly tidy, but I don’t always want to see his computer in the living room.
Next, I go down into the basement.
I take a quick look in the storage area, and am relieved that it’s not too dusty. Most of what’s there is covered up, so I walk out without having to look too hard at the toddler bed, mattress, desk, and chair we bought for our child.
We should just donate them. It’s not like we could never buy new ones if we ever sleep together again, and if I somehow decide I want kids.
I spend the day doing laundry, cleaning, and other boring wifely things, and have dinner ready for when Martin comes home.
We eat together, and although he doesn’t say much, he doesn’t quite ignore me.
When he goes into the living room, I clean up the kitchen and then follow him there.
I don’t say anything, but just give him our secret look.
“Sure,” he says.
It’s kind of a mild reaction, but it’s much better than it’s been lately.
He follows me into our bedroom. Even though there’s nobody else in the house, I shut the door, trying to vanquish our problems and all my worries.
Ten minutes later, he says, “Sorry, I guess I was tired, or maybe I’m getting old.”
He doesn’t look old, and I didn’t even think he was tired, but maybe he hides it a little.
“No problem. Maybe tomorrow.”
“Or maybe we can go to a movie.”
“A movie? Which one?”
“I’m not sure, but I’m sure there’s something good.”
“Yeah, sure, why not?”
Not exactly passionate, but a lot better than how it’s been lately, even though I’m still revved, and he’s not.
We go into the living room and he reads about his training while I check out what’s playing at the nearest theater.
There aren’t any movies I think we’d both like, but when I check out plays, I find one.
“There’s a musical on Saturday night, and it’s a new one.”
“Sounds interesting. Can you call and get tickets?”
“Sure, I’ll call tomorrow.”
I don’t need to ask what seats he prefers. We both want front and center.
Because I’m not thinking about my book, I remember to call the next day, and buy good tickets, although they’re not as “front” as we’d like.
I’m on time with dinner again on Thursday night, and we spend a quiet but friendly evening together.
On Friday morning, we chat a little over breakfast, and he even responds when I say goodbye.
Maybe I’ll delay the next book a little so Martin and I can have more time like this. Maybe my career isn’t as important as I think. Maybe if I act like a wife, I’ll even start wanting children, and then he’ll love me again, not in this “okay, sure” way, but the way he used to, with the kind of passion Mom said didn’t last forever.
I should call Mom. What time is it in Detroit? I check on my phone and then tap her number.
“Hello,” she says.
“Hi Mom. How are you?”
“Oh, hi Susan! I’m just going to the supermarket, but I can wait. How are you and Martin?”
“We’re good, thank. He’s at work.”
“That’s good. I hope you’re calling to tell me that I’m gonna be a grandma.”
Does she really have to start about that?
“No, just calling to chat. How’s Dad?”
“Not getting any younger, so I really hope you give us that grandchild soon!”
“Come on Mom, how is Dad really?”
“He’s fine. He went to a class this morning.”
“That’s right. He went to see the doctor a few months ago because he was having some trouble hearing. He’s okay, but has moderate hearing loss.”
“Oh no! I’m sorry. Is this class about learning to work a hearing aid?”
“No, he’s already got those. Good grief. Has it been that long since we’ve talked?”
“I guess so.”
It’s not like she doesn’t have our number.
“So what’s his class about?”
“One of his friends knows somebody who knows American Sign Language, so he’s taking a class to see if we should try to learn to sign.”
“Yes, it is, and I’m starting to regret not having signed up too.”
“Signed up, get it?”
It feels like we’re laughing at Dad, and I feel yucky.
“So what are you and Martin up to these days?”
“We’re going to see a musical tomorrow night.”
Dad loves those, but I guess he can’t go to them anymore.
Maybe we shouldn’t, either.
“Oh, which one?”
I tell her.
“Your dad and I have tickets for when it comes to Detroit next spring.”
“But he can’t hear it.”
“Sure he can. He’s got hearing aids, and they work really well. Sometimes the battery runs down and they beep at him, but he’ll change the batteries before the play and we’ll have a balst. We’ve got front-row seats, right in the center!”
“That’s good. Listen, I’d better go. I’m making something complicated for dinner, and I need to check the recipe.”
This is a lie, but I want to get off the phone. Finding out that Dad’s going deaf has taken a lot out of me.
“Oh, maybe I have the recipe, what are you making?”
“I’m not sure the exact name. Love you, and tell Dad I love him.”
“I will, call me back next week, please.”
Maybe, I think as I say goodbye.
As I go into my office, I think of how Martin is the only person who knows that Tina is me.
That’s right. Not even Mom and Dad know. Debbie, my best friend from high school, doesn’t know either. I told Martin because I was afraid he’d stumble on something and not realize it was supposed to be a secret.
I start the computer and open a browser. I surf the Internet for a while, and then go into the living room. Martin has left the paper on the couch. I flip it randomly, and see something interesting.
A radio station is asking for local authors to submit applications for a job hosting a radio show to give listeners writing advice and talk about books, reading, and writing.
There’s a phone number and a link to get mor information.
I get a pair of scissors, snip out the relevant part of the page, and take it into my office.
I type the URL into my browser, and a screen comes up with a form and some information.
I read it carefully.
They want an author to do a show every Saturday morning from nine to ten.
It’s on the radio. Nobody will see me, so I can be Tina, and nobody will know. Will I have to tell the studio my real name or put it on the application form?
I read over the form.
Name, e-mail address, phone number, and then a box asking for details about what I’ve written. They also want to know why I would like to host my own show.
I enter Tina’s name, my e-mail address and cell number.
In the details box, I explain that I hope it’s okay if I don’t use my real name, and then I list the nine books I’ve written and also that I’ve just finished the first draft of the tenth.
Why do I want to host the show?
I think it would be fun to host a show and connect with people who are writing or who are thinking about writing but haven’t started yet.
I submit the form and close the screen.
I sort of half hope that nobody calls, but also sort of half hope that somebody calls.
The next day, Martin comes home at 4:00, and we have an early dinner before heading to the theater.
I’m excited to be spending the evening with Martin, and am hoping this will get us fired up so that we can have a little fun later.
The lead singer is great, but one of the others sings quite quietly.
How will Dad hear that?
“What do you think?” I ask Martin, who’s sitting on my right.
“What do you think of this musical?”
He’s not looking at me.
He’s looking at one of the performers, a woman in her twenties with blond hair and too much makeup.
I have no idea which character she’s supposed to be, and realize I don’t know the story at all.
When everyone sings together, she opens her mouth and sings along.
Martin watches her and smiles.
She’s the youngest, but certainly not the best.
The best is a woman in her thirties who looks vaguely like me.
She catches my eye and smiles.
I smile back.
I look at the girl Martin’s looking at, and realize she’s looking at Martin, and they’re exchanging smiles.
We’re married, kiddo. Flirt with somebody else.
Just for fun, I search out the best-looking man in the bunch. He’s in his sixtiers, and is the conductor.
When I smile, he smiles back.
I spend the rest of the two-hour show looking from him, to the woman who looks a little like me, to Martin, and to the blonde he’s still exchanging meaningful glances with.
Martin puts his arm around me when we stand up to leave. He hasn’t done that for a long time. The blonde is gone, and we’re heading home.
Later, it’s like we’re newly-weds again.
Our fire has been relit.
Take that, Mom!
On Sunday, I ask him if he wants to go to church.
The service is about marriage and sticking to your vows, even when times are tough. If that happens, hard work will pay off, and the relationship will deepend and grow.
God is ever with us, and when He is in our hearts, problems don’t last, and love is made stronger than before.
I look at Martin. He appears to be lost in thought, and I’m not sure if he’s even listening. Well, I am, and I’m going to open my heart to God, and make sure our marriage lasts us a lifetime.
After church, I make lunch, and Martin eats in silence, but I don’t have anything to say, and the silence feels comfortable.
He finishes his sandwich but doesn’t get up.
“I have something to tell you.”
Is he going to open the doors to an honest discussion about some of the problems we’ve been having? Maybe he really was listening in church.
“I’ve decided to change my hours at work.”
“Your hours at work?”
“I’m starting at six, so can we do breakfast at five?”
“Five in the morning?”
“I can try, but you might need to wake me up.”
“When do you start?”
“I mean the new schedule.”
“Oh, tomorrow, of course.”
“Um, okay. What time are you coming home?”
“It depends, but definitely by five.”
“Okay. So breakfast at five, and dinner at five?”
I don’t suggest he make his own breakfast, but agree to his plan.
The alarm jolts me awake. I look at the clock. It’s five. Did one of us set it wrong?
Martin stirs. Should I let him go back to sleep, or should I mention the alarm?
“Are you awake?” I whisper.
“The alarm went off for some reason. It’s five.”
“Yes, I have to get up for work, remember? You’re making breakfast.”
I drag myself into the kitchen.
What am I making?
Why can’t I sleep until 7:45 like I usually do?
I somehow make him some eggs and toast, but I burn my finger when I’m putting it onto his plate.
“Careful,” he says. “And hurry up a little, or I’m gonna be late. In fact, I think we should set the alarm for 4:30, just in case.”
Without a word, I put the plate in front of him, make sure the stove is turned off, go to my office, lie down on the bed, and close my eyes.
The sound of my phone jolts me awake. I stare blindly at the clock for a few seconds and finally read that it’s 9:52.
I jump up and grab my phone.
“Herllo?” My heart’s racing, and I hope I don’t sound weird.
“Hello,” a man’s voice says. “May I speak to Tina?”
“Tina? Sorry, you have the wrong number.”
“Oh, sorry. We got a form from a Tina at this number.”
“A form? What kind of form?”
“About the radio show.”
“The radio show? Oh, I’m sorry. My real name isn’t Tina, so I didn’t recognize her!”
“I’m Sam. Can you come in for an interview?”
“You mean you’re gonna let me do a show?”
“We’re interviewing people today and tomorrow. Can you do 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning?”
He tells me where to go, and I grab a pen and write it down.
Getting up at 4:30 doesn’t sound so bad now. I’ll have time to eat breakfast, shower, and decide what to wear.
Well, Tina will.