I just finished tying the laces of my shoes when she stumbled through the door, wearing her tear-stained face like a badge. I understand Leigh like no one else does, so in an odd way I was prepared for what was about to happen. I abandoned all hope of leaving on time and resigned myself to at least an hour of gut-wrenching, live-action drama.

"What does this mean?" she asked, shaking the slightly wrinkled but still somehow crisp white papers at me.

It means you’ve finally gone too far. It means you don’t get to come home anymore. It means an end for you and a new beginning for me. It means you can’t hurt me again. But I didn’t say any of that. The fewer words used, the better. "It means," I said quiety, "we’re over."

"Over?!" she exclaimed as she left the entryway, tracking tiny muddy snow clumps onto my livingroom's hardwood floor. "You can’t mean that. What about grace? What about forgiveness?"

Leigh was lucky I am a gentleman, because most people would have thought me justified in backhanding her at that comment, considering all we'd been through already. Instead, I walked behind her and closed the door, shutting in the cold. Barely two years ago, the same thing, different guy. And I took her back. I brought her back into my home and restored her fully. She was my wife and I was her husband, and though she had not been faithful, I was more than true. Following Hosea's example in the Bible, I sought her out and returned her to my bed, my home, and my life. I did it in spite of her adultery, her jealousy, and her coldness toward me. Not many know the meaning of grace and forgiveness better than I do. Yet she played the grace and forgiveness card, as if in the past I was an unmerciful judge.

"That was last time." I am not a baseball umpire, sister. I do not allow three strikes.

"But you’re my best friend," she sobbed. "We’ve never been apart before and now that we’ve been separated these past couple of months, I realize how much you mean to me. Don't you believe God can change people?"

"No," I answered flatly.

"What?" Her dewy-sweet expression dropped into a twisted-eyebrow look of confusion. Come on, I knew she was thinking, you’re a Christian. You have to believe God can change people.

Like a soldier standing respectfully before an officer, I quietly explained, "God cannot change a person who does not want to be changed. And you don’t want to change. You are the same person you were two years ago, and you’re going to stay that way. So no, God cannot change people."

Apparently, that was a wrong answer. The dramatic monologue began as she described all the reasons why the problems in our marriage were everyone else’s fault except hers. The sound of her voice tonelessly moved to the background as it stirred memories of the years spent with Leigh. They weren't all bad. But they weren't as good as they should have been. My mind retraced the path of our marriage – the honeymoon in Florida, getting used to sharing a bed with someone, the messy house, me wondering what everyone meant by comparing newlyweds to rabbits and why I couldn’t relate, four years of marital counseling, the mistrust, the wondering if it would happen again, my blind desire to believe the best of her. Then finally, in my mind I was waking up in the middle of the night to find her at the computer, emailing him and planning their next meeting.

"Why is this so easy for you?" Leigh raised her voice through her tears and my thoughts.

"Because," I paused before answering, searching for the right words to get my feelings across. "Because whenever it starts to get difficult, I remember all the pain you caused me, and then no part of me wants to have anything to do with you."

Her entire countenance changed when my words reached her ears. She sniffled a bit, wiped the saline from her eyes and pulled herself upright. Suddenly, it was business. "So what happens if I sign these papers?"

"It means you agree to everything as it's written and we can end this."

She began to look over the words as if she'd never read them before. Or maybe it just seemed that way because she had me so close to the edge. I felt like I was chewing on my heart. "It says I have twenty-one days to think about it. That means I have twenty-one days to try and get you back."

I couldn't help sighing. "Just sign the papers, Leigh."

She didn't reach for a pen. She merely tucked the papers into her coat pocket and cocked her head to the side. "So do you want to do it then? One last time?"

I was speechless. She spoke her proposition like she were ordering french fries at the McDonald's drive through. I wanted to shout, Am I wearing a paper hat? Do I look like a drive-thru sexstraunt employee? I wanted to scream, to allow the anguish and hurt to come pouring out of me in one giant vocal noise. I wanted to throw something at her. I wanted to erase from my mind the images I'd imagined of her with the others. I could do none of those things. But what I could do, I did.

"Please leave." She didn't move a muscle. She just stood there staring, waiting for me to change my mind. "I said leave."

With that, she turned on her heel and walked wordlessly out the front door. Immediately a searing pain coursed from my heart through my arteries and veins to my very fingertips as I realized that she never was mine. I always shared her.


For J. Someone does understand. Know that I miss you terribly.

Softlink commentators: This node isn't about my personal life, but about the personal life of a friend of mine who is not a noder. I'm fairly certain that it's safe to node about it.

Three times. Three heartaches.

The first time. He is as small as I am, but with Big Boy Hands. You and I are rough, painful, hurting, yelling, hateful passion, and you tell me later that you needed him. I am Not Good Enough to keep you happy, and because of the way we fight you need your stability, you need your pheromone-hormone-testosterone boy, and you don’t need me - you need him. We still have times where I make you grin and you fall into my arms, but these are few and far between.

But you come back to me.

 

The second time. He is not good. He is not Good. He’s the kind of guy to take a girl, get in her pants, and dump her off the side of a busy highway later that night. He’s a bastard and I could beat him up any day. You’re just baggage to him – hot, beautiful baggage. We are still fighting, painful, hurting and you take a break with me to be with him.

I eat lunch in the stairwells alone, tears soaking into my food, homemade salt, and you both touch bodies and hearts. (Your heart touches his, I should say.)

You leave, again, back for me. Back for more. I take you back, you are mine again, at least for a little while, and somehow we are not the fighting girls that we used to be. We grew up.

 

The third time. We are perfect. You tell me that we are, so many times. You tell me I’m the Perfect Girlfriend and that the marriage gods are confused as to why we aren’t already married. I smile and tell you how good you are. How much I adore you. Why I think you’re so special - know you're so special. We stay up all night talking about love, marriage… us. You tell me what you need and I give. We are warmth and hot, blazing heat.

But it’s not enough. Though we are Perfect, we are not enough, and you leave me. For how long? An hour? Two? Three? Four? You leave me for hours and come back to find me in bed, mascara smeared under my eyes from angst and worry. You tell me, hand on my jaw, vulnerable and quiet. You show me it wasn’t his fault, you show me it wasn’t yours, but what am I left with? Perfect isn’t enough. Fighting wasn’t enough. We are hot, blazing heat, and the comfort of curled up by a fireplace... and you need more, sometimes.

You tell me you don’t like it. You don’t like to leave, you like the time when you’re with him and you don’t like that you have to feel this way. And I know you don’t. I see it in your beautiful, beautiful green eyes when you whisper this to me in that quiet morning light. It reflects off your eyes and they sparkle, and little orbs of tears accumulate in each of the inner corners. You don’t want this, and I want to take it off of you. I yearn to take this off you and give you simple. To give you me, and have that always be enough.

I’m the girl in the background, who sometimes gets left behind. I can tie you up, make you scream and moan and cry out. Isn’t it enough to make you moan? Isn’t it enough to make you safe? Isn’t it enough to be as perfect to you as a person can get?

But here’s the answer. The answer that I repeat, mantra mantra mantra, and I spin it around in my brain in little winding circles until it coats all the walls. I know you don’t want this. I’m just so sick of the tragedy. Of the depression that comes with each him.

--

Let me tell you this. She has scars. Emotionally, in the little places you don't expect, and on her soft, warm porcelain skin. There's one on her knee that I especially love. It has this beautiful curve to it, almost a stretched-down part oval, part heart. I think her scars are beautiful. Would you love her scars the way I do? Would you give them extra attention when you kiss down her body? Would you mean it?

I just want her to be mine. I’m so tired of sharing.

A half-tame cat. A yo-yo. A gypsy of the heart. What I mean is she was never mine. I always shared her.

It always started the same. She had an eye for the wild guys, the dangerous men, conquistadors of the heart. I would always tell her no, but what is my word versus a motorbike? Whilst far from a normal man myself, I am not a Chi Master or a Handsome Actor, and so my word is second. I am a poor theatre with little convincing evidence.

I am ashamed to say I do not remember ever defending her honour. I am a small-framed guy. I do not know how to fight and not get my ass kicked. So I would just sit back and offer advice. I may not have been particularly unbiased. Every complaint of character meets a suggestion of separation. We talk online about the real world, but in the real world, I do little talking.

Then he breaks her heart. Oh, inevitable. I will always be here to mend your broken heart. Let it all out. Why is everyone like him? Cry on my cathartic shoulder. Fall asleep.

Now we practice being whole. You hold my hand. You sit on my chest and draw lines with your fingers. Trace scars across my chest and imagine your own. Oh, I'm so skinny, it's just what you like. Eventually, we will tire of this game and you will sleep. I am out of touch, but we practice for weeks. The warmth of your body fogs my memory, but I'm sure I hear you sob.

Then one day you wake up, and by breakfast, you have found a new man. But it's alright, he's different than before, it's not the same.

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