When it's too late a lonely man realizes his punishment.
After all these years
It had been a happy life up until I found out, and try as I might, I just couldn’t forgive. Our home was modest, but comfortable and warm; our kids were well-mannered and loved us. What happened was a stupid mistake, an act completely out of character for her. She had a short, meaningless affair that lasted a very short time, just two meetings, and as many times as she apologized, and pleaded with me to forgive her, I could not.
She had made her mistake, and then I made it worse with mine. Why did I refuse to forgive.
We had many happy years together, and in spite of everything, I was always sure of her love and was also sure of mine as well. Looking back I think it was the failure of trust that caused my now regrettable reaction when I learned what had happened. She confessed, “Out of guilt,” she told me.
“Where did you meet him,” I asked with a voice full of anger and hurt.
“At work,” she whispered through her tears, “it didn’t mean anything, I promise…I love you.”
"Why?" I shouted, "was there a reason for you to do this?"
"I was flattered," she cried, "I know it was wrong, I made a mistake, can't you forgive me--I love you."
“How can you say that,” I shouted, “after this?” I turned my back and refused to discuss it further. I thought at some point I could find a way to forgive her, a way for us to get back on track, but after months of bickering and hurtful words, it was easy to see that the distance between us was growing wider.
“I want a divorce,” I said with a solemn voice just three months later. I never thought I’d say those words. I was sure it's what I wanted. There is no other way out of this, our relationship has turned cold...it's over. While I still loved her, I was not able to look at her the same way I had before.
“John, please, can’t you forgive me,” she replied, “it doesn’t really have to come to this.”
When she began to cry and it had no effect on me, I was convinced I was right, I would never allow myself to feel about her what I once did. No, I can't. The answer seemed so simple, I was still so hurt that I didn’t think I needed to say more. I don’t want to say more. I stood silently as I watched the tears spill from her eyes.
“John, please, it meant nothing,” she sobbed, “I promise, it will never happen again.” She sat on the edge of the bed and cried as I began to put my things into a suitcase. “Please, John, please don’t leave, let’s try and work this out.”
“There’s nothing more to work out.” I knew then, as I know now, that I loved her, it was the hurt that drove my thinking and my actions. I could not let go of the sordid images--and I would not forgive. I left, and soon after, I hired an attorney and filed for divorce. She didn’t fight; she said she couldn’t face me any longer, my words had been as brittle as glass--and they had found their mark.
That was twelve-years ago, and I’ve longed for her every day of those long, lonely years. We never told the children the cause of our break-up, we allowed them to believe we just drifted apart; it wasn’t wholly untrue anyway. It didn’t take long for their animosities to begin to show—directed at me. Five-years after the divorce she met a man and within a year was remarried and very happy. There were holidays that I had to attend with my children, and seeing her with her husband caused me such pain that I began to avoid places I might see them. Because of this, the chasm that had opened between my children and I grew wider.
Looking back I realized my mistake almost immediately, but by then it was too late. Why didn’t I find a way to forgive and accept the love I always knew she felt for me. Why couldn’t I put aside my vanity and accept that it is only human to make a mistake, she had been the perfect wife up until then. I see now that the profound loneliness that fills my life, the hurt I feel every day, is actually my punishment for not having the ability to forgive.
She is happy in her new life. Sometimes when she looks at me, I think I can see that little flicker in her eyes, the bright blue flash that was just for me, when we were happy together. I know it's directed at me, but I wonder if it is pity, pity for my inability to have a happy life, or not having a loving relationship with my children who no longer want me as part of their lives. Sometimes at night, while I lay in the quiet darkness of my bed, I listen to my solitary breathing and think about the flash in her eyes. Is it pity…or memories of us. Those thoughts bring on the terrible loneliness and melancholy that now define my life. Sometimes I stop to wonder who the loneliest, most unwanted person in the world may be.
The answer is always the same…me. Why didn’t I forgive?
Word Count 880
Entry for the Writer’s Cramp, March 14, 2011. Prompt: Write about someone who is lonely and unwanted.