Chapter 5: School of Thought
When I started dating him, Chandler had amassed quite a resume of hobbies, none of them with a very long tenure. Like phases of life, he dove headfirst into one, and just when he seemed to be comfortable with it, he left it and immersed himself in another. I should have taken this as a warning sign of his “life gestalt”, but I didn’t.
There were the model trains he had in his basement on a custom-built landscape that took up well over the size of a pool table. He spent many afternoons telling me all about each engine and car — they were all HOn3-scale, don’t-you-know — and then he moved on to the landscaping pieces. I helped as I could, but my trees were never quite natural enough and my proposed track routes were always “not optimal”. But, he kept at it for months, until he abruptly covered HOn3-town with an old sheet and took up golf.
Several hundred dollars later, his car boot was filled with new clubs, bag, shoes, gloves and all sorts of smaller golf paraphernalia that I never knew existed. I was not at all interested in joining him in this latest passion, but he saw that as a plus: I could drive the cart. Which, I admit, was fun. He signed up for lessons with a pro, and proudly posted his improving scorecards on his refrigerator door. One weekend I was invited on a trip to a lush course several hours from home with some college girlfriends of mine, several of whom were good golfers. We had a blast, but when I came home and showed Chandler my scorecard, his face belied his words of pride in my accomplishment. That weekend, one of the few times I’ve played the sport, I beat every single one of his scores. Yep, he gave up golf the next week. Sold his clubs on craigslist.
In another unique twist, he took up the french horn. He came home from work one day with a rented horn from the local music shop, proudly played a few notes and proclaimed he was taking up the instrument once more after a long post-high school hiatus. I’m not sure how he played in high school, but “Chandler the French Horn Player, Version II” was not very good. Admittedly he’d lost his embouchure and would get (some of) it back, but it was taxing on the ears when he practiced. I encouraged him though, and after a few months he’d built up the confidence to audition for a brass group in town that was always looking for new players. He felt he’d auditioned well, but was dismayed to be placed in the lowest possible part, playing the same small collection of low-register notes in varying rhythms. He played with the group at a 4th of July bash, but after that the horn went back to the music shop and he went looking for another hobby.
Not long after, we stood in front of the largest tropical fish tank in the pet store around the corner from his apartment. Chandler was mesmerized by the array of fish in the tank, and I admit I was taken in by the plant life gently swirling in the artificial current, amid corals of the brightest … well … coral color. Hand on hip, he cocked his head to the side and said, “Yep, I can do this. We can put a tank like this in my living room.” I chuckled a bit and might have even scoffed.
Clearly offended, he said, “What?”
I continued, “Well, I think it’s a lot of work. Are you sure you’re up for the intensity and focus I’m sure this takes?”
“Are you saying I can’t focus?”
“No, all I’m saying is this takes daily care. Kind of like having kids.” I’m not sure why I’d said that, and I’m sure experienced parents would smack me for making the comparison, but I was trying to make a point. I continued, trying to dig myself out of a bit of a hole, “I know that when I have kids someday it’ll take a lot more effort than I think it’ll take.”
“Wait, kids? You want … kids?”
Damn. I really stepped into it. “You … don’t?”
“No, I don’t,” he said flatly.
His attention returned to the fish tank. I started chewing my fingernails, a nasty habit I relied on whenever I felt uneasy. I wandered a few aisles over to the bird cages, watching the colorful cockatiels and parrots flit from one end of their sanctuary to the other. They were mesmerizing, but they couldn’t distract me from what I felt was the biggest incompatibility between us, a disagreement about whether to have kids. Chandler’s voice broke me out of my trance. He was over at the cash register with a cart full of tropical fish essentials. He’d get his damn fish, I thought, and we’d see just how long they’d last before getting flushed. I gave ’em three months in my mind just then.
They lasted two.
This story is part of a series of stories I’m writing as part of a commitment to sketch each day of 2016. My #365daydraw project yields an image each month, by popular choice, to serve as inspiration for each chapter.
Read more about my #365daydraw challenge