A woman is forced to face the facts of her husband's infidelity.
| That first day, the memory of it, it traps her, closing off her breathing, bringing beads of sweat to her temple and a chilling cold to the pit of her stomach. The machine was scratchy and the voice fading in and out of reception. Soft and husky, sounding like sex and deceit. Filthy, achingly full of desire. That was the first time she had heard her voice and she knew, she didn’t have to replay the message, there was nothing to be explained because she just knew. And the voice, matched with the scent of her, wafting in with him, after work, and the soft curled strands of hair tucked into the folds of his shirts and sports coats, was enough to clear whatever hazy orb she had been surrounded by. And that day had been the strangest of her life, she remembered when the mail man had arrived, knocking on the door, unaware, expecting to leave the mail, ungreeted through the slot. But she had run, sprinted when she had heard him calling and flung the door open in his face.
"My husband's having an affair." she said the words evenly and quickly, and just as readily as she had welcomed him she slammed the door again.
She came back in, sat down, radio playing softly, rocking on the floor, and the hours passed, faster than they ever had before.
Reenie?” seconds,minutes, and the clock is ticking, her watch against her ear, the hands pulsing like a tiny heart, pumping, throbbing.
He walked in and he was just devastatingly gorgeous, picturesque in that black suit, softening slightly around his middle, face doughier then it had ever been, eyes a little paler, but just absolutely beautiful.
“Aw, hon, whats going on? Reenie…pick up your face? Whats going on?” his hands were burning her flesh, blazing against her skin. And she did what he told her, she lifted her face, the last bits of sun streaming through the blinds, white lines of dust prancing around her, eyes flaming, dancing in the dying day light.
She spoke and her voice was as raw as it was heavy “I heard the message.”
He opened his mouth and gulped, grabbing for air, for words.
“I smell her, I see her godamned hair on our sheets.” She rasped.
“get the fuck out.” When only five minutes before she couldn’t have moved a leg to stand she was now on her feet, at the door, holding it open, skin tingling from the cold and from the blankness of his stare.
But he did it, he left without saying a word, after all, he knew when enough was enough.
I know now what I didn’t know then, that making a marriage work doesn’t involve a lengthy grouping of techniques that can be learned or taught. I can hardly believe that I was naïve enough at one time to truly think that watching my parents, growing up around a good relationship, was enough. I thought that somehow, it would be passed on to me. Not only did my mother not have a wedding dress she didn’t have an engagement band or a wedding ring. In fact I cannot recall ever having seen a picture of their wedding day. I actually went through a phase where I believed that they weren’t really married, maybe the whole thing was an elaborate hoax. The older I got the more I loved what they had, the more I respected it, the more I wanted it for myself. A marriage bound only by the title, totally null and void of the materialistic things that seem to break couples apart. They could argue and talk and laugh for hours. They could actually spend time together. When you’re young you don’t realize how many bad relationships you encounter, until you take notice of the few good ones. My husband’s infedility meant more to me than the betrayal of what we had vowed to one another, it meant breaching the agreement I had made with myself. I had promised myself I would make it work, I had promised myself that I would be desirable, and lovable, I had promised myself that I would be enough.
It was the going on that was harder than the letting go. Or maybe the two are interconnected in a way that makes them impossible to differentiate between. Although the cyclical nature of things whirled around me it was excruciatingly painful to step back into it and although my feeble attempts at living again had not gone unnoticed they were wearing thin on the nerves of those who needed me back. The divorce was progressing smoothly, as smoothly as I suppose a divorce can move along. I had almost laughed when during a meeting between Brent the lawyers and myself Brent had generously given me both the house and our dog, a disheartened look on his face he’d said, “Whatever she wants, there’s no animosity between us.” None as he began his new life with his new girlfriend, driving an older sports car I didn’t recognize, wearing clothes that I’d picked out for him holidays ago. And slowly he began to pull at the seam that had held our joint lives together for over a decade, until one day I rolled over in bed, and upon seeing the flatness of his former spot, I realized the line of stitching was gone altogether.
I began to think of affairs as some type of disease inflicting those who cannot care for their spouses well enough to keep them faithful. And as much as I blamed myself, as much as I was furious that I couldn’t be what he needed I was also utterly baffled by the idea that he had just let go, let go and given up. I began to read books about cheating and lies and betrayal, anything to understand how someone could do it. and even after I had read story after story about infidelity I still couldn’t grasp it. the tales these people told were pungent with the stench of excuses, limp, failing hopelessly under the bright lights of my dissection.
More days than not I would wake in the morning wishing that he was just dead. Wishing that he had left this world and not just our marriage, not just me. I resented not just the fact that he had moved on but that in doing so I had been thrown into the inevitable position of bitter ex-wife. Everything I did seemed to reek of sympathy seeking older divorcee, and it was almost as if I wore my new title on my shirt sleeve. People seemed to sigh when they saw me, seemed to fall irritably into the pity that they felt they were obligated to show for me. The comments they made felt both inappropriate and infuriating. It was less than no compensation to be told that we were lucky, at least, to have no children together. That only made it easier to lose sight of the twelve years we had spent together. We were connected no longer by marriage, and never by blood. There was no record of the way he had opened my body and my mind and crawled inside. There was no evidence, no documentation, of all that had been put on the line, of all that had been lost.
Dating was as preposterous an idea for me now as it had been when I was in high school. Both the idea of meeting a stranger for a cup of coffee or a burger and the actual conveyance of that idea were enough to have me bowing over the toilet seat. There was no trust left, no love, and maybe there never had been. No one existed in the way I thought that they had, myself included. I tried to imagine that one day there would be a time when I had been single for as long as I was married. To put it more clearly I could not imagine that I would be able to be live another decade, and then some, alone.