When were you going to tell me?
Helena was doing inventory when she heard his voice, she had forgotten John still had a key. He had an envelope in his hand but that was pretty clearly not why he was there.
Was that why you wanted to end it? Was he why you wanted to end it?
He was shaking but her concern, her initial instinct to pacify, to comfort him disappeared when he asked the second question. And so she found herself getting angry.
I didn't end anything. You fell in love with another woman. You fell in love with another woman while we were still together. That is why we ended. There was no HIM. There was a HER.
The truth was irrefutable. It had been said out load more than once. By more than her.
No....I mean, yes, it's true, I fell for another woman. But our marriage ended when you decided that it was okay with you. When you decided that a crush was your exit strategy.
She didn't know what to say to that so he went on.
I've been thinking about this for a long time. Trying to figure out how I could feel so betrayed, so infuriated by how gracious you were, how kind you were to Jessica, how much you understood. At first I really thought it was because we were best friends and you cared that much about me. At first I just flet LUCKY, until I realized how many pieces of the puzzle didn't fit..
She couldn't believe she was being punished, being demonized for being the bigger person. She couldn't believe, after all this time, after taking advantage of her generosity, after pursuing that relation, a relationship he was still in, he would imply, on any level, that she was selfish when she left her home, her life, so another woman could take her place while she took some single persons apartment and made their stupid little cafe her entire life. She let him know in any many inarticulate words.
And then they sat there for ten minutes, quietly, her wondering why they were finally having this conversation, now. Him, sitting at the bar, wondering any number of things she couldn't pinpoint until she remembered what he had said.
I did not have an affair.
I know, but that doesn't man you didn't leave me for Max.
And there it was out in the open.
I didn't leave you for Max.
She said it quickly, but she couldn't say how much it was the truth. What had she been thinking when she went to Max? That first day. The days following it. When she had uttered future truths to him like a fortunate teller and won him over to her side and made sure that he would play a place in this break up, whether he liked it or not.
She knew, on every level, that she had not chosen to pursue Max in order to severe any ties with John. This was undoubtable. She remembered how she had felt. The fear, the dread, the reality of a dissolution of a marriage on the horizon that had weathered 10 years, sicknesses, financial catastrophe, school, family. She knew she was somehow taking control of something she had little control over. But it hadn't really dawned her, until this moment, exactly how much she had driven that car. And how much the possibility of something different, something new, might have driven HER to get behind that wheel and take a new road.
And she couldn't say that Max, or what Max promised on some level, wasn't part of it.
It might be easier if it were true. He finally said. It might easier to think you fell in love with someone else than to think you just didn't love me enough to stop me from loving someone else.
Well, there, there was an awful truth.
She started to cry. She was on the verge of saying the obvious cliche thing about how she obviously had loved him. How you didn't support someone through school, how you didn't buy a home and a business and nurse someone through accidents and illnesses if you didn't love him. How she had tried to have a baby with him and looked at moving to various countries, remote locations only with him and who would do that with someone they weren't in love with.
But she knew that wasn't what he meant. She knew he meant the other thing, the thing that had been missing, for a while, the thing that she had grown to think had maybe, always, been a little bit missing, and as she was composing this explanation as well, she realized something also truly awful.
That thing wasn't always missing. Not always. Because looking at him, getting ready to try and make this conversation, like the rest of their break up, kind, and easy, and respectful, and loving, she suddenly remembered the first time he has asked her out. And all the subsequent times, and her feeling thrilled, lucky, on the edge of the rest of her life, every time she was lucky enough to have him call again. Her picking out underwear she wanted him to see, her reading books she could talk to him about them, her realizing new, wonderful things they had in common. She remembered a time when she wouldn't have tried to protect him or what they had because she was too scared herself, too nervous, tand too excited. This was what made her cry.
She hadn't thought about that in a long time. She had thought about the home she missed, the comforts and cuddling and natural, really beatutiful intimacies they had shared. She had pondered, raged on herself, for allowing the end of a relationship that never really had much wrong to begin with. But she hadn't imagined that part where she was letting go of the person she was when they met. She hadn't even imagined a reality in which she tried to get back the thing she had seen he had with Jessica, she might have even forgotten they had once had it.
And that was just awful beyond words.
So she told him all of this, again inarticulately. And he nodded. And she poured him a drink, and they proceeded to have a very long conversation.