Authors: Kim Corum
‘You led me on,’ he told me.
I just stared at him.
‘You used me.’
‘So?’ I retorted. ‘You used me, too.’
‘Hold it right there, mister,’ I said and pointed at him. ‘I did not lie to you. I have never lied to you. Don’t go there.’
He glared at me, his nostrils flaring. I felt so bad that I had incited that kind of rage in him. It made me sick to my stomach to think of him hurting over me. But I couldn’t let it go on. I couldn’t! If it went on, it would have ended more badly than it ended.
I finished dressing. He watched me from the bed. After I was done, I went to the door, opened it and turned to him, ‘Peter, I’m sorry if you misunderstood me. I never meant to make a fool of you. I never wanted to hurt you. It kills me to see you like this.’
‘Then stay with me,’ he said sadly.
I went over to him, dropped to my knees and stared up at him. He looked down at me.
I said, ‘Honey, I can’t. You know it’s for the best.’
‘No, it’s not, Sandy! It’s not for the best!’
‘You had to have known it would end.’
‘I hoped you’d change your mind,’ he muttered and looked away from me.
God, I felt so awful, so lowly. I lied, ‘I considered it. I really, really did. But I can’t leave him. I wish to God I could, but I can’t.’
‘You mean you won’t.’
‘I’m sorry. I can’t tell you what to do or how to feel. I can only tell you I can’t let this go on or it’s going to get ugly.’
‘Maybe I should tell your husband about us.’
Panic swept through my body. I didn’t give in to it, though his words scared the shit out of me. ‘If you need to do that, then do it,’ I said, hoping he was bluffing. ‘I won’t stop you.’
‘And if he kicks you out?’
‘He kicks me out.’
‘Will you be with me then?’
‘No, I won’t,’ I said.
His head dropped. Poor baby. I was never doing this again! It was too involved, too much trouble. I didn’t like causing pain or hurt. And Peter was a good guy, he really was. And he didn’t deserve this from me.
‘I have to go,’ I said and went to the door.
He called after me, ‘Don’t call me again.’
I dropped my head and said, ‘I won’t. Goodbye, Peter.’
I went home and back to my life. I missed him terribly and would find myself wanting to pick up the phone and call him. But I stayed strong. I didn’t do it.
Oh a happier note, Kelsey called yesterday. She’s on international flights now and isn’t home much so I could have the place to myself most of the time if I wanted to visit. She said she could take some time off and we could go to some clubs and have a really good time. Tempting. Oh, so tempting.
It’s getting late and I do believe my husband will be home tonight. The building is almost complete and maybe, just maybe, we can get on with our lives.
I’ll write more later.”
But she hadn’t. That had been her last entry. The last journal. I sorted through them, but that was all of them. It couldn’t be the last one! There had to be more. The dates didn’t add up.
I grabbed my jacket and headed over to her mother’s house. She had to have some more. She had to.
It took forever for her mom to open her front door. I didn’t realize how late it was. I didn’t care.
“Bruce!” she said and rubbed her eyes. “What is it?”
I was almost in a panic but then I realized that her mother probably didn’t have any of her journals. What was I doing here? But I had to know where she was. She had to tell me. I said, “You have to tell me where she is!”
She stared at me with such sympathy. “Come in.”
I followed her to the kitchen. She told me to sit down and that she would fix us some tea. I sat and she fixed some tea. She didn’t say one word as she did so. I didn’t either. We never tried to make small talk. We always had a strictly a son-in-law, mother-in-law relationship. We liked each other well enough to tolerate one another. And that was about it.
She handed me the tea. “This will make you feel better.”
I shrugged. “Where is she, Liz? Please tell me. I can’t take it anymore.”
She studied me and patted me on the back. “Bruce, I don’t know. All I know is she’s somewhere out there. She called me once the day she left and told me she was going. And that’s all I’ve heard from her. I miss her as much as you do.”
“She didn’t tell you?”
She shook her head. “I know I haven’t always been the best mom, so I can understand.”
“Did she tell you why?”
“Why?” she asked and shook her head.
“Why she left me?”
She shook her head again. “No.”
“No. All she said was she was okay and she wanted to be on her own for a while. Nothing else.”
I stared at the wall.
“She’s like her daddy, Bruce. They’re wanderers. They have to keep on the move or they’ll go crazy. I’m just surprised it didn’t happen sooner.”
“Excuse me?” I asked and wiped my eyes.
“Restless. They’re restless. Never satisfied with anything for any time at all. Want more, they always want more and when they don’t get it, they go somewhere else to find it.”
“I gave her everything.”
She nodded. “Yeah, you did. You were really good to her.”
“She didn’t love me, did she?”
“Why, I reckon she loved you more than anything, Bruce. Her only problem is she loves herself more. And that’s just the way she is. Can’t really fault her for it.”
I swallowed hard.
She patted my hand. “Now go home and get some rest. You look like hell.”
* * * * *
Another dream. Not so bad.
I woke up in my dream, on the bed. Sandy came in with a thermometer. She smiled at me, sat down and stuck it in my mouth. I tried to say something. She shook her head and said, “Wait.”
She took it out, shook it and said, “This thing is broke. Let me get another one.”
She started to stand but I pulled her back down.
“Lay with me. I don’t feel good.”
She complied and we spooned. I smiled.
She said softly, “I hear you’re mad at me.”
I pushed my face into her hair. “Don’t go.”
She didn’t reply.
“I love you so much, Sandy. Please don’t leave me.”
“Shh. Let’s go to sleep.”
I awoke hugging her pillow.
* * * * *
There he was. That Peter guy. Outside the gym. A few women walked with him, laughing and touching his arm. He made me sick.
He got into his sports car and pulled out. I followed him in my SUV. I followed him through all the heavy traffic, onto the interstate and headed out towards the suburbs. I followed him there, to his house. It was a long drive.
I parked on the street and watched him get out of his car. I got out of mine and grabbed the bottle of vodka I’d bought. I walked over to the driveway.
“Hey!” I called.
He looked over at me and his eyes narrowed. He knew who I was. Just like I knew who he was.
“Yeah?” he asked with agitation.
I held up the bottle. “Let me buy you a drink.”
He eyed me and nodded. “Come on in.”
I followed him in and we went into his kitchen. It was nice house, smaller than ours, but nice. I liked the wood flooring.
We sat at the table and stared at each other, then he said, “What’s in the sack?”
I pulled out the vodka and handed it to him. He took it, nodded and got up to retrieve two glasses from the cabinet. He poured us a shot and said, “I wondered when you’d find me.”
He nodded and pushed my glass towards me with his glass. “Cheers.”
“Cheers,” I said and took the shot and put the glass back down on the table. “I guess you want to know what I’m doing here.”
He eyed me. “I know why you’re here.”
I guess he did.
He shrugged. “I’m not seeing your wife anymore.”
“I know that.”
He poured another shot and said, “I kinda figured you did.”
“You know she left, don’t you?”
His eyebrows shot up for an instant, then went back down. “Umm. Where did she go?”
“I was hoping you might know.”
He shook his head. “I don’t know shit.”
I should have thought this out more. I knew then that I shouldn’t have come here. He didn’t want to see me any more than I wanted to see him. And he didn’t know where she was.
“How’d you find out about us?” he asked. “She tell you?”
He nodded. “Sounds like her.”
I stared at him. “If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think you’re holding a grudge against her.”
“I guess am.”
“I guess because my life is really fucked up now.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that.
He shrugged. “It wasn’t just over Sandy. It was over a lot of things.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Well, thanks. I guess.”
I blurted, “I found some of her journals. You were in them.”
“Oh, so I got a mention?” he said and nodded to himself. “And here I was thinking she didn’t give a shit about me.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I don’t think I do either,” he said.
“You think I’m weird, don’t you? Reading her stuff?” I paused and thought about it and added, “Maybe I am weird.
“Nah,” he said. “I understand.”
“I think I was a bad husband.”
He poured us another shot and said, “You’re probably not the first and you won’t be the last bad husband, so give yourself a break.”
I took the shot. “Mind if I smoke?”
He shook his head and got me an ashtray. I held the pack out to him and he took one and we sat there smoking for a minute.
He said, “Sandy used to say that none of us were cut out for it—marriage, monogamy. Or as she put it,
He went on, nonetheless, “I mean, she said in cave man days women would sleep with whatever man brought her meat and the men would sleep with the women to procreate. She said we really weren’t that evolved when you got right down to it. We just pretend we are.”
“She never told me that.”
“Well, we didn’t have a lot of time to talk,” he said and stared at the cigarette in his hand. “But when we did, she always had something interesting to say.”
That comment two days ago would have sent me into a jealous rage. Now it made me sad. “What were you to her?” I asked.
“Just some guy she was fucking.”
I stared at him.
“What do you want me to tell you? That I took her over the edge? That I used her?”
I looked away.
“I’ll tell you anything you want. I could care less what you think of me.”
“Why you?” I asked.
“I was a warm body, I suppose,” he said menacingly. “If not me, someone else. Don’t you get it?”
I got it.
He looked away. He was obviously hurting. “I asked her to leave you. Nine months ago.”
I already knew this. I swallowed hard and said, “And?”
“And we’re sitting here now, ain’t we?”
“You were the lucky guy, Bruce.” He picked up his drink. “She might have loved me, but I think we all know she loved you more.”
I wasn’t so sure of that.
He finished his drink and set the glass on the table, then pushed it away and said, “Did you get your building done?”
“Yeah, I always thought it would be over when you were done. And I guess I was right. That was it. I should have known. Yeah, maybe I did use her, but she used me, too.”
“You sound pissed off.”
“I am pissed off.”
“Believe me, I know how you feel,” I said and cleared my throat.
“Look, I’m sorry, man, but if I could turn back time, I wouldn’t change a damn thing.”
I cleared my throat again.
He grabbed his glass, stared into it and muttered, “Except maybe the last part.”
“Is that what you came for?” he asked, still looking into the glass.
“Yeah. I guess.”
“Well, I don’t know shit. I didn’t see her at all once she cut me loose,” he said. “I do know she left or ran off or whatever the fuck she did. But she didn’t tell me anything. I heard it from her friend Elise. You know Elise?”
I nodded. Yeah. I knew Elise. Sandy had met her in some shoe store. They talked all the time. I called her first thing and she said, “Bruce, I can’t believe she’d do anything like that! Is she alright? Do you know anything? Let me know if you find something out.”
I had the vague feeling that she was covering for Sandy and that she would continue to do so until she was told otherwise.
“I’ve met her a few times,” I said.
He nodded. “She’s married. Maybe she’ll want to fuck me.”
I stared at him.
He tried to smile. “It’s a joke. I’m trying to get my sense of humor back.”
He needed to get one first. But then again, so did I.
“But now she’s gone and she isn’t coming back and I have to move on.” He stared at me. “But you do whatever you want. I thought I felt bad until I saw you. You look like hell.”
He was right. I did look like hell. And I did need to move on.
“Thanks for talking with me,” I said and stood.
“No problem,” he said. “You don’t seem like a bad guy and just so you’ll know, Sandy never said a bad word about you.”
He was lying. It was nice of him to do that.
I went home and I did it. I emptied the house of all her belongings. I put everything in garbage bags and took them to curb outside the house and left them. The garbage men would pick them up and then the house would be free of all her things. I wouldn’t have to see all that stuff and be reminded of what I’d lost.
I remembered the last night she was home. We were preparing to go to the opening of my building. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I was so damned proud of that building and she had never seen it. Never once set foot on the construction site. She said, “Look, you don’t need me there interrupting your work. Besides I don’t like to see work in progress, I like to see work completed.”