My loneliness had reached a point where I no longer acknowledged the dull pain of it in the present moment. I feared the future, if to go there meant going alone.
I desired to end that fear immediately, to fall in love again. I was always ready for whatever you call it when desire finds a target and hope discovers an opportunity. Your heart opened up and everything in your imagination turned rosy. For as long as it ever lasted. Romance was a tough deal to make. High risk yielding large return, so the rumors guaranteed.
I would not give up on it.
I went looking for somebody new, prepared to go all the way this time, take the vows, be married, and above all, get children.
In the mountains, the girls tended to marry young and take up careers as housewives and mothers, like it used to be. Not that I minded ambitious, modern women. Usually the ones I connected with had dreams of sailing away, living life on a postcard. That was always my intent, to make a woman’s dreams come true.
I was independently wealthy enough, raised in the South as a gentleman, trained to open doors and carry packages.
Fantasizing fatherhood gave me the feeling of romance in the hearts and flowers phase. Everything related to babies radiated discovery, a sensation of comprehensive adventure, almost as pleasurable as sex.
The gratification I equated with fatherhood impelled me to seek a partner. I was not apposed to women who already had children. I invited one divorcee and her son to go to the circus, which was fun for the kid and me, but left the divorcee put off because I didn’t pay her enough attention.
Then I tried the beauty parlor one Saturday morning, securing no appointment to have my hair cut so I knew I would have to wait. It being obvious why I was there, the women disdained to notice me.
The best place to hunt was the grocery store, but it was ruined as a territory by a feature article in the local newspaper, reprinted from the New York Times or somewhere, humorously describing grocery stores as the new place for beginning casual romance. I never had any luck at the IGA. I was too honest to make up a fake grocery list, and too embarrassed to speak with a woman who made a pass at me.
In the year after Betsy and I split up, as fatherhood gained primacy over even the ambition to write a book that would make me famous—I experienced something so unexpected, unprecedented, and transformative that everything coming afterward was influenced if not wholly changed.