A funny thing happens when you are divorcing. You remove your wedding rings. And you feel naked. Except in my case where the three reddish marks that branded me as one who has recently removed her wedding rings were the equivalent of lashings from a whip. I took mine off the evening of The Pocket Call and never put them back on. But those lines were still there, and Mr. Jackpot saw them.
On December 29th, a few days before my big New Year’s Eve Near-Death Camping Trip from Hell, The Genius and I wrapped another brilliant counseling session with Dr. K (Couples Counseling Works!) and had one hour of babysitting to kill before we
killed each other had to return home. Since long walks on the beach were off the table we hit up the local dive bar at my urging. I knew I wouldn’t venture in alone and had wanted to see beyond the dark windows and neon signs since my arrival in Marin nearly a year ago. This might be my last chance, I thought. Because once I drop the Divorce on The Genius I’m destined for nights alone with my knitting needles.
I’m pretty sure Divorce 101 involves me taking up knitting. And a book club. Maybe even learn how to play Bridge. All with country music playing in the background.
The beauty of dive bars in Northern California is that you can still get a decent glass of red wine that hasn’t morphed into it’s alter ego, salad dressing. I ordered one. I didn’t note what the Genius ordered because I forgot he was still there. A quirky little habit I had picked up a few weeks back. But I did note that almost immediately upon entering the bar he was hit upon by a 5-foot tall man in his late 60s who needed to speak with him. Right then.
“What brings you out?” “What do you do?” “Who are you?” The questions flew. The Genius puffed out his flabby chest and stepped right into being the star attraction. I wanted to kiss that little man’s head a hundred times. Now I could simply enjoy my wine and breath.
I know I looked around the bar and took in the faces of those there but I don’t specifically recall seeing Mr. Jackpot. I lost myself in the game of pool that was playing out in front of me. Watching the 20-something girls with their long manes and broad smiles wielding pool sticks brought me back to a time when I was happily single and committed to never marrying.
Screwed that one up.
I glanced back to The Genius. He and his new little buddy were deep in it at the bar. I heard a ball crack off the head of a cue, followed by a few girly yelps of excitement behind me. I turned to my left and stared directly onto the shoulders of a 6-foot tall man. Actual shoulders. The kind you have to lift your arms up and out to embrace. Forgive me. It had been along time since I had noticed a man’s shoulders and these were worth taking in.
It’s also worth noting that I was completely out of my body at that point. My visual memory of this encounter is best described as frothy. The light, the chatter, the pool game, the people roaming…it all seemed coated in a frothy glow that was bubbly and wet. I was there and elsewhere. But when I locked onto Mr. Jackpot’s eyes I was there. And no one else was. For about 20 minutes – and that’s a real guess – there was no one else in that bar. Not because fireworks were going off or cupids were shooting their bows, but because he picked up on exactly what was going on and came to let me know I wasn’t alone. And while he saw me walk in with The Genius, he asked if I was at the bar alone.
I indicated no, and we both understood that to be yes. I had been alone for four years.
He took my left hand and touched my ring finger.
“It’s complicated.” I felt like I was singing an Avril Lavigne song. Which is a tad young for me, but I trend young. Those two words did the situation justice.
In short time we caught up. That’s how it felt. Two people who hadn’t seen each other in a while catching up on what all’s been going on. We talked about my recent move, his East coast experience, hiking (nary a conversation goes by where I am not remarking on my absolute need to scale mountains), Marin, hiking, and Limantour Beach, the birthplace of my soul.
In the 10 seconds I let myself think about it, it felt completely odd to be at a bar with my soon (oh-God- let-it-be-really-freaking-soon) to be former spouse whilst chatting up a handsome man who conversed easily and made me laugh. I have to admit, divorce was looking better every second. Not that it had a shadow of doubt cloaking it. I just hadn’t quite let myself think about what my life would be like once the chain had been severed.
Mr. Jackpot told me he could take me on hikes I would remember forever. So clearly I had to get his card. We weren’t going to walk out of that bar without being able to contact each other again. That was simply not going to happen. Both of us knew it, and I would venture to guess that we weren’t the only ones…now that the fact that we weren’t alone slowly became apparent again.
I gave The Genius the “gots to go” sign. Mr. Jackpot and I said goodbye, after he slid his card into my ring-less hand. And before I knew it, JP was making a beeline for The Genius. Hand outstretched, he introduced himself and – oh God – shook The Genius’ hand. I wanted to take JP to the bathroom post haste and wash him up.
But really, I was just luxuriating in the delight of seeing The Genius’ face as he was met with someone who had my back. In 20 minutes this man had my back and he let The Genius know it.
Knitting needles, book club and bridge fell by the wayside. (Not that there’s anything wrong with them.) That night I knew that my life was starting fresh, and many people would cross my paths to make it a totally nourishing, rewarding and exciting experience. Not to mention my own self creating that environment for me. My eyes had been open enough, even though I was floating above my body in the atmosphere, to connect with one such encounter. Despite all that was swirling around me I had a door open somewhere for Mr. Jackpot to feel safe enough to walk through. For those 20 or so minutes we shared a connection.
It wasn’t until two weeks later, when I was back East, that I texted him to say I was ready to go hiking the upcoming weekend. And I would explain the complicated part.
“Which day works better for you?”
Any. All. I have big huge wings that want to take off and soar and I have to go right freaking now before the feathers get burned and the sun sets and I don’t get to do all things I’ve so wanted to do for so long.
“Saturday would rock.”
But Friday night came and we couldn’t wait another day.