Cross vine, a short story

I carried the notebook computer up the metal ladder and sat on a plastic chair, looking out from the height of the treehouse into the woods.

If I didn’t turn my head from side to side, I could look up into the forest and see no signs of my species, the illusion interrupted by the sounds of a sanitation truck passing through the neighbourhood behind and dogs barking.

Otherwise, the chirps and caws of birds, the mixture of ant species crawling over and under tree limbs and sawn lumber, these things invited me to think about them rather than last night.

My eyes traced the path a cross vine took, climbing up the trunk of an oak tree, seeking sunlight, sending out blooms in the springtime, a reminder of my favourite Lovecraft tales, that of the fast-growing carnivorous vine.

The smartphone weather app tells me it’s 77 deg F at 09:05 with a high of 89 later today.

I am in the present moment.

Maybe.

I’m not always sure.

Sometimes I think I’m a fortuneteller living in the future, feeling the future pains and joys of my species.

Sometimes I’m in love, outside of time.

Like last night.

Monday nights are dance night, the one evening a week when, if my work schedule allows it, I, the retired millionaire who wants to keep his pulse tuned to the goings on of the general public, live the life of an hourly worker who attends dance class with like-minded folks (future retired engineers/scientists/business owners, that is).

Low-level buzzing sounds reach my ears, as if insects high up in the treetops are singing to each other.

A spiderweb glistens in the ray of sunlight that passes between tree leaves.

A slight breeze brushes against the glistening sweat on my wrists, cooling me temporarily.

When I dance, I let go of thinking and…well, what, exactly?

Some dance partners I have known a long time, reading their moods through handholds and eye contact.

Some I meet for the first time, sharing a quick smile, an introduction and then release our daily cares and concerns for a few seconds of coordinated happiness.

With one or two dance partners, the happiness is completely uncoordinated.  Silly, even.

But on some nights, the looking away, the refusal to make eye contact, the formal hand grip, these signals with familiar dance partners tell more than any writer can capture quickly.

The insecure dance partner thinks, “I know it’s me.  I must be doing something wrong.”

The confident dance partner nods and says, “I’m going to get my partner to loosen up,” giving full attention to the moment.

My wife goes with me to dance classes, not all of the time, but frequently enough that she knows the tension and drama that goes on between a group of people whose lives intertwine not only on the dance floor but elsewhere.

She watched me on the dance floor during dance lessons and saw last night’s tension from a distance.

In light of recent news of a mass murder, perhaps I should tell you, for the sake of this story, that I’m bisexual.

My dance partners are a mix of genders, none of which I prefer over the other, although I was raised to treat female dance partners as ladies while I acted like a gentleman.

So, when my dance instructor, a male, looked me in the eye and glared while telling the class that “you can’t trust your dance partner,” I felt he was telling me something personal.

When my back was turned, our dance instructor kept asking the class over and over if they knew a certain famous dance teacher from a big city, the students voicing their “yes” or “no” as if to say, “we get it, go on,” I turned around and acknowledged who he was talking about, finally realising he was asking me in order to tell me something, practically stabbing me with daggers shooting from his eyes.

I’ve had more dance wives than lovers.

I could tell you all the reasons but, in a big room full of dancers, it’s much quicker to have a dance floor relationship that satisfies the full person, body and thoughts, than to simply sate physical needs.

I enjoyed sharing googly eyes with my favourite goofy dancer last night.

I’ve fallen in love with a dance partner who’s quick to announce her monogamous heterosexuality when asked, loving her eyes and the way she dances like a svelte analytical engineer.  Her smile and her humour make me very happy, as happened during our dance class.

But last night, when a longtime dance partner gave me a cold shoulder, I knew something was the matter.  We’ve given each other cold shoulders through the years, able to weather the storms of life like good friends do.  Sometimes, it’s an issue between us but most often it’s just not wanting to deal with a problem that making eye contact with a close friend forces us to.

She and I have both recently lost close loved ones, handling the pain and loss in our own ways.

At the same time, I’ve been working through whether I should actively announce my bisexuality, having volunteered weeks ago to represent the dance group at an upcoming pride parade, all while wondering what my wife, who’s opposed to overt physical displays of diverse lifestyles, will do after I participate in the parade.

I decided to slowly acclimate my wife, whom I’ve known for 42 years and married 30 years ago, to my bisexuality.

When we dated, I told her I wanted an open relationship and eventually she got tired of me talking about my many lovers (I only told her about the female lovers back then) so she told me that either we were exclusively monogamous or it was over.

So I stopped dating her for a while.

Eventually, I realised I wanted to live with her because something told me she’d be the one to care for me when I was at my lowest emotionally.

So I gave up my lovers for a monogamous wife.

After dance class, I told my wife about the tension between me and the dance instructor, and the tension between me and a longtime friend/dance partner.

My wife politely listened, giving her viewpoint about the obvious tension.

Then she went quiet.

It took me a few minutes to realise she had stopped responding.

A half-hour went by.

We arrived at home and she still wasn’t really speaking to me.

Finally, as I was getting dressed for bed, she said, “I just want you to know what’s going through my thoughts right now.  I think you’re pushing me to ask you for a divorce because you can’t find a way to end our marriage.  [Read: I’m not going to make it that easy for you.]  You aren’t, are you?”

I slipped off my socks, letting myself calm down, just as my new love, the monogamous heterosexual dance instructor/wife, had worked with me to calm down earlier in the evening.

What should I have said?  Those were easily the thoughts I’d been having lately, amongst many.

I told her some of the other thoughts in my head.

“You know I can’t live alone.  You know I can’t live without you.”

All true.

After the past nine years of barely sharing a peck kiss, suddenly my wife wanted to get passionate just as she was leaving to work the midnight shift at her job.

Had I been so cold and neglectful, devoting myself to writing the first of nine books nine years ago, so deep in thought about storylines, making friends and lovers to write about, that it took this moment for my wife to open herself up to me again?

A couple of weeks ago I had almost rented a house and moved out.  The only thing that really stopped me was the fact I had taken my reserve cash and built a treehouse.  Otherwise, all the same thoughts are still there about wanting to start a new life, a life of open relationships.

Thoughts are not the same as actions.

My life is already filled with open relationships.

If I must have someone to live with to keep my sanity in check, who would it be other than my wife, a known quantity?

I’ve been here before, basically since I was five years old, aware that the person I am is not in tune with the majority of people around me, just like everybody else.

It’s called independence, I think.

Just when anyone else would leave the house, why don’t I stay?

Certainly would be cheaper.

And the best way to become a millionaire is be a penny pincher to begin with.

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