Thursday, June 07, 2007

"How about a fruit basket instead?"

Monday, May 28, 2007, 5:44pm
Steve and Tim's house

I sit at the kitchen table, running my eyes over the newspaper in front of me, trying in vain to read it.

This was a mistake. Chris is my brother, as he pointed out while I was kicking his ass, and I will see him often as time passes. And since I am marrying Tim, she'll see him too, and there is no realistic way he can avoid her, as I demanded he do.

There is no excuse for what he did, but I handled it as badly as I possibly could have. There must have been a better way.

Tim is going to be angry, for one thing: She told me not to do anything stupid, and she was right. She didn't even want to tell me about this in the first place, but I badgered it out of her. I'm beginning to wish I had never known about it at all.

The door opens and slams shut. Tim stomps by me without a single word.

Damn, is she pissed off. Even when she's really mad, she'll sit down across from me with an arms-folded pout, but today I didn't even get that.

I wait a few minutes and walk slowly upstairs. This is not going to be fun.

She's in the bathroom washing up. I stand in the doorway and she looks straight ahead, her stormy eyes burning holes in the mirror. She dries her face, then digs globs of moisturizer from a small jar and rubs it into her skin so hard that it might as well be war paint.

"Are you gonna talk to me?" I say, finally.

"I don't even wanna look at you right now," she huffs, and brushes by me and into the bedroom.

I sit on the bed and watch her as she pulls her soiled chef clothes off, replacing them with jeans and a t-shirt. She walks past me and back downstairs, keys in hand.

"Where are you going?"

"To see your brother. In the hospital."

"Tim, I was angry. He hit on you!"

"I'm way too pissed off to talk to you now."

"Tim, don't leave."


7:29pm, text message from Tim:

i am staying at my parents house 2nite just wanted u 2 know i was ok


i am not ok with that we are going to be married and if there is a problem we should be able to talk about it


we will talk but not til 2morrow im sorry but i need time to calm down


please come home in the morning i will go in late so we can talk

I hate that Tim's mother is involved now. Though she puts up a good front, I know that to her, this is still a power struggle, and she is salivating at the opportunity to dig her hooks into Tim when she is vulnerable. I am sure Tim will come home tomorrow filled with Diana-isms about how horrible I am.

Tuesday, May 29, 7:45am

Steve and Tim's house

"Can I talk first?" Tim says.

I love the way she looks in the morning, with no makeup and a long ponytail. With her rosy skin and bright eyes, she might as well have been plucked from a midwestern farm.

"You really hurt me. You didn't trust me, for one, and you didn't respect my wishes when I asked you to let me handle it."

"Who says I didn't trust you?"

"You beat up your brother because you were afraid something would happen if you didn't."

"According to who, Tim?"

"Are you telling me you weren't worried? At all?"

I hesitate just a second too long before saying no, and that's all she needs.

"You see? You don't trust me! Do you?"

"This isn't Leave it to Beaver, Tim! I know how I used to be, and it's a little hard trusting other people."

"So I'm 'other people' now? I'm just some girl that you're sleeping with?"

"Don't be stupid, Tim!"

"So I'm stupid now?"

I hate arguing with girls. It's as if they have high-speed microprocessors in their heads, capable of breaking down everything I say, turning every word around and shooting it back in my eye like a spitball.

"Of course you're not just some girl! You're living in my--our house. Your name is on the deed. We're a family!"

"Your house?"

Shit. I knew that was coming.

"That's not fair, Tim--"

"Why are you marrying me if you don't trust me? If you're having all these... issues, then why did you say yes? Did you feel pressured into it? Do you need more time? Are we moving too fast?"

"No!" I shout. "I'm a big boy. If I wanted to say no, I would have."

"But you still don't trust me!"

"I've never really been in a healthy relationship. I've cheated and been cheated on. I get stupid sometimes, but that's my problem. I know you are trustworthy, and if I felt you weren't, then of course I would let you know."

"So you beat up your brother because you got stupid?" she sneers. "You drove a half hour to get down there. Were you stupid for a half hour?"

"The fight had nothing to do with you. Or it had less to do with you than with Chris and me."

"I don't understand."

Sunlight pours through the kitchen window at an unusual angle. I'm usually never home at this hour. A lot of time has passed, but I don't dare check my watch in front of Tim. The more I talk to her, the clearer I see the depth of her anger. She is disappointed and hurt, and it's going to take a long time for things to get back to normal.

"I knew you weren't going to hook up with Chris. I wasn't trying to prevent something. I'm not dumb; I know there's no way of preventing something like that, so I would never even try."


"Was I supposed to be happy that my brother tried to get your clothes off?"

"Like he really would have gone through with it, Steve."

"Why not? He did with Amanda. And Irene. And that chick Carol from his work."

She sits silently for a moment. She has clearly not seen things from a guy perspective.

"I don't... I'm not the same as them. I'm family! He couldn't do that."

"But he tried to."

"But it wasn't... I can't explain it. It wasn't sexual. He was acting out."

"And I suppose his acting out is okay and mine isn't."

"I didn't say it was okay!" she shouts.

"So why are you bitching at me? Why aren't you bitching at him?"

"Hello! Because he's in the hospital, Steve!" she says, her voice reverberating.

"Do you forgive him, Tim? Is everything all hunky dory with you two now?"

"He apologized."

"And that's it? Everything is perfect now, after his apology?" I say, sarcastically. "Would he have apologized if I didn't find out about it? Or is he just sorry he got caught?"

"It doesn't matter."

"The hell it doesn't."

"And it's not perfect now," she says. "I told him that I was really disappointed in him for doing that, and that it was inappropriate, and that he caused a lot of friction between you and me."

"You did?"

"He wants to make it up to us. I told him to just focus on getting better."

"Tim, you have to know, this is about my brother betraying me. I know I act like I don't give a shit about stuff like that, but..."

"He hurt you, so you wanted to hurt him back."


"He knows that, Steve. He would have talked to you about it. Why did you have to beat him up?"

"It's about male pride. You need a dick to understand."

"What does that mean?"

"Let's say I go talk to him, and he yesses me to death. What then? Do we go back to normal?" I ask. "Sounds like he's getting off light to me."

"Who says you had to go back to normal? It's your right to take some time apart from him, or to tell him that you need proof that he's learned his lesson."

"And if he never does?"

"Then you have to find a solution you can live with. And I could have helped you with all of this! I always ask you for help, why can't you ever ask me?"

Tim reminds me of a therapist sometimes. She's been through a lot of therapy herself, and has obviously learned from it. I think it has really helped her, and I am proud of how well-adjusted and sensible she is.

"I'm a man. Asking for directions is a big deal."


"So in your scenario I might never speak to him again."

"Of course you'll speak again. Your brother is very sorry, you know. Even though you acted like an asshole."

Normally I'd be pissed about that remark. But she's called me names before, just like I've done to her, and if that's all she's going to do, then I've dodged a bullet.

"I know."

"Is this how you're going to solve your problems now? What if we have a child and he disobeys you? Are you going to beat him up?"

"How can you say that, Tim!? How can you even ask that question?"

"You did it to Chris."

"Chris is my brother. We grew up together. You don't have a brother, so you don't understand. It's been years since I've hit anyone at all."

"Maybe it will happen again. If you did it once..."

I look her in the eye. This better be convincing. "Tim, on my life, I promise I will never hit you or our children, ever."

"Okay." She gets up from her chair and hugs me, and it's a rush of relief to smell her hair, to feel my hands on her muscled back. For the first time today I feel like we might actually get past this soon. "I'm still mad at you, but I'm glad we talked."

"Me too. How is he?"

"You broke his nose. And he has a problem with his stomach where you kicked him."

"But I didn't kick him in the stomach!"

"Must've been someone else then," she says, sarcastically. "He might need an operation."



"Tim, I'm sorry about this."

"Don't tell me, tell him."