The One Where Real Life Began
-Mom bought him for me cause of dad. Guess she figured if I had a dog, the knowledge that my dad was a cross-dressing homosexual wouldn't be so hard to take. She was wrong. But, I loved that dog. I could've gotten a puppy, but when I saw him looking at me, his eyes looking as sad and lost as I felt, I chose him.
We would play fetch everyday after school, I taught him all kinds of tricks, I even taught him to shake hands. And when he'd get excited, he'd lick my face. His love was unconditional, and he didn't fight with anyone about alimony or visitations or who was at fault for stuff.
He was my best friend at a time when I felt utterly alone, and at a time when I felt my life was falling apart; he was my constant. And then, the unimaginable happened.
I knew he was old, even though the shelter couldn't give us an exact age, but it didn't even dawn on me that he would leave me so soon. I only had him three years.
I came home from school and called out to him, and when he didn't come, I thought it odd. When I saw the housekeeper's face, I knew. I think I knew before that even. In class, I felt something hit me. It almost felt like nausea, but not exactly.
Mom was her usual helpful self. Of course, I'm being sarcastic. She caught me crying in my room, and she told me, I won't have you being a sissy like your father, so, just cut it out. We'll get you a new dog.
She left my room with her glass of vodka and orange juice, no sympathy for a boy who'd just lost his dog. I never was the same after that. My dad was gay and gone, my mom was a drunken smut writer, and my dog, my best friend, was dead. Real life sucks.
-I spent my high school years at an all-boys school. Of course, I was teased and ridiculed constantly, if not because my father was a gay cross-dressing Vegas show-person, then because my mom wrote erotic novels. How was I not beat up more?
I had a few friends, if you'd want to call them that, but no girlfriends. I had girls that were friends, from around the upper-class neighborhood I lived in, so, of course, they were stuck-up beyond all reason. They were nice to me though, so, I was nice in return. After school was over, I put in for a few lame jobs, mostly out of boredom. It wasn't like I needed the money. Mom had plenty.
I hadn't really given much thought to college, but a year out of school I decided to go, again, out of boredom. Wasn't like I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I figured I'd take a few classes and get drunk whenever I could get the chance.
The first two years were kind of a blur really. Because of alcohol, mostly, but also because I lacked motivation to exist. That's when something very unlikely happened. I fell in love.
I got a new roommate. Ross. A friendly enough brainiac who fancied dinosaurs of all things. Still, he was a nice guy, and my first real friend. And he had a sister. Monica. A formerly overweight would-be chef and the most stunning creature I'd ever laid eyes on. Hard to imagine she was ever a size 24, but I bet she looked amazing even then.
She came to the dorm room looking for her brother, and at first I thought she was his girlfriend, till I noticed the family resemblance. That, and she asked me where her brother was. I was just grateful I didn't have a hangover from the previous night's binge. Hard to make a good first impression when you're hurling and holding your head in pain.
She came in to wait for Ross, and those twenty minutes saved my life. I never was the same again, and from that moment on, I had a reason to exist.
-I got my shit together and focused on school. Graduated, barely, then concentrated on getting a job and becoming respectable. But, by the time all that happened, Ross and I were close friends, and you just don't date your friend's relatives. I backed off, and was happy to just be Monica's friend.
Moved in across the hall from her when that apartment became available. We grew close. Real close. In some respects even closer than Ross and I. And new friends entered the picture and enriched our lives. And some left the picture, but Monica and I remained a constant.
Then, it happened. We were in London, the night before Ross' wedding to a British gal he'd only known a couple months. Monica was drunk. Not three sheets to the wind or anything, but easily toasty warm. She threw herself at me. Seriously. And that's when 'us' began.
It was by no means a whirlwind courtship, but it does feel like just yesterday that it began, her lips soundly on mine both shocking and thrilling me. We dated, and I managed not to piss her off or scare her away, so I proposed. She said yes. Seriously.
It was almost a year after we got married that she became pregnant. She'd wanted to have kids right away, but with our dear friend Rachel expecting Ross' second child, we decided to wait a bit. That's a long story in-and-of itself.
Anyway, when she announced she was pregnant, I was delighted and frightened, all at the same time. It wasn't like I had parental role models with which to base child rearing. I knew I would have to rely on Monica a lot. She would know how to be a parent. She was born to be a mom.
She was in so much pain, it literally scared me, and I would have done anything to take that pain from her. She was fighting so hard. I put my hand on her head to console her, whispering her name along with words of encouragement.
"Monica, sweetie, just keep trying." My words seemed to help in some small way.
She closed her eyes and took one last breath, and I knew in that moment that my life was about to change completely.
When it was all over, she looked up at me, and I laid our baby across her breast, tears in my eyes from cutting the umbilical cord that connected mother and son for all those months. She cried too, as our son filled his lungs with air.
"He's incredible, Mon."
"Just like his daddy," she replied.
And I never was the same again. From that moment on, real life began.
This story is based on a song by Jeff Carson entitled "Real Life".