That’s what happened when your heart broke. You remembered the good things first. The thing you’d miss. Then when the anger set in, a new reel started to play. Your thoughts turned from a romantic comedy to a psychological suspense. A genre switch. What a joke. Wedged in-between all of the good memories were dark slivers: fights, text messages, dissonance. You remembered how lonely you’d been feeling, and the dark slivers became more pronounced. They pushed apart the good memories until they stood on their own. All of a sudden, you were thinking, ohhh, that’s why he pulled away. There’s the day he couldn’t get it up, there’s the Thanksgiving when he was distracted. It all made sense in a roundabout way. It was a rough realization that the life you were living was not beautiful, but underhanded and secretive. And the person you loved the most was striking you with blows you couldn’t feel yet.
He called me in those days. Wrote long text messages begging me to take him back. I didn’t understand. Why would you beg to be with someone who you treated with such indifference? Then his begging turned to something else. He didn’t comfort me. He tried to make my sin louder than his. He wouldn’t tell the truth even when I held it in front of him. I found out about the lawsuit, a client he’d slept with, and that made him angry. He’d been fucking those girls since the moment he moved into my house, since before Mercy was born. Their stories all confirmed it. When I approached him with it he lashed out, called me names, told me I was a worse person than he could ever be.
“You’re trying to find things to balance the scales of what you did with Ryan!” he yelled on the phone.
“What did I do with Ryan, Darius? I’ve never touched the man! You started this long before Ryan showed up on the scene!”
“You don’t have to touch him to be having an affair with him,” he said.
He used Ryan—told me he’d done what he did because of my relationship with Ryan. He sent me the bikini picture I texted to Ryan last year and reminded me of how unfaithful I was. When I brought up the slideshow of pussy and tits I’d seen on his phone, he’d say I wouldn’t admit to my own issues. And then we’d argue about Ryan for the next fifteen minutes, me defending myself, him accusing. Until I realized it was a ploy. He was deflecting and I was falling right into it.
I stopped answering the calls, stopped calling. I stopped eating too. Ten pounds in ten days. Wow, miracle diet. When my mom brought Mercy home, her faced paled at the sight of me.
“I’ll just run to the store and get some things to make for dinner,” she said. I heard her calling my stepfather, telling him she’d be staying for a few days.
Mercy asked for him in her raspy little voice. “Where’s Daddy? When’s Daddy coming home? Why didn’t Daddy say goodbye to me? Does Daddy love me?” And what could I tell her? How could I explain? I’d hold her little body as she cried against me, and I’d curse her father, curse Darius, curse all of the men who hurt her so succinctly. “It was a mistake.”
I was so angry. He’d not just done this awful thing to me, he’d done it to my daughter. I failed to protect her. I’d let the monster in her house and given him free rein. Why? Why would he break something so beautiful? He hurt our family.
What happened when anger was over? I waited for acceptance—that would be the good part. The moving on-and-I-hurt-less part … I’m still waiting.
I hadn’t spoke to Fig in months. How many? Two? Three? And why had we stopped talking? Oh yes, because I thought she was in love with Darius. It all seemed so insignificant now. I’d known that something was up with Darius—I’d felt it. I’d just been looking at the wrong person. And in any case, I’d needed to take a step back, even after I changed my mind about Fig being in love with him.
She was as strange as she was overbearing. There was once a point when she was over at the house five days a week, just showing up whenever she wanted, bringing Mercy crazy presents, and sneaking her candy. Things had just fallen off the way they do when people are busy. Fig had taken on a lot of freelance work from my author friends, building their websites. And then a while back she began pulling her white SUV into the garage instead of parking it out front like the rest of the block did. Nowadays, I could never tell whether she was home or not.
I put on makeup for the first time in a month. My clothes were hanging loosely on my frame. I’d lost twelve pounds since my marriage ended. I didn’t even have tits anymore. It was a lovely evening, warm and still light. I pulled my boots on and went through the garden gate being careful not to let it slam closed. I don’t know why I was creeping around except that I didn’t want her to see me coming and pretend not to be home. I had the impression that she was hiding, and maybe it’s because I did it so well. When you worked from home, you parked in the garage, drew the drapes, and never made eye contact with the neighbors. I rapped on the back door, my knuckles stinging from the force. I lifted them to my lips while I waited. It was warmer out than it had been yesterday, I could see the buds growing on the tree branches. I must have caught her off guard because a second later her face appeared in the window, her mouth formed into a visible O. I heard the clicking of the lock as she turned the deadbolt, and then the door swung open. A familiar smell came from inside, it was the smell of my house. No surprise there.
“Hey,” she said. “What’s up?” She was in workout clothes and her face looked dewy like she’d been on the treadmill. My god, she was thin. Thinner than me, thinner than a real life human was supposed to be.