“No offense, but you have nothing in your life. If you lost me, what would you really have?” This is what Reuben tells her over the phone on their umpteenth month of geographical separation. It is a tactic he’s using to get her to yield, to, in short, alter her entire identity to meet his relationship needs. They are in an argument, once again, about his child, a little bitch who never seems to age. At least in Raina’s opinion. It’s almost as though the not so blessed spawn was actively working to stay ten years old forever so that she would never have to fend for her goddamn self and leave her father alone. Not that he wanted to be left alone, for it was almost as though he woke up one morning and was hit with lightning bolt epiphany, “I am a father, I must embrace fatherhood.” All to the detriment of Raina, who had been quite clear on her sentiments toward these so-called “creatures of God” from the outset of their relationship. And Reuben had been agreeable enough to the situation. Possibly because, at the time, Raina’s pussy was still new to him, therefore he was more easily manipulable. They had gone on for about a year without the birth defect infiltrating their bubble. She thought they were fine, really, as they were. With Reuben visiting the accursed being once a week and Raina remaining separate from the entire endeavor. Whoever said you couldn’t compartmentalize your life had obviously never seen The Sopranos. Reuben would likely remind that most people in that show died. But it wasn’t because of compartmentalization. If anything, that was what kept them alive longer.
They separated on an average fall day. The grayness and the rain were but par for the course of this mood. Reuben had made his announcement that he could no longer be separated from his spawn in this way, and that he wanted her to come live with him. It was now Raina’s turn to experience the separation. Everything comes back thrice—or, as it is said in The Craft, “Whatever you send out there, you get back times three.” Raina was getting it back times ten from her perspective. The terms of their “trial” separation were nebulous to both of them. With Raina’s only port in the storm—for Reuben’s spawn had effectively smoked her out and rendered her homeless—being Boston. It wasn’t far from New York, but it was a world away at the same time. And she knew it could take her years to ever get back to the city now that she was starting from scratch. Oh the curse of not having your name on a lease. So now, she was forced to move in with her older sister, forty-three to Raina’s thirty-three. Amada was, in fact, closer in age to Reuben’s forty-one. Maybe he picked the wrong sister. Or maybe it was simply never meant to be, even though Reuben had told her one night out of the blue, once everyone had drained out of his apartment after a party he had thrown, “Don’t you see? You’re my match.” And Raina had believed him. Been foolish enough to.
Maybe that was true in the haze of his initial attraction, but now they were diametrically opposed, categorically incompatible. She really did wonder what had changed. Why suddenly Reuben seemed to realize he’d made a huge mistake in choosing bomb ass pussy over a child that, as he said himself, “gave him nothing.” Later, when Raina threw that assessment back in his face, he would add the cheeseball caveat, “But that’s why it’s such a pure love.” Oh Jesus fucking Christ. As if the dynamic between parent and child wasn’t the most transactional of all varietals of “love.” A concept Reuben also deemed a capitalist con anyway. So then why give credence to this love for what amounted to just another capitalist soldier he had brought into the world? Was it merely because of that narcissistic need to “nurture” a carbon copy of one’s own DNA? Raina wasn’t allowed to speculate. Reuben had made that perfectly clear. She was not a parent, therefore she could “never understand.” She had been cordoned on the outside of Reuben’s little club for breeders only. The breeders who liked to make you feel that you were the freak if you didn’t follow the “natural” order. Well, there was nothing natural about it to Raina. Nothing natural about perpetuating this cycle of abuse. And it was abuse on manifold levels—for not only were all parents doomed to psychologically damage their children, but all children were doomed to be another gaping maw sucking on the dried-out titty of Mother Earth.
Her enraged reverie was interrupted when Amada traipsed into the guest room without knocking and demanded, “Are you gonna unpack?” Raina had only been there for roughly four hours. She thought there would be, at the bare minimum, a twenty-four-hour grace period. Then she remembered that Amada had OCD, among other vexing conditions that made her impossible to live with. But still not as impossible to live with as it would be among a sticky-handed spawn. Why, oh why, must everything in life be a choice between a shit sandwich and shit cereal?
Raina didn’t unpack her suitcase for about another month, just to spite Amada. Luckily, Amada’s time-consuming job as a defense attorney kept her out of Raina’s hair for most of the day. And on weekends, Amada would do some kind of “meetup” activity so she could exercise during her off hours like the Type A person she was. All the while, Raina would spend most of her time on the phone, talking to Reuben. They spoke occasionally of one of them visiting the other, but the logistics never seemed to work out. Neither party could furnish a place for them to “be” without the presence of another unwanted body (i.e. Amada or the spawn) and neither could afford the price of getting a hotel or other lodging situation for more than a paltry couple of nights. What was really the point? That was a question Raina found herself asking more and more. What was the point of their relationship? Of dragging out this slow fizzle even longer than it needed to be. Yes, she loved Reuben, but he would argue that she didn’t love him enough and vice versa. Because if she did, then she would “learn to love” the little bitch he created. But if he loved Raina, he would let her exist in a separate realm from the creature. So their arguments would go, in one never-ending circle. It was up to one of them to finally break it sooner or later, especially as there was no opportunity on the horizon for them to see one another, let alone recreate some kind of communal living situation.
So here they were, on another strained phone conversation—the one where Reuben told her she had nothing in her life. Because apparently to have “something,” it needed to be a child. The most “precious gift” a human could give to the Earth (even though, in actuality, it was the exact opposite). She muttered to herself like a crazy person, repeating Reuben’s words in a mimicking fashion, “‘You have nothing in your life.’ Oh yeah? At least I don’t have a fucking spawn! Like I’m the fuckin’ weirdo here for wanting my freedom, for not bringing more parasites to this already drained planet. God, what a fucking asshole.” It did very much annoy her that, somehow, becoming a parent had been deemed a selfless act while those who opted out were called selfish because they never had to care for anything outside of themselves. In Raina’s mind, however, the most selfless thing a person could do was not contribute to the decay with another body. Further still, not be responsible for subjecting a “new life” to the hell that was existence. She went to the bar cart and proceeded to pour herself a bit of vodka. Clear liquids were her only ally. Mercifully, Amada would be gone for the entire weekend—a miraculous coup that permitted Raina the chance for a right proper bender.
The final blow to her emotional wherewithal came the next morning, when Reuben told her that he was going on a week-long trip to the Berkshires with a dear female friend of his who had a house there. Raina was “more than welcome” to come, of course, but she ought to be aware that Reuben was bringing the spawn. Where the hell was this thing’s mother all the time, huh? That’s what Raina wanted to know. Maybe the mother was actually a woman after her own heart, and could hardly wait for any opportunity to be childless. Whatever the case, Raina would not be meeting him in the Berkshires. The last scenario she wanted was one in which she ended up feeling like some sort of fly on the wall as she watched Reuben and Astrid—his close, single friend of almost a decade—play house together because Astrid simply adored the spawn. What was to adore? Some buck teeth and stringy ass hair? It would be more painful than staying away. And so, Reuben was once again given recourse to say it was no one but Raina’s fault that they weren’t together. Not acknowledging that, in order for them to be, one person would have to agree to completely surrender who they were at their core.
In the coming days, Raina would see all manner of social media updates featuring the trio looking like some blissed-out family of the Eisenhower era. “Fucking twats,” she said to no one but Amada’s equally as disturbed cat, who had perched itself on her windowsill in a rare cameo moment.
On their next phone call, when Raina accused him of acting like Astrid was his real “match,” he replied, “I’m not offering her access to anything that I’m not offering to you.” Didn’t he see? That was precisely the problem. He could have been offering intimacy to (or receiving it from) anyone, it didn’t matter if it was Raina. Raina did not matter. That was the bottom line. She was not special to Reuben, and every day that was becoming increasingly clear. She was a distant voice on the phone, occasionally berating him for living his life without her while hers seemed to be on a permanent stalling mode. Thus, the reason why it felt particularly stinging for Reuben to tell her she had nothing. To say, like all other douchebag parents, that you’re nobody until you have a spawn to love you. To achieve that “unconditional” love that everyone searches their whole life for until “unmasking” the secret that is the “miracle” of birth.
Well, Raina’s love was conditional…and the conditions had become too unfathomable for Reuben to adhere to. They let it fall apart at the end of the summer. Raina was fairly certain he had banged Astrid anyway. And though Reuben would go on believing that Raina was the one who had lost something by not “compromising,” Raina would, instead, go on seeing Reuben as nothing more than another prisoner at the mercy of societally manufactured emotions.