“I want to go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum this weekend,” I said, putting my checkbook down, half-balanced as usual. “I’ve never been, but on the radio this morning they were talking about it, and it sounded really cool. This batty old lady had an art fetish, and built a house to put it all in. Except she had too much for the house, and every surface is covered with paintings and sculptures. Supposed to be really beautiful, in a weird sorta way.”

He grunted, not even looking away from his computer monitor. I couldn’t even tell what he was doing — was it a video game? A chat screen? Or just a control panel, tweaking arcane settings that for all I knew altered the world’s weather patterns…. “Whatever,” he quipped. I knew he didn’t want to go. But I couldn’t take the uncertainty any longer. I had to know more.

“Don’t you ever want to do anything with your life that isn’t all about computers? You go to work, and work on one all day. You come home, and you get right back onto one. Or you play video games. Or you want to go to some action movie.” I really started to get into it, pacing and waving my arms like a madwoman on speed. “What happened to art? To poetry? Haven’t you ever wanted to better yourself, to learn something new, that isn’t technical in nature? What about music? I bought you that trombone and you’ve barely touched it, maybe 5 times total.” I held my arm out, suspended like a marionette, fearing the response I would get.

“No. I’m happy doing what I’m doing. I don’t want to explore new things. I’m satisfied in life. You go do what you want. I’ll be right over here.” He didn’t even look away from his computer screen. Or maybe he did, but I just can’t imagine it. Even now, the image of the back of his curly head, the back of a tie-dyed or white T-shirt, and the small swivel chair is easier to remember than his face.

I stuttered, unable to express the many emotions I felt right then. I wanted to convince him to not give up, to keep striving to learn new things. I wanted to run away, disappointed that relationship hadn’t turned out to be what I was looking for. I wanted to cry, to shout, to scream, to run around…and in the end I just said “OK. I understand.” I picked up the checkbook to finish balancing its slippery numbers. They slid off my fingers, into a calculator, and fell out onto the checkbook in a pile of black squiggles.

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