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A Sense of Finality: a short story (based on truth)

I watched him weave through the potted plants and tables as he worked his way over to me.  I sat in a red upholstered booth  with a sticky tablecloth.  Cheap paper placemats printed with the Chinese zodiac lay beneath the napkin wrapped silverware. Cracked vinyl menus waited beside each place.
As he walked the last five feet and slid into the booth across from me I thought, when did I stop thinking he was handsome and charming and start seeing that he's weak and pathetic? Did he always slouch?
I suppose my greeting was less than cordial.  "Hello, Roger."
He grunted and studied the menu.
After we'd ordered our lunches I folded my hands on the placemat in front of me.  Might as well get this over with,  I thought.   "About the arrangements - "
"Are you really going to go through with this?" He asked impatiently.
I studied his face before answering.  Nothing there made me sorry about my decision.  "Yes."
He slammed his hand down on the table, startling the diners nearby. They were silent for a moment, staring at us in consternation before resuming their conversation.  " I suppose you're going to go to him."  He sneered the last word.
"No, I'm going home to Massachusetts."
He looked slightly relieved. "Oh?"
"I'll be staying with my mom and looking for a job up there."
He nodded.  "What about the girls?"
I considered this; I hadn't worked it all out yet. Sally wasn't in school yet but Marcy was in kindergarten.  Should I uproot her in the middle of the school year? I asked him what he thought. He seemed gratified to have some input into my plans.
We finally agreed that I would take Sally with me on the train and that he would bring Marcy to me after the semester ended.
Talking of purely practical matters seemed to calm him. Neither of us made any mention of a divorce, although he had been the one to threaten it a week ago.
He paid our  bill and we walked out to the parking lot. He had been dropped off by a coworker and would have to ride back with me.
"I have a headache." he complained.
"I'll drive. Do you want to go back to work?"
"No, I took the rest of the afternoon off. I thought I'd need it."
I made no comment and climbed into the driver's seat of our Nissan hatchback.  He crammed his six foot length into the cramped passenger's seat as I started the engine.
We were both silent as I drove toward home, but he must have been thinking about our conversation at the restaurant and what was about to happen.
We'd been married six years and had two young daughters aged three and five. Our idealistic expectations had begun to crumble almost immediately after the wedding. Our parents had said "you're too young. You don't know each other very well, you should wait."  They had been right, but we didn't listen. We even decided to start a baby to shut them up. I was married in a maternity dress.
Now it was over. I had met a man who was the catalyst of this crisis, but not the cause. He had simply made me see that there was supposed to be more. I wanted whatever that more was.
On the ride home, though, my determination was beginning to slip. I was feeling guilty. I knew the man beside me was suffering. I knew that he had loved me in his way, and probably still did - or thought he did. I knew my children would be terribly hurt by this. I had comforted myself with the reasoning: "It's better for them to live in a peaceful single-parent household than in a two-parent war zone." It sounded good at first, but didn't bear close inspection.
Roger's thoughts bubbled to the surface; "Why can't we try again?" he whined. "We could get counseling....we could - ."
"We've tried that." I cut him off.  "It hasn't helped. Nothing has changed, and I'm tired of it."  I know my voice sounded harsh and cold; I think it was from fear that I'd cave in.
"But I don't understand what the problem is!"
No, and you probably never will.  Instead of saying this, though, I sighed tiredly and said, "We've been through all this. It's settled. I don't want to talk about it anymore."
Without warning, his arm slashed out and caught me on the side of the face.  My glasses went flying.  Pain arced through my head, filling my eyes with tears.  I slammed on the brakes and managed to get the car onto the shoulder without dumping us into the ditch. I had begun to sob great heaving gasps like a child - the kind that make it impossible to say a complete sentence without breaking into single syllables.
"You - hit - me!" I sobbed.
He jumped out of the car and ran around to the driver's side. I regret that I didn't have the presence of mind to lock the doors.  He opened mine and pushed me into the passenger's seat.  I groped on the floor for the pieces of my glasses.  They had cut my face upon impact and my tears were stinging the gash.  "You - broke - my - glasses!"  I accused him.  I tried to jump out the passenger side door but he grabbed my arm and hauled me back in, stepping on the gas to make me reconsider that idea..
He was grimly silent the rest of the way home.  I sobbed and sniffled to myself, trying to blot the tears from my face and to breathe deeply to calm myself.
He was apologetic later, but excused himself by claiming that I'd driven him to it.  He said he loved me too much to let me go.  I just stared at him and continued with my packing.
He had unwittingly made it very easy for her.

an excerpt .from "Tangles, Transitions, and Traumas"


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