“You two are such a lovely couple.”
As I look down at what I’ve found, I think it odd what is running through my head are the comments made by friends about my perfect marriage. I am not sad at love lost or even that angry at being lied to. I’m upset that my friends will be disappointed in me. It’s me then, I think. Maybe I have my priorities all messed up. It wouldn’t be the first time. Perhaps I am guilty too. Were all of these years just about making a pretty picture for the neighbours? It makes me like myself a little bit less.
Anger surges, but again I’m disappointed at the source. Are we to be so normal? After all of this, are we to be cheapo novel, bad TV show normal? The normal I’ve fought against my whole life. Did he do this just to force me into that box? The betrayed woman box. I’m furious about that. I slam my hand on the dresser in frustration.
I’ve used my mind to survive. Not necessarily to excel in any particular field, but I’ve manipulated my thoughts to enjoy wherever I’ve found myself. I realise as I look at the crinkled pieces of paper in my hand that I’ve led myself to this place blinded, by kneading and forcing my mind to see what I’ve decided is there. Too many difficult spots to drown in that half empty glass. Since I couldn’t change them, I floated on the surface of half full. Silly cow I’ve been; it’s quite evident now.
He comes in unexpectedly. “What’s going on?”
I hold out my hand with the three receipts I’ve been studying all morning: hotel, dinner for two, and perfume I don’t wear. “It appears somebody in the city loves you,” I say with forced casualness.
He looks at the receipts but does not reach for them. He sits down hard on the bed. I’m relieved in a way that he has chosen not to lie. At least he respects me enough for that. He fumbles. He grabs for kind words, putting them in places he thinks might make the hearing less painful. Like honey mixed in castor oil, it only makes everything worse. I want bare truth. Where they met. How she fucks. What he told her about me. Since he knows me, he knows that the very truth I crave will work like acid inside me, corroding a little more everyday until I’m nothing more than raw meat and eaten bones. He won’t let me do that to myself. I know as he does; he loves me too much for that.
“It was a stupid mistake.”
A stupid mistake- like knocking a valued vase off the table or tripping in the bank queue. The words just sit in the air. I won’t accept them. It was nothing like a stupid mistake. It was a conscious decision made by him against me. Treason from the inside. Not an accident, that fact the very thing that slices into me when I think it. What tipped the scales in the moment the decision was made? Another answer I want that I know will kill me once known.
“What now?” he asks. Like always the burden is on me. What now?
I look out the window and am surprised a bit at the blue sky and the shining sun. It doesn’t seem right this incongruous weather. I want a wild, red dust storm or iron grey clouds cut through with flashes of threatening lightening. I can’t make a decision like this under sunny skies.
I get up. I can survive this, I’ve survived worse. I won’t slump into madness as my genetics prefer. My mind is waiting for direction. I take it in hand and move it firmly to the track I’ve chosen to follow. The receipts will fall away, the ink fade, and the paper tear and decompose back into its elements. He will never mention it and I’ll have rubbed my mind clean. Perhaps they know better; our marriage is perfect. I stand up and tell him, “I have work to do” and I leave.