Note: This is an incomplete working draft of a short story based on John O’Hara’s “Where’s the Game?”
At 42 and single, with no real prospects, people generally hold one of three opinions about your current situation:
1. You must be terribly lonely without a wife and children.
2. You must be a lucky son-of-a-bitch to not have a wife and kids.
3. You must be in the closet. But why be closeted in this day and age? Don’t you know we love you no matter what?
Generally your mother is the only one who thinks the latter, while the other two are widely shared by friends and coworkers. Of course, numbers one and two are simultaneously absolutely true and couldn’t be farther from the truth. There are many nights when you come home to your empty apartment and wish there was someone with you — someone to share a meal with, someone to ask you about your day. When you go to a Caps game and see a father and son bonding over a well-defended power play you know you are missing out on one of the great joys in life.
But then there is the fact that you can maintain the strict order you enjoy so much. You can have your books arranged alphabetically by genre without the threat of someone putting a short story collection with historic novels. The screen of your MacBook Pro can stay polished and free of smudges and sticky jelly fingerprints. There are no bookmarks for “Super Why” games in your browser. You can own an Eames Lounge in Walnut and Ivory without fear of muddy sneakers.
In fact, your quest for order — and your mastery of it — has provided you with the opportunity to live in a veritable design showroom of Hermann Miller and Le Corbusier white, glass and steal. Everything in the apartment is clean lines and sharp corners all arranged just so. The fact that you have no dependents and a healthy mother with a decent enough inheritance means you could can afford these trappings of luxury even on a salary that is by no means extravagant.
When, after spending an entire Sunday finishing a dense novel and listening to the latest Decemberists album, you come into work and hear your coworkers complaining about their sick or seemingly demonic children you get the idea that you have it pretty good — that you won out in the end.