Excerpt: We All Fall Down

I sit there for a moment, staring at his tie clip.  Sitting there in the flood of emotions I feel when I talk about the parts of my past that I don’t often allow myself to think about.  I look to my left and see my reflection in the glass of one of the bookcases.  I look like I haven’t slept in years, and truly I haven’t.  Not well at least.  I need a shave, probably a shower too and I’m greying around my temples.  I rub my chin waiting for him to say something so I don’t have to, but I guess that’s why he’s here.  I look back at his tie clip and let my eyes wander over his arms covered in thick grey hair, that’s poking out of his wool sport coat as I flip my pocket watch in my hand over and over.  His bald head shines under the florescent light and when he nods I can see the spot of light travel around the top of it.  He clears his throat and I snap out of my trance.

“Mickey is the head of the board for a major nonprofit organization that helps families in need get back on their feet.  He’s got a wife and kids, dog the whole deal and lives on a few acres somewhere near Middleton now.  Roach took over his parent’s company after they died and sold it so he’s resting on millions and moved out west and dates models.  We all keep in touch but sometimes it’s just painful to see what they’ve become and seeing what I haven’t.” I almost feel a relief admitting this finally to someone.  That I feel inadequate.  I’m embarrassed that I’m not more.  That I couldn’t just get over my shit and move on.  “I don’t understand, you’re a successful man, John, you live in a penthouse in New York City, you run a successful advertising firm, and you have a relationship with a beautiful and successful woman what more do you expect from yourself?” Marshall says in such a sincere way as if he’s generally concerned as to why I struggle with my self-worth.  I ask myself the same question every day.

I’ve gotten closer with Marshall over the last few years and he’s my voice of reason when I need it; almost like a father figure now, especially since Victoria and I have gotten more serious.  His wife, Sandra, sends me a birthday card with some sort of homemade confection, every year.  She never forgets and she’s a lovely woman for it.  She used to be an executive at a major hotel chain and retired to be able to be around for all of her kids’ school functions and she also volunteers at the VA, a truly lovely woman.  I hope to have a relationship like that with Victoria one day.  I want to go to t-ball games and ballet recitals, but then I have panic attacks over the fear that I’ll get the sickness to, that I have it, that my family will inevitably know about all of my demons.  The darkest ones that even I don’t want to know.  Marshall and Sandra would make for great in-laws.  They’ve provided Victoria a beautiful life.  She’s told me of trips they would take as a family to the mountains for hiking and fishing.  She and her sister are both successful in their own right and are always checking up on their parents even though they’re still very capable despite being in their late 60s.  I recently got to go on a trip with them to their home in the Hamptons and it made it even more apparent that she is the woman I will marry.  They have the most storybook type of family.  I feel so out of place with them, but at the same time I yearn to belong.  So I have these talks with Marshall in order to one day feel comfortable enough to ask him the most important question I will ever have asked anyone.  I just need to know that once I say it all, once he knows the ins and outs of who I am, he still wants me around his daughter.

I’ve been dating Victoria for almost seven years now.  We don’t live together although I know she must be wondering if and when I will ever pop the question.  She’s one of the most successful real estate agents in New York City and we met back when I had just finished college and was looking for a place to live after I landed my first big job.  I’ve done a lot for myself in a short time, and it’s a lot of pressure but that’s how I cope.  Load on the work and I will get it done.  I’ve always pushed myself because I want so much more out of life.  I never want to look back and have regrets… more than I already do, I mean.  Victoria has been the breath of fresh air.  The piece to the puzzle of my life that was missing.  She’s warm, encouraging but strong and independent.  She deserves a good man, someone who doesn’t have so much baggage that she can’t unload her own, pun intended.  I know, we would make wonderful parents.  I think I probably talk more about our future children than she does, but I can see in her eyes that she just lights up at the thought of it.  It’s a lot for a woman to consider these days, having to balance a family and a career but I will be supportive of whatever she needs.

The thing is, she doesn’t know much about my past, and I’m hesitant to tell her.  I’ve opened up some to Marshall.  I find him so easy to talk to which most might find strange, but I find him refreshing.  I would venture to guess this is due to my need for a stable parental figure my whole life, but we won’t get into the diagnosis of it.  But he still doesn’t know everything.  There are days that I just want to tell him every sordid detail so that I will know once and for all if he will accept me fully as his potential son-in-law, but where do I even begin?  He is a good and patient man, very understanding and never judgmental so I know one day we will get there, and hell, if we do maybe that’s when I will be brave enough to commit to Victoria.  I’ll let her pick where we live.  I’ll move upstate, the Hamptons maybe, or even a whole new place altogether.  Start fresh somewhere new and exciting and begin a new adventure together.  I’ll make the rest of her life just as much of a fairytale that it has been up to this point.  She deserves it, and so do our future kids.  I can work anywhere, and I’m sure she can too.  Maybe I’ll bring it up to her the next time she has an evening off.  I just hope my mother doesn’t call today; it always puts me in a mood.  I haven’t seen her in so many years, not since right after my father died.  I told her to give me space but she never listens, then again, if I thought my mother was stubborn and ruthless then… she certainly won’t start taking orders from anyone now.  I don’t hate her anymore.  It’s one of the things I remember discussing with the therapist all those years ago.  I had to forgive her but I can’t forget and I still can’t help feeling bitter and angry when she calls and wants to reminisce.  I can’t keep going back to before, and what I can’t stand even more is how she paints her own picture of reality instead of what really was.  I allowed it for so many years, but it just finally got to be enough.  We all have had enough of it and although I was probably a bit harsh with her, I couldn’t help but feel good about it.  Finally no bullshit, no pretending and I think she respects me for it, now…maybe not then but definitely now.  She still has her moments.