When we left our heroine, she had bedded a wounded veteran who was an extremely poor speller. And now for our next episode.
Since the end of my relationship with Joe, I had had a little fun, but I had made no real progress in finding a mate. And so, because I’d learned absolutely nothing from my previous relationships, I went online to find my next boyfriend.
Ray, who was ever near to give plenty of unsolicited advice during the grueling selection process, was pushing anybody with a Ph.D. “I don’t know about fucking an astrophysicist,” I said.
“Just give him a hand job then,” Ray advised.
“I don’t mean—oh, never mind.” Sure, I loved geekery, but there was a limit. I’d known only one physicist, a nuclear physicist, and the thought of that guy having sex at all, with anyone, was terrifying. I called Mr. Astrophysicist anyway at Ray’s behest, but he bored me to tears talking about black holes.
The next guy that reached the phone call stage had an eight-year-old son. “He’s not a viable option,” Ray warned me.
“You’re overreacting. There’s nothing wrong with just talking to him.”
“Why?” he retorted. “It’s going to go nowhere, and you’re going to waste a year like you wasted a year with Joe, and I’m going to be right in the end.”
“You’re being a bitch,” I whined.
“Do you realize he’s looking for a mother for his son? And when you date somebody with a child, you have to become that child’s parent? That’s the way it works.”
“We’re only talking on the phone!” I protested.
“Is this what you want, Abby? Listen to this. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.”
“Ray, shut up.”
“Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.”
“Ray! Shut UP!”
“What happened to all these pita chips?” I asked over Ray’s continued “Mom”ing. “Who ate them?”
Ray stopped long enough to answer. “You did, when you were drunk.”
I scowled. I recalled eating the pita chips, actually. I had drunk an entire bottle of wine by myself that night at a party of a work acquaintance and couldn’t drive home. A friend dropped me off, and I stumbled into the house waving an empty wine bottle perilously close to Tim’s fish tank. I remember being sternly reprimanded by Tim and then curling up on the couch with my stuffed monkey and the bag of chips. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in bed the next morning, disoriented, with only a vague memory of Ray having taken my pants off, wondering, What the hell happened last night?
The next morning I received the worst criticism possible for a gay man to give. “You were so annoying last night,” Tim told me. “We were so over you.”
Maybe I had been drinking a bit too much lately, but I was depressed. Marriage and a family weren’t even on the horizon. I was simply languishing at The Compound listening to Ray’s spontaneous Cher performances while my ovaries withered into oblivion. And though being a part of our “nontraditional family” was entertaining, Ray and Tim’s bickering was starting to wear me down.
“This candy is stale,” I heard Ray say to Tim as I was grading papers at the dining room table one day. (This was before they bought a new, very expensive table and I was not allowed to grade papers on it.) “Do you think I should throw it away?”
“Why do you have to ask my opinion on every goddamn thing!” Tim yelled from the bedroom. “Yes! OK! Throw the fucking candy away! I don’t care!”
“I’m just trying to involve you in our decision-making,” Ray said defensively.
“I know, but you keep asking me dumb shit nobody cares about!”
I continued grading papers for about another two minutes, after which Ray called out, “I think these nuts are stale. Do you think I should throw them away?”
One weekend, I had two promising dates scheduled. I had already assessed both of the eligible bachelors in several categories: grammar, spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, and general writing style. Jake, a med student, hyphenated the word “ice cream,” which was dicey. He also consistently left the apostrophe out of “it’s” in situations when it was clearly needed. This, however, didn’t bother me as much. For some reason, according to my insanely arbitrary rules of dating, it was acceptable to pursue somebody who left out a necessary apostrophe, but not somebody who included an unnecessary one.
I discussed this with Ray one evening as we were working a crossword at the kitchen table. He looked up in alarm when I told him about the hyphenated ice cream.
“I know,” I said. “It’s bad, isn’t it? But he only did it once. The other times were normal. So maybe he just hit it by accident.”
“Maybe he did it on purpose,” Ray said. “As foreplay.”
I scowled. “Foreplay? How is an unnecessary hyphen sexy?”
Tim, clearly exasperated, popped up from the couch. “Oh Jesus Christ! You fucked a dyslexic guy with a hole in his head! Will you stop worrying about the goddamn hyphen!”
I sighed, properly chastened.
When Tim sank down on the couch again, Ray leaned over and confirmed in a whisper: “The hyphen is weird.”