I want to turn a light on but I’m afraid it will scare her. I gave up trying to talk long ago, reasonable conversation long since abandoned for four letter exclamations and yelling that has now given way to silence. I’m watching her, this flurry of motion, moving so fast that the intricacies of her actions are barely visible to my naked eye. She is raw energy, tears on her cheeks, flashes of color from the clothes she is hastily throwing into one of those expensive duffle bags women love with the letters on them. I always told her I never understood the need to advertise something as personal as how much money we make. She always shrugged me off and said we should be proud.
The lightening flashes outside and throws shadows into our bedroom that pool in the corners of the mint colored walls. One of those girly colors I never would have thought to pick out on my own. A color she picked out. Because we need something soft in our bedroom she said.
That she is now vacating.
Anger coils tightly inside me like a snake about to strike as I watch her empty her drawers into more bags, never meeting my eyes. Hurrying around me like I’m not even there. I open and close my fists, drag nails through my close cropped hair. She reaches for her jewelry box and I call her name.
She jumps a mile out of her skin like she wasn’t aware I was in the room with her. She doesn’t acknowledge me, never even turns around and gives me her face. She goes still.
“You can’t do this,” I say to her, my usually steady voice betraying my anger. “You can’t.”
She turns slowly and I can see even in the pale wisps of midnight moon that her eyes have gone flat. She’s detached. She’s a woman but she can turn off her emotions that way. She shrugs at me.
“And why not?” she asks me like I am one of the witnesses she cross examines. She asks me as though it’s the most matter of fact, logical question on earth. “As a matter of fact,” she says, bobbing her head up and down indignantly, “I believe I am already doing it.”
“Carmen would you kill this fucking self righteous act? THINK about what you’re doing. You cannot do this.”
“I know what I’m doing.”
“No you don’t. What is this some kinda early midlife crisis? Have you even thought this through? Where are you gonna go? What are you gonna tell your co-workers? Your family? Our friends?”
This slows her but only for a minute. She shifts her weight and runs shaky hands through her long straight mane. She is no longer corporate lawyer. She’s just her flawed and beautiful self, thinking about her family and friends, more than she usually does herself. For a moment, as she repeatedly rakes her hair out of her face with tiny hands, she is once again just Carmen, the girl I fell in love with in college, stressed about not getting an A on an exam and studying for law school two years too early. She is the girl who couldn’t sleep unless she was glued to my left side. Who I have cooked countless meals for. Who sleeps in my shirts when I’m away. Who I’ve made love to on 6 continents. She is the girl who once sat on a park bench with me chewing her bottom lip and asking too many questions, and marvelling at the way her small hand fit in my large one.
But we aren’t those people anymore.
Nor are we even a we, but just she and I, her still chewing her bottom lip and firing off questions, but for very different reasons.
“I am so sorry.”
“No you’re not. Sorry means that if given the same set of circumstances you wouldn’t do the same thing. You would. You would even though you see how this is fucking with me.”
She steps back away from me, probably shocked that I am using such harsh language. I am not a man prone to emotional outbursts.
“I have to do this,” she says to me, barely above a whisper. “Please try and understand.”
“WHAT?!?! HELL no. I don’t understand this at all. You made a promise-“
“And now I am just supposed to look the other way while you break it.”
“This is different-“
“It’s not different! It’s not different at all. It’s just what you want so you want me to fall in line.”
“This is just something I need to do. For me. For us. Can you please try, for just a second, to see where I am coming from here?”
“If it was me, if the situation were reversed, would you? Would you see it from my point of view? Would you stand here and watch me pack my shit so I could leave you?!?”
“Then where the fuck do you get off asking me for understanding, huh?”
“I know I don’t deserve your understanding or your sympathy but please. Please. This isn’t easy for me either.”
“It certainly seems like everyone is getting what they want but me.”
“That’s not true. I don’t want to hurt you. You don’t believe that. I love you. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“But you are Carmen! To hell with what you want, you are.”
I see tears shining in her eyes but I can’t seem to stop myself from being cruel. I love her. But I want her hurting like she’s hurt me. I feel like someone has thrown me down and dragged me naked over glass. I want her bleeding right along next to me.
“So is this about sex? This is about pussy?” I ask her coldly and I watch her flinch. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. “Or what? You’re about to turn thirty and you’re scared of getting old and missing out on life? Early midlife crisis? This is your alternative to fucking the pool boy up against the side of the house?”
“Don’t do that. Don’t make this all about sex. It’s not and you know it.”
“Bullshit. Bullshit Carmen! If it’s not about that then what is it? What reason is good enough for you to leave our home? What are you so afraid of?”
We both go still, saying the kinds of things in that silence that you can never give breath to in real time.
She breaks away first, grabbing her bags off the bed, all of them bulging at the seams and none of them zipped, rushing past me without touching like I’m contagious. I grab her arm, hard enough to stop her but not hard enough to cause her fear. She doesn’t turn around so I lean down to speak to her hair.
“Is it that you don’t love me anymore?”
She drops her things and turns to me, her face stricken, grabbing my cheeks in her hands.
“Are you kidding me? No. No. Never. I have loved you half my life. Loving you is the only thing I have ever done worth doing. But I-” she falters, her eyes momentarily finding her feet. “I have to know. I love you. But I have to know.” She is crying now, tears catching the edges of her thick lashes and sliding down her full cheeks. For a moment we are still that way, her hands on the sides of my face, my hands covering hers, our eyes on the floor.
She finds my lips. Kisses me. I feel her tears hit my face under our kisses. She generously gives me her tongue, reaches up and wraps her arms around my neck. I gather her up in my arms like she weighs nothing, kissing her with everything in me, and hoping, somehow, it is enough. After a long while we fall away from each other, breathless. Panting. Tears staining both our skin. Across the distance, her hand finds mine, and I see her watching our intertwined fingers like she did way back when. She’s shaking her head over and over a million times, her hair wild from my fingers, her eyes rimmed red. She finally gives me her gaze.
“Tell me not to go,” she says, so small, so soft that if I weren’t holding my breath an exhale would have drowned her out.
Silence stretches like miles between us.
She limply lets my hand drop.
“Thank you,” she mumbles and turns on wobbly legs. She stops just long enough to pick up her bags, not bothering with the items that have fallen out in her haste. She hurries to the door like she’s being chased. Long after the echoes of her footsteps have faded down the hall, I am still standing where she left me, hands hanging at my sides, watching the door like the mere force of my wanting will propel her back through it. She never comes.
The silence settles around me, heavy like a wet blanket. I guess this is what it sounds like when there are no more words left to say.
This is the story of how my wife left me for another woman.