by Bonnie Lass
Memories of a lost love
That year, Florida experienced an early cool spell. And just like that, summer fell into fall and we fell deeper in love. There was a noticeable, but not uncomfortable chill in the air. It was great for snuggling and cuddling. Romance blossomed. Perhaps we were flowing backwards. Instead of romance and passion in the beginning that might have faded quickly, we were meant to grow into it. It seemed very likely. Mostly, I had become accustomed to that idea, and grown familiar and happy with it. Everyone else had done so as well. Harry, my daughter and I were so content with the life we shared. I don’t think I had had that kind of peace and fulfillment since Daddy died. And I don’t think Harry had either, despite the fact that he had come from the good life. The changes in him were obvious. He looked and sounded like he felt, contented. There was a new bounce in his step. He, himself had said, often enough that he had been looking for something different, something that he had somehow known was missing. He had found it, and it was evident in everything about him. I can still remember the peaceful, happy look on his face, the warm glow in his eyes. Knowing that he was in such a happy state still fills me with joy. Knowing I was the reason makes me very grateful. |
Summer waned and autumn tip toed in. Slow and easy, like the way of life we had embraced. One would think that we would have missed the summer and the fun things that summer brings. But we did not. With the change of season, there was a change within me. I was finally able to accept that sometimes we had to let go of people and things in our past to make space for the new. The other man I had loved so fervently might have to take second place to a life of love and contentment with the new man. I wrestled with it in my head and heart. I shed many tears, and knew I would shed many more. But I came to a place where I could go on. I could do it. There were two exceptions. One was my mother who idolized my daughter. She was her happiness. I wasn’t entirely sure that I could rob her of that joy. It would rip her apart. The other was my daughter’s father, who I did love and knew full well what our leaving would do to him. I had given all to him, but his love for me had cost him nearly everything. I wanted my daughter and I to go forward with Harry; I just didn’t want to have to leave them behind. When and if the moment of truth came, and it became increasingly clear that it would, some doubt crept in. I would sometimes wonder if I thought about it hard enough whether I really could do it. Future, permanence, moves, all those commitment words were bandied about a lot more frequently. We were still flirting with the ideas, nothing solid---yet. But it loomed ahead like a beautiful dream or a horrible nightmare, depending when you caught me. There were times when I was a bit restless. I’d gone from a day speeding on the highway with Jacinto to a slow ride in the country with Harry. As time passed, I grew quite fond of the scenic route.
There was a surety that Harry would provide well for us in life and in love. He would never allow us to do without and he would never allow me to feel unloved. No doubt, he would care for us, protect us, and keep us safe from all the downsides of life. He would awaken us and comfort us from our nightmares. My daughter and the children we would have together would have a great example. They were already pictures in my mind and in my heart. Harry would remain steadfast and once vows were exchanged there was no way either of us would dishonor them. I had already sworn to love him and cherish him for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. It was a certainty that he had done the same. Saying I do was just a formality. I knew, I was sure, we would last an eternity.
Both of us loved the fall, but suddenly autumn was better than ever. Finally, even we had to shed our shorts (a shame, Harry loved me in shorts) and slip into jeans. We both longed for a fire place. Maybe one day. It was wonderful dreaming with Harry, he made it all seem possible. I was always if and he was always when. I still had my doubts about our future, me fitting into his life, his world. But he was making a believer of me, slowly but surely. And although, it was scary, it was so good to think that I could believe again. Those cool, crisp evenings with Harry were remarkable. FL really has no seasonal changes, but the colors of our relationship changed, unfolding hues of scarlet, umber, orange and gold. Those warm times of fall colors came to symbolize what we had, and the carpet of love crunched under our feet. If we closed our eyes, we could almost smell the pungent smoke of a fire, not far away. We heard the laughter from a horse drawn hay wagon. The feel of flannel was soft to our skins. We were autumn, and although it was hard to imagine anyone loving that as much as I, Harry did. I can still see him smiling at the thought of those things we held so dear. There was a warm glow about us and around us. That season was so comforting and re assuring, I began to look forward to every fall with Harry. It was when we really became “we”. The season suited us and we became even more comfortable with each other. Our bond became tighter. It was never going to be easy thinking of leaving people and places behind. But I think I finally was ready to do whatever it took to be with Harry. One thing about Harry, he never, ever gave me any reason to doubt him or his love. I knew he would never cheat, never hurt me, and never leave me without reason. All he expected was my love and my fidelity. That was easy. He made it so darn easy. I loved him, oh how I loved him, and I could never hurt him intentionally in any way. There was no desire to even look anymore. I had found the perfect man for me. I had found Mr. Right. I knew I could never have enough of him or being with him. We had discussed marriage but neither of us was ready to take the plunge. However, I knew Harry had added that into his long term plans. I wanted to be his wife, his family. And I knew, I just knew that somehow we would share a beautiful life together. I often didn’t want to let myself believe it, but the future was very clear for us both. We didn’t have to discuss it or plan it. We knew. Without speaking it, we just knew. I had fallen in love with him and my heart had revolted. Once I knew he was also in love with me, the rebellion was over. I would follow him anywhere. I was no longer clinging to obligations and responsibility that had bound me so tightly. I had stepped through the fog. The road was now clear.
Harry had befriended a young, married couple in his complex. He wanted me to meet them. The wife was Latina and he knew we would hit it off. There was not much happening on LeRoy Street anymore. Harry was right. We needed to socialize more and develop our own circle of friends. He envisioned us chumming around together; cooking out, movies and dinners. Most couples have at least one other couple to hang with. According to Harry, we were going to have a great time together. He had it all planned out in his head, and oh joy that he included me in those plans. I had faith in him and started seeing it all in my own head. Concerts, fairs, shopping. The two of us girls walking, talking, and browsing. I’d finally have a girlfriend to go to the bathroom with me. That was a large plus. I had to admit, he had had a great idea, and I was pretty excited about the prospects. Harry thought we should start off with a casual evening first, to get to know one another. So he was having us all over to his apartment. Last minute, I got a bad case of the jitters. I could not stop pacing and fretting. ‘There’s nothing to be nervous about, Rita.’ “What if they don’t like me?” I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a matter of connecting with them that bothered me. Their social status was surely much closer to his than my own. ‘No danger of that. Trust me. They will love you.” My first impression was how good looking they both were, stand alone and as a whole. My stomach flip flopped. They both had great hair. Their names escape me, probably a mental thing. But their faces are etched in my memory. They were taller than I but not by much. Big Harry towered above all three of us. They obviously had no cash flow problems. Funny how wealth often sticks to people like a scent. I suppose today they would be referred to as Millennials. I clearly was the odd man out. But we were getting along pretty well. I was beginning to loosen up. Harry could tell and squeezed my hand. He was so pleased. He gave me the look that said, see, I knew it. I knew they would love you. How could they not?
It was the husband, I think, who suggested playing cards. I knew Rummy and War. Even if I had ever been interested in other games, the drummer thought they were unladylike. However, they were talking Bridge, Canasta, and a couple others I do not recall. All of them were too complicated to teach me in one evening. The atmosphere changed and they were clearly disappointed. They seemed to suddenly look on me with disdain. The look and the feeling were familiar. I felt inferior and I am not so sure they did not feel the same about me. Mr. Alexander, ever the optimist said he would start teaching me so eventually we could all play. It was odd to me, as he had always liked me playing hostess while they all played cards. But I was thankful to him for wanting to teach me, to introduce me to things we could all enjoy. I knew he wanted to do it for my benefit as well as his own. I wonder if he thought he had to help me fit in. Strangely, I did not mention that they could always play something I knew. There was distaste on her face. A snide remark made me turn to face her. I did not foresee the look of scorn on her face. Two or three more remarks followed. All with a demure look and a beguiling smile. That man who looked at me with love was oblivious to the change in her attitude. He was just so excited. Normally, he was so in tune with my feelings. How could someone who was so observant miss what was going on? There were flashbacks of being treated that way, that kind of treatment and I felt myself burning.
I was angry with myself in so many ways. It was obvious I could never fit in with people of his station in life. I was angry that I let them get to me, get the upper hand. And I hated that I was letting Harry down. He wanted me to fit in just as I had wanted him to fit in. Why couldn’t I be more like them? If one couple was a problem, imagine having to try to fit in with all the rest. That snooty couple, especially the female upset me terribly. And still, Harry did not take notice. That hurt and confused me. Who was I to think I could ever meld into his social circle and who was he to make me feel like I could? I was being judged in so many ways, and would have to gain favor with them for Harry’s sake. How could I possibly do that? How could I get approval from all three of them? They had already made a decision. They were looking down their perfect little noses at me. He might not have been able to see it, but he wouldn’t because they did not let it show openly. They had the advantage because he was not looking for it or expecting it. He assumed everybody would love me because he loved me. He loved me just as I was. He did not see a difference, so did not think anybody else would or could. They were rude and judgmental, intolerant of people like me. He never could see those traits in others. He was unaware because he only wanted to see the good in people. And he always thought people were as good as he was. It reminded me of the incident with Franky. I wonder if he ever learned to be on the alert. Not all people had great big hearts like he did, not all people were as pure and compassionate and loving as he was. He just assumed that everybody was like him. And he loved me enough to think that nobody could or would ever treat me that way. He saw something they would never be able to see. I could not bring attention to the matter. They would really hate me if I did and he still might not believe it. He would not be able to acknowledge it. They were very slick. That, I believe was the first time I realized that money does not buy class. My head was swimming, and frankly, I was becoming desperate. Short of begging them to like me just for that one night, there was not much I could do.
When the wife suggested a game called Pass Out, I was praying it would be a way to redeem myself. I did not know how to play that board game, either. I’d never heard of it. Everybody assured me it was easy. She thought I might be able to pick it up quickly, implying they had to dumb it down for me. I now wonder if she thought she had picked something well suited to me. They gave a brief synopsis. It involved a lot of alcohol. I tensed up at that. I did not know enough to have refused. Harry knew I was a light weight, and I was surprised that he agreed to have us play that particular game. If you landed on certain squares or drew certain cards, there were penalties. Those consisted of having to drink x number of drinks. It involved more alcohol than even I had originally thought. Somebody was sure to get drunk. That was the point of the game. That person was the loser. And that would be me. It hurt that he let me fall into that. He knew the game and had played it often. He could throw the drinks back and never show it, never seem like he’d had too many. The three were heavy hitters when it came to alcohol. I was truly out of my element. On the other hand, he knew I could not keep up with the rest of them. He had to have had an inkling of the turnout. He sat there calmly and let it happen. I was an adult and could have said no. But could I really? I was afraid to let him down and to have those people think I was a quitter. When it became obvious that I had had enough, why didn’t he stop it? Why didn’t he say anything to me? The Harry I knew and loved would have done that, would have looked out for my well-being. Where was he? Perhaps he was as desperate as I. I wonder if their approval was worth the cost to him and to me. He had promised to always catch me if I fell, he promised to look out for me and to protect me. I just did not understand. I wondered who this man was and where was my Harry, my knight.
I believe it was the husband who suggested walking to the pool. I was wearing Harry’s favorite jeans and top. I loved dressing for him. And he was always appreciative. The wife had on expensive casual slacks and half boots. Harry, as well as the husband wore nice shirts. Harry’s was a white, gauzy button down shirt. He was barefoot as was I. The husband slid into the pool, clothes and all, I went in next, and the wife followed. There was a marked chill in the air. The water was not cold, neither was it warm. I begged Harry to join us, but he declined. He sat in one of the pool side chairs with a drink in his hand. He sat there watching us, with a half- smile, twisting his hair in his fingers. I thought we were having a pretty good time, and felt so relieved that we had made it through the evening. I was so pleased and oh so grateful.
When we returned to the apartment, I was freezing. I was shivering and my teeth were chattering. Harry made a comment about me leaking on his floor. There was no levity and I noticed a different look in his eyes. He did not comment about the other two dripping on the same floor. He grabbed a red and black hand towel (I kept it for years, then got rid of it, It was a symbol of failure to me). He used it to pat me down some, then put it over my head. “Leave it on. You’re soaked.” ‘I’ll look like a nun wearing this.’ “More like Hester Prinn.” ‘Who?’ He looked at the couple and sort of chuckled. True to form, Harry did not walk me to my car. I was left to walk out on my own while being scrutinized. What an utterly humiliating experience. To this day, I cannot imagine him letting me drive myself home, across town in the condition I was in. And he never called to see if I made it okay, never asked me to call and let him know I made it home safely. I still think back on that with utter and total disbelief. I think I was too drunk for it all to sink in. On the drive home, I wracked my brain trying to figure out who the hell was Hester Prinn. The answer was right on the tip of my tongue. It took a few minutes to realize they were laughing at me. I was the butt of their joke. How could my knight allow that? How could he join in? He encouraged it. I would have bet all my worldly goods up until that night that he would never be a party to that. That man was a stranger to me. How could he? How could he? The knife twisted in my heart. By morning, I remembered the heroine of The Scarlet Letter. What had he meant by that? What was the comparison? Surely, I appeared foolish and ignorant when I had asked. Still what on earth had he meant? What was the significance? How did it relate? There was no good morning call from Harry on that day. I let myself believe he would call when he had time.
Teresa walked in that afternoon and set my shoes and other belongings in front of me. My heart started pounding. ”What’s all this?” ‘They’re yours, right?’ “Yes.” ‘Harry wants me to pick up all his poker stuff’. “Okay, why?” ‘He just wants all his stuff.’ “Teresa, what’s going on?” ‘I don’t know.’ “Neither do I, but I am going to find out.” Grabbing the phone and dialing, I stared at her. ‘He won’t answer your call.’ “Sure he will.” ‘No, he won’t’. Sure enough I was informed that he was too busy to come to the phone. I left a message for him to return my call. “He’s busy. He’ll call right back, you’ll see.” ‘No, he won’t.’ I sat, staring at the phone, willing it to ring. ‘Rita, he’s not going to call you and he does not want you to call him.’ “Why?” ‘I don’t know.’ “Yes, you do.” ‘Okay, I do, but I promised him I would not say anything.’ “Then I’ll keep calling. Sooner or later, he will have to talk to me.” ‘He’s not going to. Besides, he says you know.’ “Know what?” ‘You really don’t? She stated incredulously. Think.’ “Okay, where do I start? Everything was fine until you walked in.” ‘When did you talk to him last?’ I was trying desperately to fit together the puzzle, without having all the pieces. I just simply did not know and I was in a panic. What had I done? “Last night. I was over there.” ‘What happened?” I repeated the events of the previous evening. ‘Uh huh.’ She leaned in, hoping to pull it out of me, I guess. “That’s it.” ‘Think about what you just told me.’ There must have been some secret clue, but it escaped me. It felt like it does when you put something away for safe keeping and then can’t find it and have no clue where to begin looking. I was dumb founded.
For days and days, I went over and over it, but the results were the same. I just had no clue what had happened. Teresa indicated the reason should be clear in my own narrative. I have pored over this for years and I still do not see the connection. According to what I recalled, there was nothing that should have upset him so. Teresa surely must have told him that I really did not know. I tried calling him many times, but he would not take my calls, or return them. He must not have answered any calls at home unless he psychically knew when it was me. How humiliating that people at his job had been informed. I literally begged Teresa to at least tell me what had happened. Consuela tried also. Looking back, I think Connie knew. Here were these two women who were supposed to be my friends, closer than some family and they stood by silently and watched me suffer. It is fairly certain that she reported back to Harry on just how much I agonized. And that must have seemed okay to him. He had promised to love me. He guaranteed he would never leave me without a word. We promised each other that would never happen. We had a pact. Harry knew how sensitive I was about that. Shortly afterward, too shortly if you asked my opinion, Teresa told me Harry was seeing somebody else. He had said he had no more reason to look. ‘Why don’t you just leave him alone?’ How incredibly cruel! My, how those women at work must have gloated. The sniggers and the whispers were almost audible to me. “Okay, if you will give him one message for me.” ‘What?’ “I never really cared for The Scarlet Letter.” ‘What the hell is that supposed to mean?’ “Just tell him.” Days later, she told me she’d delivered the message. “Thank you” ‘He says you quit calling.’ “Oh, did he? Well, Teresa, I really do not want you discussing me with him.” ‘We are going to talk. You can’t tell me that and expect me to agree.’ She innocently gave it away that they were still talking about me. That was totally unfair, and I honestly wondered why if he had found someone else. “Really? You don’t mind promising him that you will not discuss him or the events of a certain night.” ‘That’s different. You see Harry…’ “Let me stop you right there. I don’t want to hear about him. He wanted to be left alone? Fine, he wanted me out of his life? Then he can return me the favor.” ‘You’re just pissed off because you screwed up. He has the right to be angry. You don’t.’ “No, I will not let you or him pin this all on me. Unless either of you have balls enough to do the right thing and tell me exactly what it is I supposedly have done, I won’t go for it. If and when either of you do that, I will listen, apologize and eat shit if necessary. But I will not take the rap for something I might or might not have done, without benefit of knowing what that is.” ‘Oh, believe me you did something.’ “Then tell me or drop it.” I do wish I had let her finish the sentence. The hurt and humiliation and utter confusion colored my words. How could he talk behind my back like that? How could he make those rude and disparaging comments? What had happened to letting people work things out for themselves, especially in times of adversity? I wanted to believe I never meant anything to him. But I had seen what was in his heart shining in those amazing eyes. How could he not love me anymore?
Look, you want me to tell him you are sorry?” “For what? Just tell me for what. How can I apologize when I don’t even know what it is I am accused of? That is ridiculous.” ‘Why don’t you just let me tell him anyway?’ “You’re missing the point. Besides, would it do any good?” ‘I don’t think so, but I could try.’ How I wish I had let her. “No, I am not going to play this game. As far as I know, I’ve done nothing wrong.” ‘You did.’ “How do you know? You take his word and won’t even give me a chance to verify or deny it? How could anyone under these circumstances defend herself? He’s made it pretty easy on himself, hasn’t he? And you fell right into it. You wanna tell him something? Tell him I think he is a spineless wimp and terribly and unnecessarily cruel. And you know what, Teresa so are you.” ‘Hey, don’t blame me for your problems.’ “I am not blaming you for my problems.” ‘I don’t appreciate you talking to me like that.’ “I don’t appreciate the part you are playing in all this.” ‘Hey, I just did a favor for a friend.’ “Nah, you did a lot more than that.” ‘What was I supposed to do?’ “You should have stayed out of it, you should have let him have to face me and vice versa. Maybe we could have worked it out. Maybe not. But at least we would have known for sure. It would have stayed between us as it should have.” ‘I don’t see it like that.’ “Of course not, you would have missed all the juice that way. Regardless, I do not want you to mention me to him, even in passing.” ‘What if he asks?’ I missed the inference. “He has my number.” ‘He won’t call.’ “Then so be it. Don’t mention his name in my presence again.” I was so hurt and angry with both of them. It felt like I was being attacked, the old defense mechanism kicked in. It was fight or flight. I thought I only had the one choice. Otherwise, I would never have responded as I did. My words and my tone were bitter. I had sworn to myself I would never be held accountable for unexplained charges again. But the ire directed toward myself was much worse than anything I slung in their direction. I should have seen it coming. But how could I have? What in the world had I missed? Perhaps I will never know. It wouldn’t have been as bad, had I not known that he truly did love me. Still, had I not given him my heart, he could not have broken it. Because he had convinced me that he could be trusted with my heart, my soul and my life, the disillusionment was profound. Had I not let down my armor, the knife would not have been driven so deeply. Allowing myself to have become so vulnerable, and having complete faith in the man I had thought worthy turned out to be a grave mistake. My wildest fears had come to fruition. He had walked out on me and on us. Without a word. Without reason or rhyme. We and all we were simply ceased to exist. In less than twenty four hours. How do you turn love off in a day? How do you just shut it off? It appeared he had made up his mind and just did it without a backward glance. Perhaps after careful consideration…Meanwhile my world, our world was destroyed. When he had returned my belongings and reclaimed his, it broke our promise to each other to always return. The reason to always come back was gone. The finality almost did me in. I could not imagine going back to the days before Harry. Nor did I look forward to days after without him. It felt like having to learn to walk and talk and breathe again. I had to learn to move again without the rhythm of the one we had become. I could not bear the looks and the questions. The comments were hard and the blame all fell to me once again. Living without Harry was unbearable. Thinking of him dancing with another woman brought me to my knees. Surely she was tall, thin and blonde. I had a child. I had to go on, but I did not want to. I feel badly for my daughter not getting to know him as she grew and missing out on the life we had envisioned. He didn’t just leave me, he left her as well. I wonder what he did with the love, the memories of the life we shared. What did he do with the dreams? And how did he deal with the hurt of whatever it was that had happened? I can’t imagine him not thinking of me or missing me, missing our time together. Surely, certain songs would bring those memories flooding back as they still do for me. I’d like to think so anyway. He had ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it again and again until it was almost silent. How do you purposely do that to a woman? To a human? How did it feel to him? The whole thing seemed so extraordinary from anybody. But from Harry, it was unbelievable. This was impossible coming from the man with whom I had fallen in love. There was nothing left that even closely resembled him. He turned out to be someone I used to know. He was well aware of my abhorrence of being left without explanation. I went from reeling to a state of shock. Robotic and automatic. Still, I could not give up hope. As horrible as it was, I stayed at Connie’s house as much as possible during the day, staring at the phone. Seeing Teresa opened the wound over and over. She could barely look at me anymore, and except that I wanted to keep communication open, just in case, I spoke as little as possible. Soon as I determined she had nothing to tell me about Harry, I left. Each of those times broke me a little more. Until now, I had not thought that surely, knowing Teresa and knowing Harry, he was asking and she was telling. Knowing that now and realizing that he knew every aspect of my grief, and still did nothing is heart rending.
In the silence of my apartment, I relived all our moments together; every word we had said. I went over all the details of that night. Over and over. Teresa had made it seem that within my description of the evening to her laid the answer. She made me think the answer was right before my eyes, which made it more difficult to try to grasp. I could not see it and still do not. No amount of examination has ever brought me any closer to knowing the truth as he saw it. Chain smoking and drinking mass amounts of coffee, I often fell asleep with my hand on the phone. That is where I cried. That is where I howled like a wounded animal. That is where I cursed God and the Fates. And that is where I begged to the skies to please let me know what I had done and how to fix it. Surely, the love he had felt for me could not have just dissolved in one day. When I wasn’t cursing God, I was begging Him to please help me, to please whisper to Harry. I begged for mercy and I begged for Harry to still feel my love. If any of my prayers and rantings were heard, they were never answered. I closed myself off as best as I could. I didn’t want to go anywhere because he was everywhere. I didn’t want to see the people in our crowd because they reminded me of him. And the looks of either pity or disdain were not appealing. Aside from my daughter, the one great source of joy and comfort in life was music, but because it had been such a big part of who we were, there was no solace in that. Every song reminded me of him and being with him. I didn’t want to be with anybody, didn’t want to talk to anybody except Harry. He had removed that option. It was totally unlike him not to confront me directly, not to lay it all out for me and explain his point of view, it was unlike him not to want to discuss whatever “it” was. And it was unlike him not to hear my response. Maybe the Harry I believed I knew was not really Harry at all. Maybe he had fooled me into thinking I knew him, thinking the persona he showed was the real thing. Maybe it had all been a big scam, a lie of epic proportions.
Except that I knew it had not been. How could I have been so stupid? So weak? I had walked right into the trap. I was left standing alone, egg on my face, heart in my hand. Hope and belief had gotten me to that place. It never failed. Why, oh why had I given him the opportunity to do that to me? True, I had no way of knowing; there were no warning signs. And, if Harry could not be trusted, who then, could be? That was the crux of the matter. I’d gotten involved with a man who’d seemed honest and above reproach. I’d thrown caution to the wind, because there was no evidence that I should not. I’d allowed myself to hope and to believe in a happy ending because there was no reason not to. Look what happened anyway. Hopelessness is torture.
The only conclusion I could draw was that if I chose to let someone in to my heart, I must expect to be hurt. There was no rationale to it. Good guy, bad guy, it made no difference. Nor did the substance and the glue that seemed to be part of the relationship. It all turned out the same, with no warning and no mercy. The sheer brutality is still shocking.
There was no prescribed order. With Harry it had started and proceeded in just the way one would hopefully expect. The path seemed clear and everything appeared on the right course. Up until that final moment. I thought perhaps it was to be my lot in life. Maybe I was not able to have any love but the one. Yet, I could not have that one either.
Harry’s departure had been a shock to everybody. I made myself become as cold and sharp as surgical steel to the world. I had been able to turn myself into a blank. So nobody said much about it or him. At least not in my presence. Even Jacinto would not venture too far into that territory. In fact, it had become difficult for him to approach me at all. All I did was snap his head off or yell and scream at him to leave me alone. I was not in the mood for him and his shit or anybody else’s. Why couldn’t everybody just leave me alone? Time was needed to heal, but in order for that to happen, I needed time to grieve. Nobody would allow me that, least of all myself.
It was a matter of pride in many ways. I refused to cry and would never let anybody know just how badly he had hurt me. They would never know the desolation and the devastation that I was left to face. They would not know that I was crushed. They would never see one tear fall. I would only be humiliated and degraded if I’d let on. I’d been through enough of that. The gossip and the ridicule were too much to bear. Surely, if they knew, then Harry would know and so would Jacinto. I couldn’t have that now, could I? They looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and pity. To the verbal and silent questions, I stated that it had been a good thing while it lasted. Now it was over and that was that. Those words were reflected in my actions and in my façade. They all kept saying, “You must be so hurt. It’s not right how you are acting. It’s not normal, not human.” Strangely, they did not say the same for Harry or Teresa. I thought their behavior was inhumane. Next came the nudging, which was even worse. “Oh, you’ll bounce back. Don’t worry. It’s time to get back on that horse.” Bullshit I thought. I did not want another ride or another fall. Now that would not be human. I just kept telling myself that he could not have possibly loved me. He never cared. He had fooled me and I would never be fooled like that again. Harry had ruined me for anyone else. The preacher had allowed Hester to be ridiculed in the town square. There was no mercy. No clemency. The preacher seemed totally ambivalent.
I was doing pretty well in the fake life I had created, until one night in my apartment. It was late and my daughter was in her crib. I sat on the edge of my bed to change into my nightgown. Something made me look at the pillow. Involuntarily, my hand reached over half expecting to find a little white business card of good quality stock with neat black block letters. I was remembering when he had come to my apartment. He had probably sat in the same spot I now sat. His big hands had smoothed my pillow and placed that card just so on top of it. I closed my eyes and I could feel him, see him and hear him so clearly. He had to have cared, damn it. He had. Why, oh why had he done this? Suddenly, without any conscious will, the phone was in my hand. And although I can’t remember dialing, I must have. I wouldn’t beg, or argue, I just wanted him to tell me why, what had happened, and maybe listen to me. It was quite a surprise when I heard his voice. I guess he figured I had given up. My resolve turned to terror. Panic took over. It was just too much of a shock. The receiver was placed gently back into the cradle. It was easy to imagine he might return the call. He did not. I cried all night. Sometimes I began to ululate. Mostly I just sat there half naked and cried. All the tears I had hidden all the salt in my body poured out seemingly with no end. I became physically ill. My head pounded, eyes and throat burned, nose was sore, I vomited and my ribs and stomach muscles ached.
The next day, I called out sick to my job. Too exhausted and sick to go. There should not have been any tears left, but still they came. My heart felt as if it would explode. Science has proved that we can die from heartache. Were it not for my daughter, I think I might have succumbed. How could he not have given her a second thought? He really missed out on knowing her and loving her. She would have loved him, unconditionally, as I did.
That night I decided I had had enough. I had spent enough time in wimpdom defeat. I would be in misery for a long, long while, but it was time to get moving, get on with my life, such as it was. I was not the same person, the same soul. It would take some getting used to, navigating with such a different mindset and such a heavy load of baggage. But I’d done it before and would have to do it again. Knowing that, I also knew instinctively, that I would never be the same again.
Next afternoon, Teresa nervously watched me over the edge of her coffee cup. This time I was one up on her. There was something on her mind. She was silently asking for an assist. She was looking for help, an opening, a question. She would not get any cooperation from me. What a position she had allowed him to put her in. My gaze was steady and my lips curled into a half smile. She started tentatively. “Did you call Harry the other night?” ‘I told you not to mention that name to me.’ “I know, but did you?” ‘I’m going to give this one to you. One time only. So make sure it’s worth it.’ “Okay, did you call Harry?” ‘Why on earth would I?’ “That’s what he and I would like to know.” He and I would like to know? Duplicitous bitch. ‘If and when I ever know, I’ll tell you. Not before then.’ “Somebody called him-late. Then hung up on him.” Oh come on really. They both should have been able to figure it out. ‘So, what does that have to do with me?’ “He thinks it was you.” ‘He thinks?’ “He’s sure.” ‘Oh he’s sure is he? Then why are you asking me?’ “To bring it up. He does know it was you and he doesn’t like it.” ‘First of all, he doesn’t know anything. He supposes. Secondly, I don’t give a rat’s ass what Harry thinks or likes or says. Thirdly, we all have people do things to us that we do not like. That happened to me recently. Somebody did something I didn’t like, something very hurtful and unfair with no apparent reason. You remember that, don’t you? Oh well, my tough luck. IF somebody did something he didn’t like, that is his tough luck.’ “Why would you do that? That’s all we want to know.” We? For a half a second I considered telling her but I just could not. ‘Hah. Déjà vu.’ “I’m not going to get into all that.” ‘Good, neither am I. You know, how dare you both assume? And how dare you bring it to me. I have left that man completely alone. I don’t talk about him, I don’t ask about him, don’t bad mouth him or ridicule him and as he told you I stopped calling him. That is more courtesy and decency than you two have given me. If you ask me, I think this was wishful thinking on his part. You run back and tell your buddy THAT, and then you tell him to leave ME alone.’ I scraped my chair back. “So, you didn’t call?” ‘Excuse me? I am leaving now.’ “I’m sorry, I had to ask.” ‘No Teresa you didn’t.” I know he was her boss and her friend. But as I looked at Teresa and Consuela, who remained silent through the whole exchange I remembered being a loyal friend and helping them both out and saving their asses many times, including but not limited to financial assistance. I also remember Harry understanding but warning me about it. I should have listened. And to this day, I should heed his warnings. I looked back and thought you are drinking coffee for which I paid and used the electricity to percolate, for which I also paid. The treachery was shocking. The betrayal was almost unbearable. And oh the anger that was almost a rage directed at Harry, Teresa and Consuela was scary. But the hurt was monumental. It surpassed, by far, any other emotions I might have had. I hoped I had salvaged at least some of my pride. To be honest, I had given her information unwillingly because she was my friend and some folks close to her had said some mean spiteful things about her. She was my friend and I was loyal to her and defended her. That included her jerk of a husband. One might think that would have carried some weight.
Had Harry approached me directly, I would have confessed and explained to him why I had called and how I had simply lost my nerve. I would have apologized and asked for understanding and forgiveness. He chose what I considered an under handed approach. He chose to go behind my back, to involve somebody who was supposed to be my friend and to hold me up for ridicule again. Who knew how much the others were made aware. Teresa was not classy by any stretch of the imagination. She had even less social skills than the rest of them. But Harry? Well -bred Winston Harold Alexander? What had happened to his sense of decorum? His sense of propriety? Where was that big, compassionate, loving heart? Where was that mercy he had shown even to people who had not been so nice to him? I remembered how he had chided me about my treatment of Ralphie, and how gracious he had been to that man. I was totally astounded, and I still am.
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