(other chapters can be found scattered throughout blog)
Seeing him in my doorway I knew that he was a stranger, but still I was filled with want of him; my heart ached and did not abide the mind. I was suddenly filled with panic, dreading the possibility of actually learning some measure of his truth. My arm, entirely on its own, moved to swing the door shut, but he anticipated this and put his shoulder forward, the door bounced off of him. There was nothing left to do but to let go and let him inside. I walked away towards the bed signaling him to enter. He stepped forward; his tall lean frame seemed to have lost a foot of stature as he crossed the threshold of my room. Before anything could be said and against every rational inclination in my body, I knew that I would forgive him. It was a sentiment very contrary to what I ought to have been feeling, but I consoled myself with the thought that if there was anything that could serve as indisputable proof of true love, it was my willingness to forgive. Seeing him in distress completely overtook my own hurting and left little room for any thoughts in me other than those of reconciliation. He looked at me with guilty eyes for what felt like hours, but was probably only a moment, then finally spoke.
“Charlie, I’ve been so worried, I thought something had happened to you… I reported you missing to the police yesterday.”
“I have been here, Matt.” I padded my voice with indifference, hiding. I knew it was all over, but knowing that I would forgive him did not relieve me of my anger, it exasperated it. Punishment was not to be forgone. There was so much I wanted to say, so much scorn had accumulated in me over these past days and I just wanted to scream into his face until he understood me. There was a cannon ball in my gut and I couldn’t wait to hurl it at him. But above all, despite everything he did, I simply wanted to confide in him. The comedy of this was not lost on me. I felt like a lamb, which, having been mauled by a lion, seeks her assailant’s ear to complain of the wounds. He was my best friend, the one person with whom I had shared every detail of my life, with whom I foresaw all of my tomorrows, not being able to talk to him was perhaps the most trying element of the whole ordeal.
“Your parents have been worried sick too, I have been so sick about this, so mortified Charlie.”
I shrugged and sat onto the bed, reclining against the backboard. With him standing as he was, sheepish and small, I suddenly was calm. Stupidly, I then thought I had the upper hand. For a moment I relished it. A woman scorned seated before her licentious remorseful husband about to beg her forgiveness, it was the stuff of novels.
‘You are right.” He stammered “I don’t know why I am telling you this, it’s not important.” He paused as if he just didn’t have the words, then continued.
“I can’t tell you how relieved, how…. happy I am that you are ok, you have no idea, haven’t slept in three days, I am just so happy you are okay, I was so worried, I could never forgive myself, if something had happened to you, never “
He was talking fast; repeating himself, like a hamster caught in a wheel. I could tell that his nerves were getting the best of him, I smelled the blood, and pounced. The lamb became the lion.
“Something did happen to me” I echoed my thoughts with my words. “I don’t care. I don’t care that you are happy, or that you are apparently capable of some measure of guilt. I don’t care that you haven’t slept and no, Matt, I am not ok, you think I am ok? THIS is ok? You must be delusional as well as soulless and disgusting, Matt”
I liked saying his name. During our five year relationship we had always used terms of endearment when addressing each other, but now his name bounced off my tongue like rubber bullet.
“I am sorry, Lolly……”
“No!” I jumped up as if the bed had burst into flames.
“No! You don’t call me Lolly, you don’t call me anything, I don’t want to hear my name from your mouth.” All that calm I was feeling had vanished, I was livid and not in control.
I glared at him, a million things I wanted to say swirled in my mind but before I had a chance to speak again, he started walking over to me. Tears poured out and down my face, angry and mad for having lost my composure I put my hands over my eyes and broke into sobs. Hiding my face in my palms, I was, again, completely lost. All the things I wanted to say receded into an inaccessible corner of my mind and I couldn’t reach them anymore. Just one sentence hung in their place and I repeated it over and over.
“How could you. How could you. How? How?”
I felt something on my legs and looked down, through my fingers I saw him, having quietly gotten to his knees he was closing his arms around mine. I didn’t fight it. He pressed his face into my legs. We stood like that for at least a minute, slowly a new wave of calm washed over me. I wasn’t choking on tears any longer. The chaos of emotion I felt had obligingly compacted itself into a neat oppressive sadness and it hung over us like a black cloud. Finally he whispered into my knees.
“Lolli, there are no words, no words which could tell you how aware I am of what I have done…what I have done to you, to us. What I have done to us, how sorry I am.”
He released my legs but remained in front of me on his knees with his head hung low. I braced myself for an explanation. He didn’t lift his eyes, it was as if he was afraid to look into my face, but I wanted him to see me.
“Look at me.”
He looked up, his eyes were glossy like someone had brushed a coat of varnish across his face. I had never before seen my husband cry, it was as strange as the rest of it.
He got up off of the floor and took my hands into his, gripping them tightly and looking into my eyes, directly and intently for the first time since he entered.
“I don’t expect that you will ever forgive me, I am not asking that you do, but please know how profoundly I regret the way things happened.”
‘The way things happened” I thought. What does that mean, was there another way for “things” to happen? He spoke to me like I was a child, stressing each word as if to make sure that I register his exact meaning. With my hands still tightly pressed between his I started to feel dizzy.
It wasn’t right. He wasn’t begging my forgiveness. If he wasn’t begging my forgiveness then what was he doing? What was happening? Dizziness became nausea.
“I moved all my things out, please come back to the apartment, it’s all yours, I want you to have it. Lolli, I am so sorry, I am.“
“What?” I slid my hands out of his and backed away.
“What are you saying?” I was beginning to grasp what was happening, and it was a whole new kind of terrible. I realized then that through all this it had never occurred to me that he might actually want out. Never did I think past my own indignation to what his prerogative might be. This wasn’t a gash, it wasn’t a wound, this was an amputation.
“What are you saying?” I exhaled.
“I moved out Charlie, so you can come home, keep the apartment.”
“You moved out? Just like that? What?” He used to say that Love was the lost shocking act, but no, this was. It was his last shocking act. I could not believe it, it was unbelievable and horrible, it was so much more horrible than the girl ever was.
“You deserve better, I wanted you to have your home back.”
“What are you talking about?! You aren’t even fighting for me, not even trying…not for us?”
“I broke us. I know it can’t be fixed. I don’t deserve you and you deserve better, I don’t expect you to ever forgive me.”
It was like a bomb had exploded at my feet.
“Bullshit!” I screamed “ Bullshit! You are a liar! You don’t deserve me? I won’t forgive you? How the fuck would you know? Did you ask? How dare you give me this textbook crap, you, self-indulgent piece of shit. You are going to stand there and tell me that it’s the right thing, that I am too good for you, that this is not a choice you are making?! All noble and self sacrificial, how dare you?! How dare you, at least be a man and say it, scumbag! I understand it now. I do. You’re done, I am nothing to you. But this didn’t just happen right? You have been lying to me for how long now? Giving no indication of this, you didn’t prepare me, you didn’t do anything for me, you act like you care, but you did nothing to prepare me, to let this being anything other than a shock? Because why that might be distressing huh? It might get tense before you are ready. You have done what you needed for you, and now you’re tearing my heart out because it suits what you want. You are dirt. I don’t even know who you are?!”
I went on, losing myself completely in a burning venomous tirade. I dragged up everything I could think of that could hurt him. I didn’t even believe most of what I was saying, but I wanted to get him so bad I aimed for the jugular, vicious and unrestrained.
He stared at me gravely, taking in the barrage of my mutated heartbreak.
“How can you do this, tell the truth Matt, tell the truth!” A new wave of tears poured out of my eyes as my screaming turned into a plea, my heart had broken.
He stayed silent.
“Tell the truth!” I caught my reflection in the wall mirror and didn’t recognize myself. My face was so swollen from crying it looked like it had been rearranged. It struck me as being so impossibly ugly that I wondered for a second how he could have ever wanted to be with me. He didn’t respond, so I went on.
“You are a coward, I loved you with everything in me, no I love you the same even now, even now while you stand there and lie to my face, a cheater and a coward and a liar…and a disgusting human being.”
“I don’t want to do this anymore” He spoke under his breath as if fighting to push the words out.
I couldn’t hear him, but I knew what he had said, I could hear him in my bones.
“Louder, say it!”
“I don’t want to do this anymore, with you, I don’t want to do this.” He said it loud this time and lifted his eyes to meet my anger head on. It was the beginning of honesty.
These were terrible words to hear, but they were the truth. I felt them burrowing through my skin as if looking for a place to settle permanently. Having found it, those words would stay with me for the rest of my life.
“I don’t. I haven’t for a long time, you are right. I didn’t know it, I wasn’t sure, I had hope that it was a passing feeling. I didn’t prepare you because until you walked in I wasn’t prepared. I wish I knew how I felt but I didn’t till right then.”
He paused, asking permission to continue….I stood quieted, granting it.
“I moved out because I hadn’t felt right about things for a long time, I just didn’t have the guts to admit it to myself, and yes I thought that maybe I would get past it, maybe it was just a stage. You are hardly around anyways, I didn’t have to fake much of anything. And yes I am a cheating piece of shit, and I do regret it, I respect myself even less than you respect me right now, but in a way I am relieved, I am relieved you know, as I don’t know that I would have ever had the guts to tell you. And yes I am covering my ass, but still don’t you think you deserve better? Don’t you? I love you and I will always love you in a way, but I haven’t been happy, THIS is not what love should be, not to me, and maybe it’s my fault for not having spoken up, but even if I did when would you have had time to hear it. I am sorry, I am, but I am not happy and this happened because I am not happy, and we both deserve to be….. What happened is a terrible, awful thing, I am a scumbag for letting it happen, but….and I am so sorry to say this, but I am glad it did…..because I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“Go on” I growled.
He looked at me, begging for permission to stop. I couldn’t give it.
“I am sorry, I don’t know what else I can say, I hate myself for hurting you, but I don’t know what else to do. I know promises, vows were made, but I can’t keep lying, we owe it to ourselves to follow our gut, I know it’s hard now but it won’t be with time, and we’ll both have a chance to be happy again.”
“I was happy, I don’t understand when were we unhappy” I wined, dumbfounded by this distance between us. When did this happen, I thought? When did I lose him, how could I have lost a whole person and not noticed? Was he that good a liar, a pretender? Or was I just that blind, that out of touch with my own reality? I thought this must have been a nightmare, just a bad dream, and surely I’d be waking up any second and breathing a sigh of relief.
My knees felt week. I understood completely. To his credit he couldn’t have been more clear. He had hoped that after I found him with her I would be the one to end things, and was surprised that despite everything that happened I still wanted him. But I loved him too much, I loved him through his betrayal and I loved him no less still as he stood in front of me, a liar, a cheater, a coward and now a deserter. I wanted to fall into his arms and seek safety there, like I used to do. I felt pathetic.
I interrupted him raising my hand in protest.
“Leave,” I exhaled the word. I had been turned inside out. An unfamiliar hopelessness filled the room, filled my lungs, my throat. It was much worse than any pain I had ever experienced emotionally or physically. I couldn’t stand having his eyes on me for another moment. But he didn’t move.
“Leave.” I growled for the second time.
He turned around and walked slowly towards the door. His relief was palpable and as hurtful as the rest of it.
“Is it her?” I regretted the words as soon as they came out of my mouth. It shouldn’t have mattered whether he was leaving me for her or if he was just leaving me. I knew it shouldn’t have mattered, but it did matter all the same. I wanted to know, It was pure masochism.
The question stalled him mid motion as he was reaching for the door handle, the hesitation lasted no more than a second, then he turned his head and we locked eyes. His glance obliged me with an answer, a quick curtain of tears rose up in mine, obscuring sight. He proceeded to step out. The door shut behind him with a resounding crack and everything went very quiet. A tangible kind of nothingness filled my body.