A Stranger At The Gate
The D-Train #43
I have no idea what it is about me, but I must exude some kind of energy that makes people think I care, because random strangers frequently seem to tell me the most intimate details about their lives. It’s probably because I’m generally friendly and talkative, or because I’m an over-sharer myself, but it never ceases to amaze me how much people I don’t know tend to tell me about their lives.
I had some plumbing work done this week in my basement. After the plumber arrived, we chatted for a few minutes, he showed me how a couple of things work with my hot water heater, and then I left him alone to go upstairs to get some work of my own done. When he finished the job, he called me downstairs to show me the results. Within a couple of minutes, the plumber was telling me about how his wife had done IVF twice. After that, he told me the birth stories of his two sons, and said how much respect he has for women after watching his wife go through IVF and birthing two children. He said that he always tells his friends whose partners are pregnant to watch as the baby comes out because you will never disrespect your wife after that. Apparently they had one embryo left afterward, which they destroyed – two kids was plenty for them.
I literally have no idea why he told me all this.
His kids are nine and seven years old, so it’s not like it was something he recently went through and needed someone to talk to about it.
I can’t even think of what started him on this topic – but this kind of thing happens to me all the time. One minute I’m discussing the thermocouple on my hot water heater with the plumber, and the next minute he’s teary-eyed and describing to me in detail the moment in which his son’s head burst forth from his wife’s vagina.
I realize that it’s not totally normal to share these kinds of intimate conversations with total strangers, but it seems to just happen to me all the time. One minute I’m strolling through the grocery store, trying to pick between two different varieties of flax seeds, and the next minute some grocery store clerk is telling me about his hemorrhoids and how his wife left him for his cousin.
I have no idea why this happens to me, but the truth is, I like it. I like people. I like hearing about all their crazy crap. It makes me feel, I don’t know, sort of connected to the world.
This week I got hit with even more shit from my ex-husband. He’s positively relentless in his quest to make my life a living hell. I have begged my attorney to just settle on whatever terms he wants so that he will just leave me the fuck alone, but he’s not in this for a settlement or a solution. It’s pretty fucking horrible.
When I received the latest news from my lawyer, I momentarily flipped my shit. I walked into my bedroom and I screamed a bunch of obscenities and pounded my fist on top of my dresser. Then I walked outside to try to “cool off,” (because that’s something that totally works), and on my way outside I hip checked the slightly ajar dishwasher, breaking a glass within. After spending a minute in the yard muttering and crying to myself, clearly without cooling off at all, I marched back into the house and grabbed a wedding dress that I had recently found in a box on the top shelf of my closet. It wasn’t the dress that I wore when I got married, but it was a dress that I almost wore.
I really can’t remember the exact circumstances of how I came to own this wedding dress, but it definitely came from some random stranger on the internet. It was a long time ago, but I think that maybe I was chatting on some message board about wedding dresses with strangers (because that’s, ahem, something that normal people do), and maybe I mentioned that I was struggling to deal with dress shopping, and then someone mailed me one. That’s the kind of thing that happens in my life.
You see, I desperately did not want to wear a wedding dress. I really didn’t even want to have a wedding. I nixed the idea of a wedding party, and wedding toasts, among other things. In my heart, I really did not want a wedding at all, so I dropped as many of the traditional elements that I could, while still hosting a wedding because…my ex wanted it.
Over the course of wedding planning, I came to terms with the idea of a party, but I did NOT want to wear a wedding gown, and I did not want to walk down an aisle. And so, I put off buying a dress until it had reached a point that it was almost too late to do so. And that’s when some random stranger from the internet sent me a wedding gown.
I tried it on, and miraculously it basically fit. I thought, fuck it, I’ll just suck it up and wear this stupid thing. But I hated it, and it gave me a sort of panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach to imagine being The Bride in some dumb dress that felt entirely antithetical to my whole being.
Or who knows, maybe I realized even then I shouldn’t have been going through with the thing. Maybe if I was marrying a different person I wouldn’t have been so hung up on not wanting to be a bride.
I resigned myself to just wear the stupid dress and suck it up, until a week before the wedding when I tried it on again and started crying and realized that I just could not bring myself to wear that stupid gown. I hated it. So I quickly jumped on my computer and ordered two white dresses that I found online with rush delivery – one from J. Crew and one from Nordstrom. Neither was a wedding dress. They arrived three days before the wedding. I decided to go with the Nordstrom dress, and sent the other one back to J. Crew. I never wore the random-stranger-from-the-internet’s gown.
Anyway, after I received the bad news from my lawyer this week and was crying and yelling in the backyard, I ran back inside the house and grabbed the stupid fucking wedding dress. I had already hit my fist into the dresser and broken a glass inside the dishwasher. I had yelled into the wall, and I was crying uncontrollably. I’m tired, friends. I’m really, really tired.
I took the wedding gown and marched into the front yard without any shoes on and threw it over the goddamned fence. Get this fucking thing out of my house, I yelled. And just at that moment, a stranger with a kind face walked up to my driveway and asked me if I was the homeowner. Huh?, I thought.
She was from the census, and I had failed to file my data.
I dried my tears on my wrist, and apologized that I wasn’t wearing any shoes. I told her I lived at this address with my two children. I gave our names, our ethnicities, our dates of birth. Finishing up, she asked if those were the only people living at the residence – no partner, she asked, glancing at the wedding gown thrown over the fence. No, I replied. Just me and the kids. No partner. She thanked me for being so kind in responding, and said you wouldn’t believe how many people were not so nice. I told her, it was my pleasure. I understood what it’s like to just want to get something done and other people refuse to cooperate. She waved goodbye and walked down to the next neighbor’s house on her list.
I went back into the house feeling much less terrible. As it turned out, talking to this random census worker was exactly what I needed.
I went back inside, and although I was still really upset I understood, there’s work here to be done. With or without cooperation, I have got to get it done.
The dress is still out on the front fence. Who knows, maybe a stranger will find it who needs it.
p.s. This is one of my all-time favorite songs, and seemed like the right song for the seasick days after throwing a dress over a fence. A dress so colorless, just one shade whiter then pale.
And don’t forget to listen to The D-Train, The Playlist, a soundtrack for a shit show.