Monday, June 18, 2012
Like a lot of people, Balthazar and I were hit pretty hard by the last four or five economic years.
Not so hard, that we couldn't get back up again, so we feel fortunate in that respect. Still, still..., during these difficult years we've both entered our forties (me before him, which he loves to remind me) and so we've arrived at this fragile and pensive state in our lives, the point where you realize there may be more years behind you than ahead of you; the place where you stop to take stock of your life, a little behind where we were.
Why we do this to ourselves, this midpoint measuring? I'm not sure, but we all do, and this is where we gather seed for our midlife crises.
When you are a man lifting your head to inspect your life..., or at least when you are a 42-year-old man in Vegas...., or at least when you are Balthazar..., raising your eyes from the bills you're busy paying; or the emails that bombard your inbox; or when you come up from under the sink where the garbage disposal unit has broken yet again; when you are Balthazar looking up, you see cars. A lot of uber expensive cars. Everywhere.
And when you are Balthazar, you remember the BMW you sold a few years back and how nicely it drove, and how happy you were in that car. But, if you are the good Balthazar, you remind yourself to be content in your downgraded vehicle because you love your family and they are your priority, and you don't admit it, but you are proud to have managed so well given the mighty blows.
But then, if you are Balthazar, driving along in your perfectly reasonable downgraded vehicle, another Porsche flies by, and then another, and then a Ferrari, and maybe a Mustang.
Your sighs become audible.
After several months, you find yourself looking past the shiny paint and gleaming fenders, into the dark tinted windows, to discover just who it is driving these cars, if it isn't you, Balthazar.
Dropping The Storm off at school one morning, a Porsche pulls into the kiss-n-ride behind you, and you recognize the driver from another Porsche you saw earlier in the week. You begin to see him more often. At the grocery store. The soccer field. Then he is beside you at the pool, his bombshell of a wife laid out in a lounge chair, scowling furiously; his children, the same age as yours, whining and fighting on deck. He looks tired, beaten. He's hung over, you want to tell yourself, from the incredible party he hosted the evening prior.
Several weeks later, you come across him inside the pages of a glossy magazine. The article boasts of his success as the owner of a big business on the strip, as well as his plethora of cars, an "impressive collection, including three Porsches." If you are Balthazar, you read his story, and you begin to question your own choices--different choices, good choices, but choices not so lucrative.
"But, he isn't happy," says your wife--who would love nothing more than to have a brand new car, wrapped in a big shiny bow, parked in the driveway for you for Father's Day, because, Damn! You deserve it, Mister!
And something in the way his children were tantruming so fiercely that day, poolside; the body language of his buxom wife; something in his own audible sigh tells you this is true. And you realize it so thoroughly that you speak it out loud. "You're right. He isn't happy."
And, if you are Balthazar, you can hear your wife sigh, also audibly, in relief.