Lala and I were having a rare kid-free dinner at a Greek restaurant in Manhattan with our friends Drew and Sue when the topic of movies came up. It had been a busy year and even though we love the sparkly magic of ***image1***cinema, Lala and I hadn't seen many films that didn't involve puppets or animation since before Vince and Jennifer started dating. Drew travels on business a few times a month and, on his recent flight to California, the film Sideways came on. I had seen Sideways and loved it. Not only were the characters real and complex but they were drinking good wine, a concept I believed Trader Joe's had just about crushed with its Few-Buck Upchuck. I don't mean to be a snob but when I go to a party and see boxes with "Charles Shaw" written on them under the bar, I am filled with the goblet of despair.
Anyway, on the flight, Drew liked the movie from the opening scene, which caused him to do something I'd never even heard a man in pants do before.
"I knew Sue would love it," he said, swiftly separating the head of a shrimp from its succulent torso, "so I stopped watching so Sue and I could see it ***image4***together." He smiled and nodded in a way that was only slightly self-congratulatory.
I thought this was awfully nice of him to do, but I didn't consider the mythic proportions of this act since my face was covered in taramasalata, and I was desperate for some octopus tentacles to appear on my plate and carry me back to the beaches of Santorini. I also didn't notice Lala secretly taking notes next to me.
Our arrival back in New Mexico proved more difficult than finding wisdom in a Tara Reid film. Both Poppy and London got the stomach flu in New York and brought it home with them to hurl all over our bedclothes and as we were leaving the airport parking lot in Albuquerque, our minivan window rolled down so I could pay the attendant but wouldn't roll back up. We drove the 60 miles back home dressed like Eskimos in a wind tunnel. Lala says that sometimes it's not worth going away with all the shit you have to deal with coming home. I try not to agree with her and go to the dark side, but this time I wondered given all the gifts waiting to greet us: a broken car, smashed trash can, dunes of laundry and a serious bout of insomnia for yours truly.
Like many people I know, I find it hard to sleep, especially returning to work after a break. I've tried remedies embraced by everyone from vegan Nia instructors to Eminem but most only work for the time it takes to drain an iPod battery. Since I knew I'd be up one night, I thought I might rent a movie to distract me from the giant "to do" list thumbtacked to the inside of my head.
"What are you renting?" Lala asked casually as I was on my way out. She was trying to catch up on her art orders, which had piled up in our absence.
"I don't know," I said. "I'm pretty sure I haven't seen anything in the entire New Releases section. Why?"
She shrugged and turned her head. "It doesn't matter since you wouldn't stop watching a movie so we could see it together like Drew did with Sideways."
***image2***I was totally taken aback by her jab, but knew she was right. It's not that I don't enjoy watching films with Lala; I just feel that those brief intermittent windows of sitting down might be my last chance until the next solstice. Since Lala and I both work full time and share in the sherpa duties for our children, we don't get many chances to take a real break. Even so, I felt like a schlub after that quip and questioned what else I could be doing to be more like Drew.
It just so happened that I had to go back to Manhattan alone a week after Lala dropped the bad husband bomb on me. The three of us were eating take-out in Drew and Sue's apartment. Their kids had gone to bed and we all sagged from fatigue.
"You made me look like crap by dropping that whole Sideways thing, you know," I reminded my pal. I gave him a look that said I thought you had my back, bitch.
He laughed. "Lala made you feel guilty with that?" He glanced at Sue.
She smiled. "Should I tell him the truth?"
He nodded. "Go ahead."
She put her fork down. "Drew likes watching movies with me so I can explain things to him."
"Oh, you know, confusing plot points or subtle nuances in character. Sometimes changes in location. He'll hit the pause button and say, Now why would a guy like that leave a good job for…"
I thought of all the smarty-pants things Drew had done in his life: Georgetown law graduate, corporate lawyer, venture capitalist, founder of companies, leaser of foreign cars. "So you're an idiot?" I said.
"And you made me look like one, too?"
I thought about calling Lala and explaining the whole misunderstanding, but I figured why ruin her dreams for a better me? If she didn't have them, then who the hell would?