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The Real Homer

JOHN MINICHILLO

My wife left me for a guy who works at the nuclear power plant. That’s all I know about him, the only description she’s given me, plopped down as an aside in an otherwise business-like e-mail, as if this were some irony we might share and laugh about. These days I browse Internet dating sites and come across the personal profiles of women like my ex. And I feel like I’m being scolded all over again: “Must have his priorities straight” (TitansGirl1977), “His feet planted firmly on the ground” (RaspberryBlu), “No slackers need apply”(LuvinLifeat32), “I want my man working toward a better world” (QT4U), “no starving artists please” (NashVegas11) “I need a man who’s REAL!!!” (LilTigerLilly). I sometimes think these women are sending out coded calls for doctors, lawyers, and bank managers, but it’s probably more a personality-type they’re after: organized, disciplined, serious, driven, fit, tall. They want men who live in the material world, comfortable with the time clock lifestyle handed down for generations.

Me? I’m an escapist. I don’t put it on my Internet dating profile because I don’t want to scare off all the women, but it’s true. I have the uncanny ability to not see or recognize the unpleasant details in my own life. So I knew the divorce was coming, but I was also somehow surprised.

Before we were married, by a non-denominational preacher who was our age and a friend-of-a-friend, the preacher gave us the advice that as married people we could hurt each other easily and deeply. I kicked that around in my head for years and avoided conflicts. But divorce isn’t always throwing plates and screaming. Or storming out of the house. Or sleeping on the couch. Divorce is sometimes lukewarm and uncaring. You invest yourself in someone and one day they just quit. They don’t always tell you they’ve quit, so you go on living your lives together, more distant and damaged, the connection lost or hazy, resentment building, both of you trapped but only occasionally lashing out, and blaming one another silently.

I recently learned my ex’s new address through yet another business-like correspondence. I logged on to Google Maps to look up the satellite photo and my wife not only left me for Homer Simpson and moved in with him, but they live on the access road to the nuclear power plant. I tell this part of the story to the women on the dating sites, as a way of saying, yes, she left me, but she’s the crazy one. It’s not a period of my life anymore, but a story. Something I tell single women when I’m trying to get them to date me. But it’s also more than a story; it’s true. And my ex is an escapist too, not seeing the cooling towers on the horizon or the light pollution that blots out stars.





John Minichillo’s work has appeared in Mississippi Review, Third Coast, In Posse and elsewhere. He teaches in Tennessee and is an adviser at Fictionaut.