annual blood drive at work.
“You have an extra heartbeat,” the doctor told me afterward. “Been under any stress lately?”
“Not really,” I said. How could I divulge my secrets to a stranger? How could I reveal my worry about strained finances, Bryan’s delays, John’s family? No, I couldn’t tell. I had become a master of denial. Besides, this was a private matter, and I was sure I could find a way to handle it myself.
Sitting there on the living room step, though, I was engulfed in the pain I had experienced in this room, this house I had helped build over seven long years, and the pain of my failed marriage. I hugged my knees to my chest and sighed. In this room I had made one of the most important decisions of my life, a hard, lifesaving decision. My eyes brimmed with tears at the memory.
“Here now, what’s this?” John said as he stepped into the living room and sat down beside me. Tenderly he lifted my chin with one finger as he wiped away the tears. “Today is a happy day. Why the sad face?”
My emotional dam burst. I buried my head in John’s chest and sobbed. I sobbed about the way Bryan’s affairs had loomed over our marriage, even as I labored to make it work. I was a good little Catholic girl clinging to my vows. Divorce was a sin, unmentionable. But no matter what I did for him, Bryan’s demons couldn’t be exorcised. The schism between us magnified and opened up a chasm neither of us could bridge.
I struggled with the words as I told John how Bryan had slowly distanced himself from me, emotionally and sexually, about how our marriage turned platonic. We became business partners, cordial to each other, but apathetic, and always busy. Busy finishing the house, busy building our cabin in the Sierra foothills, busy doing anything, everything to keep from communicating.
I sat up and looked into John’s blue eyes and continued.
“Intimacy vanished. Evaporated. The void devoured me. One day I put a cassette into the tape deck, turned the receiver to full volume, and sat right here, where we are now, as Donna Summers blared ‘Enough Is Enough.’ As I listened to the throbbing beat something happened. I joined in, defiantly belting out the words, as loud as I could. ‘Enough Is Enough!’ It boosted my courage. ‘Enough Is Enough!’ I stood and firmly planted my feet. ‘Enough Is Enough!’ I’m getting a divorce.”
“Whew,” John said. “Some pretty strong emotions got stirred up, didn’t they?” I nodded as he gave me a warm smile.
“What say we try to get rid of them,” he beamed. “Let’s plan a party.”
I love a party as much as anyone, but my mouth fell open at John’s suggestion. “A party? We’re not even settled in yet, and there’s so much to do, to get the house ready to sell.”
“I don’t mean right away,” he countered. “I was thinking about a barbecue and swim party on Labor Day weekend. That’s a month away. This house is perfect for parties, so spacious and well laid out. It’d be a shame to let a holiday go by without one.”
John bubbled over like a little boy with a new toy. He wanted to show off his new house and share his good fortune with our friends, to show them a good time. His enthusiasm was contagious, and I couldn’t resist.
“I’ll even do all the cooking,” he bribed, enveloping me in a bear hug.
“Okay, okay. I give in.” I laughed. “We won’t be here long, so we may as well have one big, blowout party.”
We chatted about whom we’d ask, what we’d serve, getting sillier and sillier as we concocted the lists. Tired as I was, it felt good to plan something joyful together. I had no idea that John had a plan of his own, a long-term plan that was about to unfold.
“You know, this is a great house,” John said.
“Of course it is. I built it. Remember?” I teased, jutting out my chest in exaggerated pride.
“No, no, I’m serious,” he continued. “It’s too bad we have to sell it after we fix it
Lt. Col. USMC (ret.) Jay Kopelman