I was in a sorry bar in Orlando, Florida, drinking beers, minding my business. I was pounding on the drinks because I knew there’s no tomorrow. Then this guy next to me felt he needed to talk. I didn’t care.
He soon told me he was working for Mickey or the NBA or whatever.
“How is that going?” I asked him.
He was happy I asked.
“Money is so-so but it’s steady,” he said, beaming, as if I was supposed to be impressed.
You’re working for Mickey, for Christ’s sake, what do you expect? But I kept my thoughts to myself. I didn’t care.
What the fuck was I doing in Orlando again?
Anyway, this guy felt compelled to tell me about his wife.
And he was eager for my opinion.
“You’re married?” he asked me.
He had pissed me off already so, for some reason, I answered him.
“Back then, I was a French military officer and I was stationed in a French base in the Sahara desert, in Africa,” I started.
At the time, things weren’t going too well with the wife, the uniform’s seduction long gone. At first she had liked the officers’ parties, the officers’ balls, she felt important, and people had manners and could dance and I was getting lucky the way I liked it. But, once married, we had a child, a girl, and my wife didn’t like so much the moving around, from base camp to base camp. And I could do my bunk better than she could clean the house. And it’s true, military life can be boring.
Anyway, we were in Africa and, while on leave, I took my family in town for a few days of shopping and fun and civilization, some 150 miles away or so from base through the desert. I thought I was being nice. She spent the time in the city bitching, there was always something wrong. Ok, I knew this was not Paris, she didn’t have to remind me all the time. Anyway, I didn’t pay no mind to her bitching anymore, I was used to it, but it still wore on me.
Well, we were on our way back to base when we came to an ‘oued’, a dried river bed, more like a valley in this case. I was about to engage into it, a 30 to 45 minutes ride through I had done several times, when I saw rivulets of water.
“We have to go back to town and come back tomorrow or the next day,” I told the wife.
“Why?” she asked.
“Rivulets of water,” I said. “Look there.”
She got angry, like usual.
“I’m so fucking tired of this dusty town,” she said, “and I’m tired of this dusty desert and I’m tired of it all. More importantly, I’m tired of you always being so fucking precious and careful. Cross the goddam ‘oued’ and let us go home. I mean, who’s scared of crossing an oued? We’re in the fucking desert for Christ’s sake, what kind of man are you? You’ll be the joke of the whole regiment, trust me.”
She meant it and I knew all too much already about her threats. Me, I thought it wasn’t given to anyone to be able to drive in the Sahara. I liked it when I was passing by a caravan, seeing these guys crossing the desert on foot and they’d wave at us. I thought there was poetry in the desert but my wife didn’t give a hoot about poetry and it bored her when I talked about my feelings. The child was playing on her gameboy games in the back of the car, mindless of camels and caravans.
I imagined going back to town having to spend the next 24 or 48 hours with the wife bitching in the hotel room. The mere thought of it tired me.
“Daddy, are we going home?” my girl asked.
“Fine,” I said, and I drove down the ‘oued’.
I saw the wall of water and mud coming down on us and I tried to race it. I really tried and it was almost. My wife was screaming and my kid too but, before we knew it, my 4×4 car was swept like a wisp of straw. Because I was trained military, I survived.
After a moment of silence, the Mickey guy asked me: “so, what’s your point?”
Shit, why don’t you work at Cape Canaveral, I thought? Be an engineer or something.
“See,” I said, “This, to men, is a typical lose-lose situation. Had I listened to my instinct, all would have been saved but I would have gotten hell from the wife for a couple of days – and more – and she would have made me pay for it and she would have never known I was right. Now she knows I was right but she’s too dead to talk about it.”
So I told Droopy: “Now, what is it again you wanted to tell me about your wife?”
First published on February 9, 2015. New edit.