Addicted to His Phone

Fairweather knows what it’s like to be addicted to a cellphone or the internet. She knows how it feels to be distracted from the life in front of you by the hope that there will be something of interest in your email. She knows how an hour can go by while you scroll through Facebook, intending only to take a quick look, and at the end of it find yourself unsatisfied, remembering nothing you’ve seen. She knows how it is easier to pull out your phone or flip open your laptop than it is to engage with the person in front of you.

She’s been there, recognized what it did to her, and set it aside. She’s set up some boundaries for herself, only looking at Facebook on Saturday and Twitter on Sunday, for instance, and setting a timer when she does. She’s organized herself to work in the mornings and not poke around the internet, where she could intend to spend only half an hour and come out of her screen stupor surprised to find herself four hours later, having done nothing. She’s taken her life back. It’s been a long time coming.

For years, Himself criticized and resented her time on the computer while he was watching TV every evening. He wanted her in the room with him, doing what he was doing. “Computer Girl,” he called her sarcastically. “It’s only a tool for reading and writing,” she retorted, “so why is that bad? It’s what I’d normally be doing every chance I got, anyway.”

But it’s more than a tool. Distraction seems to be built into it when you access the internet. And it takes a long time for most of us to learn that we need to control that distraction.

After 20 years, Fairweather has figured that out.

Now she is observing Himself in the throes of zombie-brain, nose in phone or tablet all morning and afternoon instead of going to work (very weird, as work has always been his meaning for existence) or finding work to do (it’s not as if his business billing is up to date, not as if there aren’t customers waiting for him to do jobs, not as if there isn’t anything to do around his own home), nose back into it all evening again.

She criticizes him for it far less than he criticized her. But she’s finding it extremely unattractive. He was a man of action … once upon a time. Now? Sitting in his underwear on the couch whenever he’s home, staring at a computer screen. Fairweather can see this isn’t healthy, but doesn’t think there’s anything she can do to help. He has to come to it on his own, just like she did. She hopes it doesn’t take him 20 years.

He has, she’s noticed, walked across the room to dry dishes a few times lately when she was at the sink. That’s a major improvement.



She Told You So

“I want to spend more time visiting family,” says Himself. “I don’t care about seeing Scotland and all the tourist places in England.”

He’s telling Fairweather that son Princely plans to drag him all over another country than their original destination and that’s not what this upcoming trip was supposed to be about.

“Have you told him that?” she asks.

“Many times,” Himself replies.

“Then what’s the trouble? Can they not go their way and you go yours once your plane lands, and meet up again later?”

Oh but there’s luggage to haul around and distances between airports and unavailable flights and so on. (Really it’s ‘Do what Princely wants but bitch about it to me,’ thinks Fairweather.)

Fairweather takes a deep breath and reminds herself to keep schtum. Why does he think she refused to go along on this jaunt? Maybe he’s beginning to see her reasoning.

“I knew I’d have to make some concessions to travel with them,” he tells her, “but my whole reason for going was to meet family. I’m not interested in all that other shit. We’ll be gone three weeks; surely I can spend more than five days with my cousins!”

She thinks but does not say: Stand up for yourself, fool. Don’t let yourself be led around by the nose. Do your own thing if it’s that important to you!

He has already growled at her, raising his voice and beginning to curse when she asked for clarification of one of the travel details. He’d already explained that, he says, to justify his tone of voice.

“If you can’t speak to me politely,” she says, “don’t bother.”

She’s not saying ‘I told you so’ but she’s thinking it.

Agreeable Woman Wanted

Fairweather keeps making the mistake of speaking when she should simply not respond, because if he doesn’t like what he hears he’s instantly angry. Unfortunately for her, that’s not a very nice way to live.

Himself, hanging up phone, shaking head: That woman is chattier than anyone I know.

Fairweather, drying dishes: I didn’t hear much silence at this end either.

Himself: That’s because I – that’s because she wanted – I had to tell her — !

Fairweather:  You gave a lot more details than seemed necessary though, like where we’re going today and why and whose places you did other jobs at and –

Himself, irate: That’s because she wanted me to go there today and I had to explain why I couldn’t! It’s on our way back from Windytown but it’s south of Watertown and that would be putting YOU out and we can’t do THAT can we!

Fairweather, not reminding him that she had time to read three chapters of a library book yesterday while he went into the tire shop and the lumberyard a couple times each as she waited in the truck without complaint, so what’s he talking about?: Just saying, you were doing plenty of talking too. It wasn’t only her.

Himself: Don’t want to talk to you anymore – you don’t know what you’re talking about – etc.

Fairweather: You don’t like to hear the truth?

Himself: YOUR truth!

She’s reminded yet again that the only way to avoid angry attack is to agree with everything he says, or say nothing – which is what she tries to do nowadays — just let him go on and don’t offer any input of her own. He seems to like to hear himself talk and maybe that’s all he wants. That and a passive ear to pour his words into.

He isn’t aware that he talks a fuck of a lot. Lengthy phone conversations are always blamed on the other guy.

About to Drive Her Crazy

You know how it is sometimes when you tell a child about a special event planned for some weeks or months in the future and then she can’t shut up about it and you’re sorry you gave advance notice?

Well that’s what it’s been like around Fairweather’s house for the past few days. You see, Himself has been talked into a trip to Europe in June. Himself has never wanted to take any kind of holiday trip with Fairweather that would require flying, as he fears being claustrophobic in a plane. That’s been okay because Fairweather has no serious dreams of going to Europe or Asia or even down to Mexico or Las Vegas. They’ve always been on the same page in that regard.

But the young prince who is Himself’s son convinced him to go, and Himself cannot say No to his adult son, so the flights were booked yesterday and now they are all a-flutter with their plan-making for where they’ll be when and how they’ll get there and who they’ll visit and what they want to see and so on, and Himself is not only telling Fairweather every detail as he texts back and forth with Princely, but telling people he speaks to on the phone so she overhears it yet again.

Fairweather has to work to keep an expression of interest on her face. She doesn’t want to squelch his excitement, but he does overdo these things. She gets particularly irritated when she’s listening to an interesting news item on TV and he talks over the broadcaster so she misses the story. It’s a habit of his, to yap so she can’t hear what’s being said.

If she was really interested, she’d be going on this trip herself. But she’s not. She knows she’ll not only hear all about it when they return, but that she’ll also have to sit through the slide show of photos afterward — and no doubt more than once as Himself shows it to anyone else who will pay attention.

“Get earplugs,” Birdie jokes via text. “Too bad your hair’s so short.”

The trip is two months away, and Fairweather is looking forward to the peace and quiet.


Better Late Than Never

Dear Shrimpette,
I’ve just mailed off my newsletter and remembered to check this mailbox. Hello! Thank you so much for writing and telling me how you’re doing.
 I’m glad to hear that you’re having some hopeful times with your husband, as those are what keep us going, it seems to me (even when we probably are unwise to keep going; I mean this is how it looks when I’m seeing, with my head, my own situation). Right now, here, we are being pleasant and kind to each other and I’m a happy wife; last week we didn’t exchange one word for several days of cold war, and we were both miserable and lonely.
 Himself hasn’t moved out (nor have I) but has gone out of his way to try to keep things together. It’s like the honeymoon days after you’ve taken a beating, I imagine. I am easily sucked back into hope and contentment. At the same time, I’ve been back and forth over “the line of no return” several times now and still feel myself hovering there. A big part of me wants to get it over with. Another part wants to hold onto what is good. Another part hates to see Himself hurting and just wants to love and comfort him and be close.
 Blech. I’m tired of the repetitive struggle. Really do think that if we each had our own space to escape to when we’re angry, we’d both be happier. It’s hard being stuck in a house with someone you don’t even want to look at, sometimes. More than once I’ve watched his truck drive out of the yard and gave it the finger (not that he could see) and said vehemently and right out loud “Fuck off and don’t come back, ya prick.”
I do have to get dressed and get to work though, so can’t write much right now and have been having terrible trouble attending to my email responsibilities at all. As I said in the newsletter, I can’t figure out where the time goes. It just does. But I read everything you write with great interest and am always a little disappointed to see you haven’t updated your blog. I still hope you will collect your favourite poems into a book and/or get them to readers somehow, even if you’re not willing to give them away on your blog. There must be many like me who would appreciate them.
All right, now I really must move my ass.

In Fairweather’s Journal

Mom’s birthday.

She’d be 77.

Oh how I’d have loved to see her at 77!

What do you think, Mom? How would you have changed between now and age 64, your last birthday alive?

Dad hasn’t changed much from 66, which he was then, to 79, the great age he’s reached.

Maybe that’s why I imagine you as you were.

Happy. Busy.

Singing. Quilting.

Cooking good meals.

Loving kids.

Enjoying your home and your things.

Caring how you dressed, how your hair looked.

Putting on lipstick to go out.

My memories are going back to before you started cancer treatment and dying, now.

Shopping for outfits, usually dresses. Trying them on and smoothing and tucking and looking at them on yourself in the mirror.

You always dressed nicely. Never were you sloppy-baggy, always you were neat and bright.

Always a lady.

I hope I get to see you again.

A Getaway, or a Get Away?

Fairweather’s had an offer to winter in Panama with a cousin. The thought of doing something like that “someday” has always been in the back of her mind. Is now the time? And then, Panama is probably too warm for her; she likes temperate weather, not hot. And then there’s this cousin, actually her mother’s, with whom Fairweather has never spent any serious time. They’ve kept in touch since her mom’s death, but how would they fare as housemates? It’s a long way from home if you find out you don’t get along.

Himself has just told her the story of two “smart” young people who “thought they’d be internet stars.” They filmed themselves: the woman fired a bullet at the man, who was holding a book up in front of his chest, and the shot killed him.

Fairweather said, “You told me this story some time ago, didn’t you?”

“No. I just saw it on the news this morning.”

“Hm. I’m sure you showed me it on Facebook months ago.”

“Not me. Mustabin someone else.” (His standard reply when he doesn’t remember saying or doing something.)

“You’re the only one who shows me stuff on Facebook.” (Stuff she doesn’t give a shit about. She has weaned herself off FB and he keeps feeding it to her and not to be rude she pretends to be interested. She’ll be reading a book and repeatedly he’s interrupting her with stories off FB; she’s tempted to get up and move to another room, but she hasn’t yet told him to stop. He wants to share with her, and that’s a good thing, right? So she listens politely.)

“Well it wasn’t me!” he says, irritated. “This is the first time I’ve heard this story.”

OK then. Whatever you say! She drops it because he’s getting pissed off, and where she heard the story before doesn’t matter in the least — to her.