I was so mad. I cannot describe how mad I was. Once again, I was standing with the realtor in front of a house for sale, waiting for my husband to show up. He insisted he would be here on time to visit this house. I so wanted to buy this house. But again, he wasn't here. Oh, I knew what he was doing. He was probably saving some passengers from a runaway train, or deflecting a meteorite veering off course towards Earth. How can visiting a house compete with that? I should have known when I married him that this was to be my life. Because, you see, I married a superhero.
I should have known from our first date. He was late. Actually, late cannot describe it. He showed up on my doorstep the next day, apologizing with a bouquet of flowers. To make up for it, he flew me to Paris for dinner. Wow! Can you imagine?
"I really like you," he said. "I can sense a real understanding in you. My life is a little weird, but bear with me. I really want to build something with you, grow old with you, start a family."
How could I not fall for that? I did love him. But did I realize how far my understanding would stretch? In a word, no. But bear, I did.
I went home and prepared dinner, not knowing if he would show up. As I was putting away the leftovers, I heard the garbage cans topple over in the yard.
"Sorry, I'm late." He said as he sauntered in. "I'm going to take a shower and change. Smells great!" He yelled out from the bathroom.
"Rough day?" I asked as he sat at the table and began to wolf down my pot roast.
"Mmmm." He took another serving before he continued. "The flight from Rio to London lost its engines and was spiraling out of control into the Atlantic, and an oil rig exploded in Africa. All in all, not too bad of a day. And you?"
"I saw the realtor today."
"That's right! I'm so sorry, honey. So what did you think?"
I took his plate and quickly washed it. "I've told you before. I love that house."
"Ok. So let's buy it then."
"With what money? Have you forgotten I am the one pulling in the steady paycheck here, and it's not that much?"
"I make good money at the office!" He said indignantly.
"When you're there. You work by commission. I know that job is great because it offers you the freedom to go and save the world, and nobody says anything about your long absences. But do you realize you haven't brought in a paycheck since two months ago?"
"I've been kind of busy!"
"Yes, yes, I know. The train derailment in India, the landslide in Mexico, and let's not forget little Tommy's cat in the tree on Main Street."
My husband looked stricken. He stalked out of the kitchen and opened the television.
The news was on. "There is a hostage situation downtown in the offices of the National Bank. It seems several armed gunmen have barricaded themselves in the vault, along with fifty employees, and are demanding one hundred million dollars . . . "
I looked at my husband. He seemed anguished. I nodded at him. He quickly changed into his super suit and rushed out the door.
"You forgot to take out the trash again!" I yelled at him as he flew away.
Our wedding was very simple. He had flown us to Bora Bora for a nice beach ceremony, just the two of us and a priest. It was all very romantic. Our wedding night was even more spectacular. My husband had set up a huge canopied bed on a deserted cliff by the ocean. We watched the sunset, had champagne and made love all night. It was literally magical. The next day he was called away by Russian officials to help trapped miners. The dreams he had mentioned all those months ago, about building a life together and starting a family, took a backseat after that. It never seemed like the right time to bring those things up. I had even stopped taking my contraceptives without telling him, in the hopes of surprising him with a blue stick. But after months, and then years of nothing, I could not wait any longer.
"I think we need to see a fertility specialist." I said one day. It had been a good day. He was home and was actually cleaning out the gutters. At first, I didn't want to spring a topic like this on him so abruptly, but I felt I did not have a choice. Impending disaster somewhere in the world was always looming.
"What?" He was floating in the air, putting dead leaves in a large plastic bag, and looking down on me.
"You heard what I said. Don't you have super hearing?"
"Yes. I just thought I misunderstood."
"You didn't. I know I'm not being delicate, but we need to see a specialist."
"I didn't know we were trying."
"We've been trying for years. I've had tests done, now it's your turn."
"What do you mean, tests?"
"I mean we need to have your sperm checked. I've set up an appointment for you for next week. I hope you can make it." At that, I turned and walked into the house.
I didn't see much of my husband for the next two weeks. I know he made his appointment because the secretary called me a few days later to set up a follow-up with the specialist to discuss the results. Otherwise, he was busy with an earthquake in California, a tsunami in Samoa, and other minor disasters.
I went about my daily routine, my work as a secretary to an accountant, cleaning house, and laundry. I hated laundry, especially washing my husband's super suits. You could not imagine the stains I had to wash out. Some were extremely difficult, and practically impossible, but it had to be done. It wasn't as if we could afford to buy more. They were custom-made after all. I had a cupboard full of homemade stain removers for almost everything you could imagine, and others you could not. Soot from meteorites? Check. Grease from the space shuttle? Check. Volcano dust? Check. What was this? It looked like vomit, but from what? Oh yeah, that baby he saved from a hijacked car. Urgh!
I finished the laundry and sat quietly at my kitchen table with my coffee and the newspaper. It was Sunday, and I was alone again. I leafed through the community section and something caught my eye, "Does your spouse often abandon you to save the world? Do you feel alone? We are here to help. We are the Support Group for Spouses of Overachievers. Welcome. Fridays at 7h30, St-Thomas Church basement." Did I see right? I sat there contemplating. Maybe I should join a support group. At least I would have someone to talk to. I decided to give it a chance. My husband could certainly qualify as an overachiever in the superhero department, if not at home. I would try it.
The next morning, I got up and got ready for our follow-up appointment with the fertility specialist. My husband left early to take care of some twister in Oklahoma, but assured me that he would make it.
I arrived at the specialist's office, and there he was. My husband was sitting in the waiting room, all cleaned up in his brown suit he wore for his ‘other' job. We were called into the doctor's office. I was very nervous. And I saw something that I never thought I would see. My husband was nervous too. And I realized for the first time that for all my husband's super powers, he could feel fear, not often, but sometimes, in moments like this. Being a superhero didn't make him perfect.
The doctor sat and opened the file. He looked at us over his glasses and frowned. Oh no, I thought. What's wrong? I could see that my husband was thinking the same thing.
"It seems there's. . . . nothing wrong." The doctor said.
"I don't understand." I said. "Then why can't I get pregnant?"
"It happens sometimes. Just nature's way of doing things the way she wants to. All the tests came back negative and basically, normal."
He then explained how stress and other factors could sometimes affect fertility. We should relax, he said, it would happen one day.
We left his office. I didn't know what to say. Actually part of me had wished that my not getting pregnant would be my husband's fault. For some reason I wanted him to be at fault for something, other than not taking the trash out when I asked. I had wanted to have the permission to tell him that his superpowers meant nothing, if he couldn't father a child. I wanted to feel sanctimonious and superior for once. But all that was gone now. And it actually seemed ridiculous and petty.
We drove home in silence. I went into the kitchen to prepare a small lunch. My husband just sat on the couch and opened the television. He did it without thinking. I could hear the news blaring. I heard the police sirens from far away, while at the same time the news anchor was announcing some police intervention gone wrong somewhere. I walked into the living room and saw my husband still sitting there, ignoring the sirens. I stood for a little while wondering when he would get up and go do his thing. But he wasn't. And the news anchor was saying that several people were hurt and the police could not contain the situation, etc, etc . . . .
"Aren't you going? Those people need you." I said. And for a second I couldn't believe I actually said it.
He got up slowly and turned to look at me. He looked so sad.
"I'm sorry." He said, and he flew off.
I thought I would feel upset again, as I usually do, but I didn't. I realized another thing. Other people needed my husband more than I did. But he needed me. He needed to know that I was there for him.
I decided that I would still go to the support group meeting. I went to St-Thomas Church and walked into a room full of people milling around, setting up chairs in front of the small podium at one end. I was approached by a small woman, middle-aged and round. She had a round pink face and sparkling blue eyes surrounded by whitening wispy hair. She was the typical version of a sweet grandma who bakes cookies all day. I instantly liked her.
"Helloooo, welcome. I haven't seen you before, so I assume you are new. I've been coming to these for years, what, almost fifteen now! Oh my! So long." She giggled. I couldn't help but laugh too.
"Come my dear. What is your name?" She took my arm and led me to some chairs.
"Sarah W . . . "
"No, no, just first names, Sarah. We must keep our anonymity. My name is Deborah."
We shook hands and sat down.
"You've come on a good day. We have a special speaker tonight. The head of our organization is here. We have chapters all over the country, mostly in big cities. She's actually a famous reporter in her own right, which is good, not many of us are so lucky."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that some of us do not have great careers to occupy us while our husbands are ‘away'." She winked at me.
"Yes, dear. Away. Saving the world." She answered matter-of-factly.
"Ah, a metaphor for ‘never being home'." I say, alarm bells ringing in my head.
"Mmm. If you like." And she winked at me again.
I was stunned. Was Deborah really alluding to what I though she was alluding to? Were there really others like me in this room tonight, with superhero husbands?
"Oh! There's Steve!" Deborah pointed to an elderly man taking his seat. Despite his advanced age, he stood tall and straight. He was still a handsome man. He nodded at Deborah from across the room.
"He was in the last World War, you know. He fought Nazis!"
I looked around the room. Most of the people attending were women, but I did notice a few men scattered here and there in the audience.
"You look surprised." Deborah whispered. "Hmm. It isn't as common, I know. But Diana, Steve's wife, is quite the ‘overachiever'."
There was a sudden hush in the room as everyone took to their seats.
"She's here. It's going to begin. Don't worry dear," she said noticing my anxiety. "We're all in the same boat here."
A tall woman in a sharp cream-colored business suit appeared by the podium. She was stunning. She had dark long hair and the whitest skin I had ever seen. Her eyes were green and she scanned the audience seriously before leaning over the microphone. "Hello St-Thomas chapter. My name is Lois . . . "