My good friend and I have been walking regularly at the hike and bike trail for the past year. It’s easy to walk three miles when you’re talking up a storm and waving at everybody you know, including the guy who sits on top of a boulder and calls out to passers-by. Also, dodging strollers and lunging dogs and maniac bicyclists are great diversions.
But mostly, we concentrate on talking. It’s been the kind of year when we’ve exhausted a lot of miles discussing her divorce. We usually speed up, I’ve noticed, when we talk about her now ex-husband. The lout! The loser! What a fraud!
The seasons moved from fall, which is still hot in Texas, to winter, which is often dazzling and bright, to a lovely, riotous springtime when the flowers bloomed and the trees turned fresh, new shades of green. We ruminated about Eliot Spitzer — also a lout, a loser, a fraud. He paid how many tens of thousands of dollars to a hooker? He dragged his poor wife to the podium while he bared his paltry soul and ended his political career? What a hypocrite!
We argued about Obama and Clinton, since my friend supported Hillary and I tried to make her understand how misguided she was. (Didn’t work.)
We talked about our almost-grown children, my husband, her new boyfriend, our work, our friends, our lives.
The John Edwards scandal came along. We discussed forming a lynch mob. We walked faster. Lout, loser, fraud, hypocrite!
I would say that summer came and went, but if you know Texas, summer still lingers, hot and sticky and relentless. We walk earlier in this season. But maybe it will cool off in October.
Yesterday, when we walked and ranted and laughed, I noticed some subtle, non-weather differences. We talked about other stories we knew about of marriages breaking up. Of children who are being irrevocably wounded by their fathers’ indifference and callousness. We shook our heads and wondered how they could do this and still live with themselves.
You know, I said, in retrospect, your ex-husband wasn’t nearly that bad. At least he always cared about your kids, did his best for them.
Looking back, over the past year, over the walks we’ve taken and talks we’ve had, something has changed and eased and smoothed out. Wouldn’t it be funny, I said, if we ended up forming a fan club for your ex-husband? Pointing him out as someone who managed to come through in his own way?
We screeched with laughter over that one. Since it was so hot and muggy, we were streaming with sweat by the end of the walk. But another fall was coming soon. We could just feel it in the air.
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If you’re misguided enough to attend your high school reunions, you might want to check my recent experience at: http://www.texasobserver.org/article.php?aid=2831
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)