According to dictionary.com, “spiteful implies a mean or malicious desire for (often petty) revenge.” Recently, I had that desire.
I’d been working in the garden in the morning, trying to dig up the bastard trumpet vine that would not die. The trumpet vine that had taken over my tiny courtyard, strangling the jasmine, and everything else I attempted to grow. When I’d had my fill of following the roots and hacking at them with a pick digger, I decided to take a break and pick up some groceries at Whole Foods. I didn’t clean up much before heading to the store, but I did wash most of the dirt off my legs and put on a clean yoga skirt and t-shirt. My hair was still in a pony tail, and I had on no make-up, other than a bit of lip gloss.
I was pushing my cart through the produce section when I heard, “Ella?” Dawn, the youngest daughter of an old boyfriend, stopped as her cart was passing mine. She was there with her older sister, Claire. Although at the time, I’d forgotten Claire’s name. I’d dated their father, Bill, for three years, off and on, a decade ago. As I mentioned in recent posts, I’ve gained quite a bit of weight of late, so running into the daughters of an ex-boyfriend at Whole Foods with no make-up on and dirt-smudged legs wasn’t exactly high on my list of things to do that day. To make matters worse, Bill had dumped me, and not the other way around. Not only had he dumped me, he dumped me for the woman he ended up making his second wife.
The trouble was, I really liked Bill. I liked him as a person. He was the kind of guy you could get a coffee with and find yourself in a time warp–six hours would pass and it would feel like ten minutes. He wasn’t particularly handsome, although he had a pleasant face. And while he was fickle, he generally was kind. His biggest flaw was that he didn’t have an affinity for animals. He didn’t understand how people could be emotionally connected to them. He insisted we anthropomorphized them, and all they wanted from us was food. No, he was not terribly romantic. But he was practical, and he was steady. And when my cats died, within months of each other, he buried them both. I’ve long considered my relationship with Bill my one grown-up relationship. There was no drama. There were no passionate blow-ups. There was no passionate make-up sex. Just steady even companionship. I thought that’s how healthy people did relationships. I thought I’d finally found it. But apparently Bill wanted, like most people, the passion and drama and crazy-making.
“There’s something missing,” he told me. “There’s no spark.”
Well of course there was no spark. Sparks are what make you crazy. Sparks are what fuck up your head and your life. Sparks aren’t the stuff of healthy, long-term relationships. At that brief juncture in my life, I didn’t want a spark. I wanted normal. But Bill didn’t. And so he dumped me and married a woman with whom he felt a spark.
Dawn went on to tell me that Bill recently had been let go from his job and had been working on his doctorate. While his sparky young bride supported him. Shortly after Bill was laid off, his wife was transferred to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where the two of them now live, along with her daughter. Beautiful country. Sparks. A doctorate. Lucky Bill. I guessed he’d made the right decision, after all.
“How’s your dad doing? Is he happy?” I asked.
“Not really,” she told me. “He may be moving back here soon.”
“You mean he might be getting a divorce?” I said, the glee in my voice catching me by surprise.
“Maybe. We hope so,” she said, glancing at her sister.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t be happy about it.”
“I don’t blame you,” she said. “I’d feel the same way.”
So Bill wasn’t happy. His young bride wasn’t very nice to him. Dawn had made no secret over the years that she wished her father had married me, instead. And now, apparently, Bill had his own regrets. I don’t know that, like Dawn, he wished he’d married me. But apparently the spark wasn’t the answer, either. I felt a bit dismayed that my uncensored reaction to hearing this information was pleasure. But as I dug a bit deeper, I also found sadness. It would have been nicer to know our breakup was the right thing for him. That the woman he dumped me for made the dumping worthwhile. Instead, I’m left with the feeling that his desire for a spark was his undoing. As it had been mine, so many times.