The call came in at 8:43 pm, Dec. 31.
He knew why she was calling then. She’d only be able to talk for a few minutes before she’d have to join her family for the new year. They were on the East Coast.
By calling now, she was fulfilling her obligation to return his call, she was holding up her end of the relationship, and she was getting away from talking to him for more than a few minutes.
When he picked her up at the airport at 11:10 pm Sunday, she said, “Can I drive?”
It threw him off. Traffic was dense. He wanted to get the show on the road.
“Get in,” he said.
She stood her ground. “Can I drive?”
“Why?” he said.
“I feel barfy,” she said. “I don’t think I can be a passenger without throwing up.”
He surrendered and let her drive. It was her car afterall.
“I’m going to need your help getting out of here,” she said. “I always get lost.”
As he explained it to her, he sat in the passenger seat and felt emasculated.
Five minutes before, he’d felt loving. Now he felt like a dick.
She was her chirpy chipper happy self. She was loving and affectionate. She was always like this after cutting off his dick.
He sat awkwardly and felt disconnected.
She stroked his thigh and said loving things.
He responded minimally.
“Are you OK?” she said. She could pick up something was wrong.
“You’ll want to get in the far left lane,” he said, “so you can take Airport to La Tijera and then to La Cienega.”
“Oh,” she said, “I just go straight to La Cienega.”
“Then why did you ask for my directions?” he thought.
It wasn’t until they were back at his place and the car was stopped that he could bring her into his arms and return her affection.
At therapy the next day, he found himself parroting lines from the book “Passionate Marriage.” He found it enormously amusing to have this new vocabulary.
“I don’t feel close to you today,” said his therapist. “You use the vocabulary to distance yourself from me.”
He told her about how much he was growing from staying in an unsafe relationship.
“What do you get out of an unsafe relationship?” she asked.
“I can leave at any time,” he said. “No hard feelings. I’m not losing anything. I’m with someone who has contempt for me. We’re not building anything. So I’m free to leave at any time with no regrets.”