It’s been hard to live up to Susan’s standards. She’s been married to her high school sweetheart for forever. She has two children; tall, blonde – impressive. A son who studied to fly airplanes so he could take rich men up and down the coast. A daughter (a high school cheerleader, of course) in college on the fast track to being a doctor. A husband who sent flowers to her work every Valentine’s Day, each wedding anniversary and birthday. They all smiled with big white grins; teeth that dazzled.
When I first met Susan, she epitomized perfection; polite, neat, sure of the rules for living a good life and being a good person; smug in her righteousness.
She ironed her work shirts every morning. I was lucky to pull my clothes out of the dryer right after the cycle stopped and if I made it through the day without spilling coffee on myself, I was doing great.
My exclamations that once contained “Jesus” now had an abruptly aborted wussie sort of jerking “Jeez.” I adjusted my uncouth, uncivilized, barbaric behavior to accommodate the finer sensibilities.
I used to glimpsed a slight sneer over my single-mother, never-go-to-church-on-Sunday, messy life. It’s possible she thought I might have a contagious disease.
“People who use curse words have poor vocabularies.” I heard Susan’s admonishment as a personal criticism. My daughter learned to curse sitting in the passenger seat of my car while I was driving.
I went to pick up my daughter early once from school. While waiting in the hall by the office, the bell rang for class changes and I saw Susan’s daughter running down the hall and I heard her yell, “Fuck you, John.”
In her last year of high school, Susan’s daughter developed a mysterious condition that required many doctor visits. The suggestion that her ailment might be stress related was vehemently poo-pooed. She required so much medication she was not allowed to drive. Even though she lived away at college, when she came home on breaks and vacations, Susan had to sleep with her just in case she had an attack during the night.
Susan’s son, now 27, still lives at home. He has been unemployed for seven months, sleeps until two in the afternoon and won’t take out the garbage. They had an argument a few weeks ago and she called the police because she’s afraid of him. He’s wrecked three cars she bought him.
Susan’s husband lost every job he’s had in his field at every company within a 200 mile radius of home because he always knows more than his supervisors. He had to take a sales job in another state. He accidently took eight pills of a friend’s pain medication when he felt a headache coming on at a party. The EMT’s were a couple of mutual friends.
The longer Susan and I know each other, the less she likes me.