There are many ways to say I love you.
There are many ways to say I care about you.
Many ways, many ways,
Many ways to say I love you.
Fred Rogers, There are Many Ways
Daniel sits in his car, keys in the ignition, eyebrows furrowed, thinking. Is it really as simple as that? I didn’t need a degree to learn programming, but I feel like I need one to show “passion” to my wife. How pathetic is that? Pathetic! You are pathetic!
He tries to picture “passion”. He scans his memory for scenes of passion. He thinks of movies, tv, and books. He carefully considers famous smooches: Rett and Scarlet (Gone with the Wind), George and Mary (It’s a Wonderful Life), Maverick and Charlie (Top Gun), Ross and Rachel (Friends). What do they all have in common? What makes it passion? How do they just seem to know what to do?
This is Daniel’s problem: knowing what to do. He thinks that if he can just learn all the right moves and words that he will be passionate. He pores over romantic films hoping to figure it out. He watches Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Tom Cruise, and Richard Gere, hoping to learn the secrets of passion and romance. But when it’s time for action, he freezes.
Daniel turns the key and his Nissan Sentra whirs to life.
Driving home, Daniel is agonizing over Dr. Collins’ instructions for the week. Find a way to show her you love her. She needs your passion, man. Sweep her off her feet any way you can. AARRRGH!!
Daniel isn’t truly passionate about anything, although he believes he is. He considers himself passionate about two things: singing and work, but the truth is, he’s really just obsessed with them. Obsession, unfortunately for him, does not usually translate into romance.
The closer he gets to home, the more anxious Daniel becomes. He begins clapping. Daniel has discovered that if he claps in just the right way it makes a really satisfying “crack”. He steers with his knees working to get as many perfect claps in a row as he can. Crack! Crack! Crack! Thud! Crack! Thud! Crack! Crack! Crack! Crack! Crack! He wonders what other drivers think if they see him performing this clapping ritual. Maybe they’ll think I’m listening to gospel music or something? At some point during this ritual, it will occur to him that recording studios must look for really good clappers for bands that need rhythmic clapping on a particular track. You know, you can’t just get anyone and expect the rhythm and tone to be consistent. They must keep a few clappers on retainer. He imagines a band trying to do their own clapping for a song and failing miserably while the producer is trying to get Danny “The Clapmaster” Roberts on the line. “I don’t care what it takes,” the producer would scream, “just get him in here. Offer him anything he wants!”
Next thing Daniel knows he is pulling into his driveway, unprepared for passion.
Daniel lives with his wife and two children in a 3-bedroom rent house near Dallas, TX. It is a modest house for this modest man who can’t muster the courage to buy a house despite his not-so-modest income and his not-so-modest wife. Until recently, Daniel’s career as an IT consultant had been a brilliant success story. He went from being a frustrated, poor music teacher to becoming an up-and-coming consultant in a matter of months. Within his first year of consulting, he managed to triple his income and help bring his company, three new contracts worth in the ballpark of four million dollars each and he’s not even in the sales department. The senior sales associate had said of Daniel, “If we just had 100 more Daniels, all our troubles would be over.”
Daniel is considered by many to have “married up”. Ashley Roberts, even after bearing two children (one of them an eleven-pounder), is a sensuous, shapely, tightly put together woman. She’s what the guys at the gym she works out in every weekday morning call a MILF. She has wavy, brown hair with natural highlights that other women pay hundreds of dollars to emulate. Her petite, nicely curved hips swing so hard when she walks that Daniel wonders how she doesn’t injure herself. Her nose is small and perfectly formed. Her eyes are a cool, pale blue and playful. Her lips, understated and smooth.
Ashley is the only person, other than Daniel’s parents, who can still describe his eyes. If you ask anyone else, they could not tell you anything about his eyes except possibly that they don’t look at you. Now, she is waiting anxiously in their rented kitchen for him to come home and share his progress with her, eyes staring blankly at the ceramic tile counter top.
“Well? How was it?” asks Ashley as she leans against the kitchen counter avoiding Daniel’s embrace. Daniel knows that she has her guard up because of the things he said to her after his last session. Among other things, he had accused her of controlling his life.
For a brief moment, he imagines himself taking her in his arms while she trembles with desire. “Great.” Great is Daniel’s canned response to any question that requires him to report the status of his feelings or progress on anything. Daniel is quiet and thoughtful, a rare but alarming mood for him. He is usually loud and thoughtless with her, not just talkative, but loud. Daniel’s voice, trained to fill a concert hall, is both like thunder to a small child and an air horn to the guy who sits in front of the “air horn guy” at the football game.
Ashley’s body is rigid and closed off to him. He can see that she is afraid, and he feels a twinge of resentment. She is alarmed because Daniel always gets quiet like this when he’s going to make a big announcement that will cause her pain or confusion. He was quiet before telling her that he might still be in love with his girlfriend from summer music camp. He was quiet before telling her that he might be going on the road for 5 months with a semi-professional early music ensemble. “Semi-professional! It’s bad enough that you would leave me here with the kids for 5 months, but semi-professional? What does that mean? You pass a hat at the end of the show?” He was especially quiet before he announced that his company was going to put him on the bench for a while until he could work out some of his “personal issues”. But, Daniel does not have a bombshell to drop this time. He has nothing, in fact, as he lets his intentions of passion slowly drain from his mind, hanging around him like a fog.
During Daniel’s first visit to the counseling clinic, Dr. Collins had written three things on his evaluation form: depression, anxiety, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Since that visit, Daniel has read four books, Google’d countless hours, and has become the moderator of an online forum for OCD sufferers.
“Dr. Collins called me a ratfucker,” says Daniel in a very matter-of-fact tone.