I thought nothing of it when she told me she was leaving. I muttered “Huh?” because I had to mutter something. What can you say when you are surprised - and not surprised at all.
I have a memory of the beginning, the good times, the things one wants to remember. On our second date, laying on a blanket in a Wisconsin meadow, I told Katie I was going to marry her. She was a small woman, barely over five feet, but with an excellent body and large full breasts for one only fifteen years old. They weren’t my first breasts, but they were my first really good ones. I was eighteen but quite virginal in my mind. I had gone to my high school prom and didn’t even kiss my date good night. Later I had played with sex but really understood little about it. When my first partner, a girl younger than my then eighteen, mumbled, “Don’t get me P G,” I didn’t know what she meant? Yes, I was quite virginal intellectually and emotionally.
It took three years of dating before I slept with Katie. Then we committed the deed only twice before she turned up pregnant. I finally learned the hard way what P G was. I just wasn’t meant to fool around. So we married and Ella was born less than six months after and then Billy before another two years was up.
It wasn’t so bad at the start. I had my degree and a decent teaching job at a local high school. We bought our first home and to the outside observer we looked like a “perfect” young couple – two kids and a dog. The lies were already there though. They were rooted in the very foundation of our union. She had lied often before our marriage, though it took many years to find that out. I had come from a large family and had always talked about having five children. Katie agreed, of course. The lies had begun. Soon after our son was born she had a “band aid” operation to ensure she would have no more. I had been married only three years and already one dream was shattered.
I had grown up wanting to be a teacher and coach. It was all I ever thought about being. Now it became “not good enough for me.” “I could do so much better,” she told me. I was happy with my income and loved what I was doing, but it simply wasn’t good enough for her now. It was good enough and even honorable when we were dating and I talked about my plans, but that was another lie. One can only take so much nagging so I finally relented and entered the corporate world. I was a “management trainee,” what they call you when they decide to hire you but don’t know what they want to do with you. Soon after starting some one in human resources quit so the boss said to put the new kid in human resources. Circumstances chose it for me and that’s where I stayed for twenty years. I changed companies here and there and moved up in position and salary, but never left human resources.
The strange thing was it didn’t matter what I did, how often I got promoted, or how big a pay increase I received. It was never good enough for her. She would just say, “That’s nice, but you can do so much better.” I could never achieve success. I could only achieve failure. When I became head of a seventeen person department with a million dollar operating budget – “That’s nice, but you can do so much better.” Since the day we married, nothing I achieved was ever good enough. They say women are attracted to “power” but the money is the power, or at least it was in her eyes. We “needed” a bigger house, a newer car, two newer cars, a European vacation, a cruise and more. It didn’t matter because nothing would ever be “good enough.”
I would guess that’s how the affairs began, always men with money and power, and who were willing to share some it with her as long as she shared in return. I traveled quite a bit for my job but always came home after work. She often didn’t. “I am just stopping for a drink with an old girl friend. I’ll be home soon.” This went on for years and, inside, I had to know, but could never face up to it. It all finally came out one very strange night.
She had phoned to say she was going out for a drink with Linda, an old girl friend she had not seen for years, so it might be awhile as they had so much to catch up on. Two hours later I am at home and the phone rings. It is Linda. She wanted to talk to Katie because they had not seen each other in years and had so much to catch up on. The God of marriage works in strange ways! Katie came home at two AM, drunk and disheveled. I pretended to be asleep.
The next day at my office a co-worker tells me he saw my wife at a well known restaurant last night and asked who was the man she was with? The God of marriage works in strange ways! I confronted her at home that evening, first asking her to walk so as to get a few blocks away from the house and avoid the children, then both in high school, from hearing. When I said strongly, “Where were you last night?” she tried to stick to her earlier story but she could tell by the look in my eyes that I knew, and she finally admitted the truth. As if the affair wasn’t bad enough, it was with a neighbor three doors down who was in the process of divorcing his wife and one with whom our sons were good friends. I had no words but only tears. Part of me wanted to scream, to beat her senseless, to end her life somehow in a great show of retribution, but I just cried quietly. Violence is not in me and has never been in me. I thought about it. I wanted it to be. I wanted to kill her, to see her blood splatter in a hundred different directions, but I couldn’t make it happen. I never even raised a hand. I remembered someone saying when we smiled, the world smiled with us, but when we cried, we cried alone.
For many years our sex life had been mostly an annual thing, once each year around the Christmas holidays. A small gift from Santa and the North Pole – and just as non-existent. You might as well have sent out a gift card. “This colorful piece of paper entitles you to one boring fuck. Joint participation not required.” We slept in a king bed, but it had been sawed in two a decade ago. She later blamed that on me, said that I never even bothered to try. I told her that when you have been turned away so many times you simply stop trying, just tire of the rejection. I remembered a line from a Rod McKuen poem. “and if in bed you never turn away.” I knew every small blemish on her back.
She always had a good body and she kept it fairly well over the years. Only a slight breast and butt sag over the years. I also stayed in decent shape, running five miles a day, five times a week. Women came on to me occasionally at work. I had a couple of one nighters and even two short affairs, but my heart was never in it. I was seeking solace, love in all the wrong places. I did not “perform” well. Use it or lose it – and I had seriously lost it.
I wanted to retire one day as Mr. Holland and my opus was to sit by the fire with my children and grandchildren around me. I suppose that‘s why I held the marriage together as long as I did. I had grounds for divorce but had decided I was not going to be the one that formally ended it. She finally did.
Ironically, it was Father’s Day, a Sunday. Both kids had just left to return to the college town where they lived year round now. She was sitting on the couch across the room from my chair when she said, “By the way, I’ve rented an apartment. I’m moving out next Saturday.” “Huh?” was my only reply. I had died long ago. The coffin was closed. The body would not be exhumed. I never got out of my chair.
Next Saturday came and two young boys she had hired showed up with a truck to move some things for her. I watched them take the things she pointed out to them. It wasn’t much. I objected to nothing. When they had loaded and left, she said, “I’m leaving now.”