The loss of Marilyn left Douglas bereft. Never had that word applied more precisely to a human being’s situation. His love for Marilyn had grown and deepened in the years they spent leading separate lives, after their passionate encounter and realization that they were not meant to be romantic partners, at least not then. Very few days had passed in Douglas’s life that did not involve a reflection, memory, or internal conversation with or about Marilyn.
Still, life did go on. And Douglas did have other, fleeting romances. He’d even been married, for about six years, to a woman with two profound talents: one for dancing, and one for drama. Not the kind of drama you’d see in a theater, but the kind of drama that threatens to take over your life.
At first, Douglas could convince himself that by marrying her, he was saving her from the painful drama that swirled around her. Very quickly he realized she took sustenance from drama as if it were oxygen. Family feuds, battles with employers, conflicts with every neighbor. Her role was always as the innocent ingenue who began a relationship by throwing herself into it, praising it as the one true good thing in her life, and then navigating it toward sure catastrophe on the shores of misunderstanding and resentment. Their divorce was in many ways the least drama-ridden part of their marriage, for by then she had latched onto another man who was destined to be the one true good thing in her life.
But, they’d had a son. The little boy went with his ex-wife to her new one true good thing, and although Douglas tried to maintain a relationship, he had to admit he did not invest as much effort as needed. His ex-wife was on to her third or fourth one true good thing after their divorce, when Douglas realized two years had passed since he’d seen David.
After that, Douglas became diligent about making sure they had a week together every summer, and either Christmas or Thanksgiving, until the boy turned eighteen. He would have kept up the same pattern forever, if David had wanted it.
But Douglas had to admit to a touch of relief when David started college and told his father he had no need of their regular visits. “I’ll call you,” the young man had said, and Douglas shook his hand.
What kind of man had his son turned into? Douglas, bereft from losing Marilyn, now had to confront this question as well.