This weekend I'm editing a compilation of blogs from Open Road and came across this one from 2014. After being with my significant other for more than a year, I've discovered that while he's not exactly like my imaginary husband, there are plenty of similarities. So it just goes to show...be careful what you wish for. You may be blessed enough to receive it.
My imaginary husband
Originally published on October 3, 2014
During a couple of summers while I was in college, I worked as a traveling bank teller, filling in for people who were sick or on vacation. Even though I loved organizing my cash drawer, calculating my balance sheet at the end of the day, and working in branches near my old stomping grounds in south Toledo, there were a few things I could do without. I loathed payday Fridays when I often worked from 8:15 in the morning until well after 1:00 with no break, especially if they put me in the drive-through window. And I hated asking for ID whenever an unknown customer arrived at my window, knowing I'd be met with, "I've been banking here for years! You should know me by now!" Even though I'd explain that I was only trying to protect their money, many customers didn't care.
But the worst was when a skeevy male customer sidled up to my window, licked his lips, then lifted an eyebrow. "You single?" I'd hear at least once a week. Over time I learned to keep a fake wedding band at my station and slip it on whenever a strange guy walked into the bank, knowing it was easier to tell a white lie than to put the effort into batting away questions about my personal life.
Once I started teaching, I retired my gold band and started hoping for the real thing. Years went by and I bought a house. Of course it needed work and to get the job done, I hired a few handymen along the way. Most of them were gentlemen, doing their work with professionalism and kindness, but there were the few odd ducks who, after finishing the task at hand, asked if I was single or dating anyone. In response, I immediately knew to lead with my imaginary husband to quash any more questions. Which he did...immediately.
My pretend fella's named Nick and has evolved from a young guy I met in college to an adorable man who's an amalgamation of my grandfather, a character I wrote in my first novel, and Gregory Peck. He's a professor who also travels to research his field of study. (Funny...no one's ever asked what that is and I don't exactly know myself.) Nick's a great conversationalist who keeps me laughing…and of course, he loves to cook.
My imaginary husband is not often home as he's usually out running errands or going to the grocery store. Or he's taking one of the cats to the vet, but will be home within the hour. He's visiting his friend in the hospital right up the street or biking home from the library. When he gets back, he's taking me out for coffee/lunch/dinner or to the movies.
As you can see, this is a story I've honed over time and can pull out of my back pocket as needed. Having been stalked, I've also honed my intuition where men are concerned. I can spot a creepy dude at ten paces and if he opens his mouth to speak, it doesn't take more than two sentences before I know if there's an ulterior motive behind his intentions.
Thankfully, I haven't had to resurrect Nick in a long, long time.
But this summer it was a different story.
A few months ago, the neighbors behind me were having some renovations done on their house. I met the two workers while weeding out in my garden.
It didn't take long for one of them to ask, "You got a boyfriend?"
I looked up from the impatiens and saw his Cheshire grin. "No...I'm married."
Just like that, Nick resurfaced. "We've been together ten years,” I replied. “Married for two."
I went back to the flower bed.
"You got any kids?"
I shook my head. "No."
I pulled out a gnarly bunch of chickweed, knowing another probing question was imminent.
"Why doesn't your husband cut the grass and do the yard work?" the man asked. "Why does he leave it to you?"
"Oh, he's busy at work all day and I love to do this anyway," I replied, not looking up from the task at hand. "And besides, he's a great cook, so I figure we're even."
And that was that...until yesterday.
The workers were back again, and for a while, it was just Mr. Cheshire working in my neighbor's yard while I pulled apart my rotting privacy fence.
"I've not seen your husband around in all the time we've been here," he casually observed.
"Oh, he's busy working all day," I replied quickly.
"What's he do?"
"He's a professor."
I wasn't afraid of Mr. Cheshire...but very aware that this conversation was going to be a slippery slope into familiar territory.
"You think he's your other half?"
"What?" I asked, hammering the nails into a slat of wood so I could carry it to the curb without cutting my arms.
"You know like he's your half and you're his half."
I shook my head. "No...I'm whole by myself and so is he. That's what makes our relationship really strong. We don't have to complete each other...we just enjoy being together."
A few moments later, he seductively said, "So you don't think you could be my other half?"
I wrinkled my brow. "No...I don't think so. How old are you anyway?
He grinned and dipped his head. "How old do you think I am?"
I laughed. "Dude...I'm twenty years older than you. I could be your mother."
Mr. Cheshire eyed me up and down. "You don't look it and you're not my mother."
I tried to keep it light. "Well, I'll take that as a compliment, but one thing I told my husband he'd never have to worry about is my being unfaithful to him...ever."
"So I can't get with you?"
My eyebrows popped at how brazen he was being. "You can't take, 'no' for an answer, dude. I'm not that kind of woman...and I told you...I'm married."
A while later I went inside to shower and change for my evening yoga class.
Mr. Cheshire stopped by to return the extension cord I had lent them earlier in the day. "You got cleaned up?"
"Yep...yoga class tonight."
He lowered his voice and leaned over to sniff my hair. "You think I could be your private student?"
"You don't give up, do you?" I said, shaking my head. "That's not going to happen and I don't think my husband would appreciate your asking."
He laughed and nodded. "Okay...okay."
And that was the end of it.
I don't tell lies, white or otherwise. I may not say everything I'm thinking, but I won't blatantly fib to cover my tracks, my butt, or anything else. Still, I'm not ashamed to admit that I have an imaginary husband, and I imagine many of you reading this can understand how difficult it can be to live alone as a single woman with men of all propensities coming in and out of the neighborhood.
In the past I've often wished for the real thing. A real man who would stand up for me in the face of rude behavior. Who would gently talk to one neighbor who cuts their grass at ten PM when I'm trying to go to sleep or another one who throws wild parties with loud music that rattles my windows well after midnight. I've longed for a husband to protect me from the unwanted advances of creeps, men who have shaky boundaries (or none at all), and difficult situations that I know would have been solved quickly had he been the one to confront the issue.
Still, I've been doing just fine on my own so far, and thanks to my incredible imaginary husband, I have a pretty good idea about the kind of good wife I might be someday.