New Year’s Eve was fast approaching. So what does a family in crisis do? They decide to go camping. Demi and Ashton did it. I know, look where they are now. I was too wrapped up in trying to be the good wife to take note that not even s’mores and Kabbalah could save them. But maybe a little bonding under the stars in Northern California could bring us back from the brink.
We never got to the bonding part because we were too busy trying to survive. Genius had to bring everything but our fridge and king size bed on a 3 mile, bike-in only journey to our campsite. With a cart attached to his bike, loaded to the breaking point with our camping gear – but no food on this first leg – we all set off through the beautiful coastal terrain of Pt. Reyes.
I’m convinced that my soul was born on Pt. Reyes. There could be no better place to ground myself and try to make sense of what had happened to my marriage, I thought. Clearly my thoughts were as jumbled as my emotions because the trip was a disaster from the get-go.
One half mile in we encountered the swamp. The fire road we were biking on had been submerged in 2 feet of muddy water. The boys and I practiced our balancing as we walked on small logs placed along the side of the fire road, slipping into mud up to our shins every few feet. Genius attempted to cross but it didn’t seem possible.
So what do we do? Exactly what you’re not supposed to do – we parted ways. The boys and I continued on and Genius back-tracked to find an alternate route.
By the time the boys and I hit our campsite the sun was on the fast decent to Australia and I was crafting titles to the movie we were about to gift to Hollywood. (I can hear the pitch now: It’s a cross between Open Water, The Deliverance and Lost.) We sat on a picnic table with a can of baked beans and no opener, one first aid kit (my oldest son is obsessed with them, don’t give us credit for being prepared) that contained one of those foil-like blankets, and a bag of stale bread for fondue. I had given my fleece to the oldest and wrapped the blanket around me and the little guy. We watched the sun go down.
I kept thinking, It’s not supposed to be this hard. Why is it so hard? Why does everything feel so upended? Why am I swimming upstream? Why am I trying to right something that was wronged by someone else? He loves her. Why am I not simply walking away? And why don’t I have flares?
I knew we couldn’t stay the night without shelter and food. It was a beautiful day, but that was about to change as the winds began their continuous overnight battle with the beach. As I was bundling up the boys to begin the unthinkable bike ride back to the car, I saw a small light off in the distance. It was Genius. To the rescue.
He was wiped out. Covered in mud. The cart had dumped four times. His flashlight died. All he had was a headlamp and the determination to finish the journey. But we still had no food. We quickly set up the tent and he began the three mile journey back through the swamp to get to the car and reload. It would be another two hours before I would see him again. So much for glamping. I would have been fine with some wine and a few Cliff bars but he had to have it all. No surprise there.
2 hours before the
gauntlet ball dropped we finally had a fire, food and shelter. But the winds couldn’t blow the tension away from our site. I opened a bottle of wine. If I had a funnel I would have put the entire contents in my belly in under 15 seconds. A frat house record, for sure.
With the boys in bed we flopped into chairs to stare at the stars. I’ve never felt so far away from someone who was 2 feet from me. I was weakened by the journey, literally and figuratively. The tug-of-war that was going on inside me was nearing an end. I couldn’t be the good wife any longer, I thought.
“If you love her why don’t you just go be with her?”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Sure it is.” We get divorced. They get divorced. And you and the Happy Dance chick ride off into the sunset in your rental car loaded with all the lies and deceit you’ve carried around this past year. Done.
“I can’t talk to you about it. You don’t understand.”
Of course I don’t, Genius. How could I understand it? I can’t imagine how you could have lied to your family for the last year, taking time away from your children to extend your already excruciatingly long trips so you could live in your fantasy world.
I downed an oyster and a glass of wine and turned to him. “Did you ever think maybe it’s not real love? How many times did you see her in a year? Five? Seven? Affairs are made of fantasy. You can sustain it as an affair for awhile, but it’s not real. It’s not the real world”
I caught the time. Three minutes to midnight. Not exactly how I was expecting to spend my New Year’s Eve.
“I have something to tell you.”
A deep sigh escaped my lips, I shook my head. What now. She’s on her way here? You want us all to sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya as we ring in the New Year together? One big open-marriage family? Did she bring her husband and kids too? How freaking fun is this! Sweet!
“It’s been going on for four years.”
I heard a door slam. It was the one that used to be wide open to my heart.