Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Love in the Time of Baked Beans (2.07.2012)

I got divorced in 2003. Not too much later I met a great guy on match.com. We were together for about two years in a relationship that vacillated between local and long distance. He was a construction electrician. When we met, he was working in the area. Housing and commercial construction were just beginning to take a deep dive so just as suddenly as we met, he had to start taking jobs out of town. Iowa, Texas, Washington, North Dakota -- he worked in all of them. And yet he would come back often enough – whether it meant driving all night for a long weekend, or taking the summer off -- so we could be together.

Stay with me here. I’m getting to the baked beans.

So one summer, he moved in with me. It seemed like a great idea at the time and just being in the same ZIP code again seemed like a luxury. Chemistry is an important thing in a relationship and we certainly had that. What we didn’t have -- and what we tested out that summer -- were the life blending skills. We had trouble with some of the basics. Things like ‘I like air conditioning and you don’t’; or ‘I hate clothes dryers and you get upset when I hang my wet clothes on your furniture’.

OK, so the baked beans. The baked beans became this weird symbol of what didn't work in our relationship. He began to stockpile cans of baked beans. And trail mix. And junk food. I didn’t mind sharing but his crazy food choices were taking over the kitchen. Suddenly, there was no more me in the kitchen. I wouldn’t have minded if it had become us in the kitchen, bit it wasn’t. It was just all him. I felt invaded by him and the baked beans.
I think we lived together for about six weeks. Reality had kind of set in by then. A job opportunity came up and he moved to Washington State and asked me if he could leave his stuff with me while he was gone. It was a messy and inconclusive separation. We talked and tortured each other for a few more months and as 2005 drew to a close, I went out to visit him. During my trip there, we walked along the beach, talked about how long we had been together and the topic of rings came up. Then I went back home.

A few days after I returned he called me and told me how upset and depressed he was. He sounded completely distraught. I’d seen him feeling down before, but not like this. He said he wanted to come back and spend New Year’s with me and go skiing. He was very emotional. I tried to be reassuring and loving thinking he was homesick and tired. We made plans for New Year’s. Things felt better.
I called him the next day, and the next. No response. After a week or so of this, I started to get really concerned.  He had sounded so awful the last time we talked. Except for the people he worked with, I was the only person who knew he was living in Washington. My brain went into overdrive and I started to worry that he might do something crazy. I only had his cell phone number so I contacted the local police department who tracked down his foreman at a construction worksite near Ephrata. When I finally reached the foreman, I asked if he had seen my boyfriend in the past few days. There was a long pause and then the foreman said, ‘I just saw him this morning. Seems just fine to me. Been here every day.’

The next day, I found him back on match.com.

I remember that night like it was yesterday. I remember having a glass of wine for courage. Just one. Then I went into the garage and I took everything I could find of his -- bins of clothing, work tools, camping gear, his bike, ski boots and poles -- and threw them in the garbage. (I jumped up and down on the bike a few times after I’d already hit it with a shovel. It really made me feel so much better.)
I thought of all this last night because I was reorganizing my kitchen cabinets and I came across a lone can of maple cured bacon baked beans. I'm not sure how this poor little can of baked beans escaped my reign of terror, or how it became a symbol for everything that had gone wrong in a relationship so many years ago. But I figured I'd hold on to it. Maybe it'll teach me something, or serve as a reminder. Worse case scenario is that I have a can of baked beans -- one can -- and I'm ready for whatever comes my way.

No comments:

Post a Comment