I teach an Introduction to Journalism class at the community college. It’s pretty much the same Fundamentals of Writing course I’d previously offered, but draws more students since I gussied it up by putting “Journalism” in the title and seasoning my lectures with anecdotes from my years on the local paper. I quit that job to have somewhat more regular hours after our son was born.
I thought about him as I lay in bed next to Roberta. She’s my wife’s best friend. Guess I buried the lede. I caution my students against that with a story I read once. It went something like this:
Firefighters from two stations struggled to douse a blaze at 546 Jefferson last night. The fire threatened to spread to neighboring homes. Faulty wiring is thought to be the cause. A family of three perished.
I realize I’m off-track. Probably because I’m embarrassed to say not only was I in bed with my wife’s best friend, but also with my wife. It appears I’ve buried another lede.
Janet, my wife, had insisted Roberta spend the day and night with us. The two of them went to lunch, and the three of us hung out when they returned. After a few hours, there was a lot of hugging, and the evening was becoming a downer. That’s when I said Roberta’s name and rolled the R so long it could have careened down a hillside and splashed into a river at the bottom. Then Roberta spoke my name in a similar fashion. (I’m Ralph Robinson by the way). Janet began rolling both our monickers. Before we knew it, we were laughing about other things we might do with our agile tongues and decided to all go to bed together. Maybe I should’ve mentioned this sooner: We’d been drinking vodka and smoking pot for hours.
Anyway, the walk from the living room to the bedroom seemed to be like traversing treacherous ground. By the time we were between the sheets, I think each of us was concerned that making the first move was as likely to trigger a land mine as an eruption of passion. Before long, we pretty much passed out. Remember: vodka, pot, hours.
I woke up trapped between Janet and Roberta and urgently needing to pee. As I was climbing over my wife, she opened her eyes, blinked several times, then began sobbing and screaming for Roberta and me to “get the hell out.” I assured Janet nothing had happened and reminded her she was as culpable as me for our situation, whatever it was. But there was only one acceptable reaction—get the hell out. Roberta hurried to the spare bedroom. I was right behind her but veered down the stairs. I went to the toilet, grabbed a pillow and Afghan from the couch then went back and curled up, like a forlorn dog at a gravestone, outside our now-locked bedroom door. I whispered under it that we shouldn’t be apart tonight of all nights, but that only made Janet sob more loudly.
Some anniversaries you look forward to and set your calendar to launch balloon gifs. Wedding, 10 years on the job, 60 days sober. Other anniversaries you try to block out. Then you step into the day, and it explodes in your face. Janet said that, for this anniversary, I wasn’t enough. She needed Roberta with her. That didn’t bother me. Janet was my wife, and I loved her, but, on this day, she wasn’t enough for me either. Neither were the booze, pot, and almost-threesome.
The next morning, we all had coffee together before Roberta left. We weren’t exactly rolling our Rs, but no one was angry. We knew we weren’t ourselves the previous night, and we knew why.
When our son was little, he learned a joke I’ll always remember. Dad, what’s denial? Well, Son, it means refusing to accept or admit something’s true. No, Dad, denial is a river in Africa. He must have told me that joke a dozen times. I always played along and laughed as loudly as he did.
Years later, when we first saw him in his uniform, my heart swelled. We knew it wasn’t the best time for him to be enlisting, but I couldn’t help myself. I guess I was in a river in Africa.
His name was Stanley Richard Robinson. He was our son. He’s the lede I’ll be burying the rest of my life.
David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net and has appeared in numerous print and online journals including MoonPark Review, Gravel, Bull and Cross, Lost Balloon, The Fiction Pool, Fictive Dream, and Literally Stories. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.