Biographical Non-Fiction posted October 30, 2014 Chapters:  ...31 32 -33- 34... 


Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
or the recognition of cowardice...

A chapter in the book My Almost Cashmere Life

An Exhibition of Bravery

by maggieadams


The sea gulls circled overhead, making screeching cries. The neon lights blinked behind me, beckoning the gamblers. The sun flashed its pinks and golds, sinking deeper into the horizon as it dragged the day to a close. And I---I stood alone in the casino parking lot, making the phone call that would end my marriage.

Fumbling with my phone, I flipped it open and hit redial. It rang three times, and on the fourth---right before going to voicemail---he answered. "Uh, I know, I know; I just couldn't return your calls. I'm on my way now; I'm really sorry, Maggie."

"So, you're on your way from Portland, from Lola's? I was going to surprise you, but I guess the surprise is on me." Silence.  "Uh, why, Alan, why? It's Easter, for God's sake ... couldn't you at least..."

More silence and then a seminal moment: "But I love her, Hon."

What was I supposed to say in response? Was I supposed to say: "Well, alrighty, then, I understand. Why don't you turn around and pick her up. When you get here, we'll celebrate."

The gulls had landed close to me, fighting over a half-eaten plate of nachos. Their shrieks punctuated the atmosphere.  Gamblers were weaving through the lot towards the brightly lit casino. Easter was over. Darkness had descended. And I---I was trying to hang on to a shred, a few crumbs of dignity.

I exhaled. "Alan, my car's dead. I'm stuck at the casino hotel, or else I'd get in it and drive back home and file for divorce tomorrow, you fuckin' asshole, you lying piece of shit. I even asked you on our walk this morning if you were struggling." Another exhale.  "God, I'm so stupid."

"I'm so conflicted. I'm really sorry. I'll be there in about an hour. We'll deal with your car...uh, Maggie, I didn't want it to happen like this. Sorry."

I snapped the phone shut and walked across the lot to the hotel where I checked-in under his reservation. The concierge had the nerve to ask. "Is Alan at the casino?" He was their VIP, so they wanted to make sure he was gambling. What a sickness!

I headed back across the parking lot, grabbed my bag from the car and locked it. The gulls and gamblers had moved on.

When I arrived in my hotel room, I felt claustrophobic, so I opened the curtain, unlocked the slider and stepped out onto the deck. The hypnotic voice of the ocean calmed me. It strengthened my resolve. I've been made the fool. I had been wasting my life on the back burner where I simmered for years---a slow burn. Though my world was about to be turned upside down, the recognition of my cowardice was about to become an exhibition of bravery.

I breathed in the salty ocean air and wrestled with my thoughts. I had been proud of holding on, of keeping the family together. But, I reasoned, as I leaned out over the railing,the only thing I was holding on to is my own misery. I was not filled with wracking grief or even close to tears. In fact, I was pulling out arrows from my quiver when I heard the door click open.

Resentment sizzled in my veins as I turned from the serenity of the ocean and came into the room.

Alan's face flushed a crimson red when we made eye contact. He sat on the edge of the floral bedspread and put his head in his hands. Still trying to work all the angles (I guess, some habits die-hard), he pleaded: "Please, don't make this hard for me. I didn't plan it...it's complicated. I love both of you, actually. I'm so torn."

No longer concerned about saving my marriage or my dignity, I let him have it, flinging words across the space of years. Relishing in my control, I became emboldened by my bravado, prosecuting my case and spewing venom. "How's your son?" I taunted. "Lola doesn't even know what Woodstock is---Or Vietnam---she wasn't even born." I scoffed as I pounded my palm on the desk. "Do you even know her politics? You make me sick."

He just sat there taking it, not offering any rebuttal. Though he deserved every piercing accusation, I took no responsibility for my part, instead, I became the character deserving sympathy, the likable victim in this story. Life is not that one-sided, not that black and white, but losing all perspective for one last night rescued me from thirty years of loneliness.

My words were like punches, landing many blows. "You'll never walk your daughters down the aisle. You'll never see my family, my brother---who treated you like a brother---you'll never see or talk to him again. Your friends---who are my friends---what were you thinking? Are you crazy? How can you love someone who was willing to lie and cheat your family?

I caught my breath. "The pets---Spanky and Verdel and the cats---you'll never see them again. Don't even try. You disgust me. You stole my life, robbed your family of happiness...for what? So you could sneak around with a woman who could be your daughter? Stringing me along for all those years. Why?"

Finally, he lifted his head from his hands. "Please, stop. I didn't mean to fall in love... I didn't plan it...I love my family, too...I just, Christ, it's exhausting. Do you think we could get some sleep? I have depositions in the morning."

I walked back onto the deck and listened to the roar of the ocean. The crescent moon hung in the dark sky, and I felt the rhythm of the tides and smelled the salt-laced air. Though my world had been turned upside down, the sun would come up tomorrow, the sea gulls would glide on the wind, gamblers would continue to roll the dice and... 

Life would go on.












 


Book of the Month contest entry

Recognized


The next day, my car was towed back to Portland and he had the pleasure of driving me home...he got another hour and half of my "wisdom"...

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Artwork by cleo85 at FanArtReview.com

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