Amuse-bouche

After coming home from my run, showering and getting dressed, I snuggled up under my duvet pulling out my iPad.  There I sat with my eyes closed, listening to the silence of our home.  All I could hear was the beating of my heart and the occasional dog barking in the distance.  I knew I didn’t have long to formulate my thoughts.  The kids would be arriving back soon, so I started pecking away at the glass screen.

When I was done writing, I opened Facebook and saw Billy logged in.  My heart raced even faster as I contemplated sending it immediately or waiting till after he logged off.  In the end, I chose to send it then, while he was active.  Talk about nerve wracking.  Billy read it in real time, as I switched between the two applications.  A solid lump formed in my throat as the “Seen at” time stamp updated, adding to the theatricalness of it all.

 

I have so much to say Billy.  I wrote you a letter but I’m just going to cut and paste it into Facebook.  I wish we could have spoken face to face, just to get some closure.  As you can probably guess, I talked to Laura today.  I am grateful that you were honest and candid with her.  I wish you could have had the courage to do that with me.  I definitely feel like I have more clarity now.

(Seen at 5:04 pm)

I said before that I wished I could undo meeting you.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  You showed me that I am just as capable of cheating on my husband, as my husband was able to cheat on me.  Although nothing happened between us, it’s given me a new understanding of how easy it is to get sucked away from your spouse.  And for that I thank you.  I think this whole experience has given me a deeper understanding and a deeper sense of forgiveness for what my husband did to our marriage.  And that I’m not perfect either.  It’s a good life lesson for me–something I needed to learn/see for myself.  Obviously, two years hasn’t been long enough to heal.

(Seen at 5:05 pm)

I still think you’re a good guy Billy, always have.  But I do think you have a lot of issues which explains why you are not close to people, and frankly why you are still single.  For the record, there is no elusive “perfect” woman.  There will only be a perfect moment when you stop playing musical chairs and finally commit to someone.  Don’t be afraid to love or commit Billy.  I promise you.  It’s amazing to do things for the people you love and not live a solitary life.

You know I’m a risk taker at heart.  I laid it all on the table when I felt something between us after all these years.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  But if you don’t throw the dice, you lose every time.  Do I regret it?  Not at all.  I felt something the second I saw you staring at me from across the bar.  Chemistry like that doesn’t just come along everyday.

(Seen at 5:05 pm)

Yes you made it clear you wanted nothing to do with breaking apart a marriage.  But your messages said you were “overly” attracted to me.  But I was married.  However, once I was single, we would be a possibility down the road.

I told you I wanted you in my life.  And you replied, “maybe”.  Reading your messages one last time, I really felt like you were keeping the door wide open.  Keeping your options open.  I get it, you’re single.  That is what single people do.  But at each junction of me stating how I wanted you in my life, you never once stepped up to say you didn’t want me in yours.  I just want you to be honest with me Billy.  Good or bad.  I can take it.

(Seen at 5:06 pm)

Laura explained that you didn’t want to hurt me.  I respect the fact that you shared that with her.  It only reconfirms that there was something between us, whatever that was.  If you didn’t care for me in some capacity, I don’t think you would have considered my feelings at all.  But that is water under the bridge now.

Seeing so many old friends reawakened something in me.  I miss everyone.  We use to all be so close.  And we certainly shared a lot of laughs along the way.  At the very least, I will come out of this staying in contact with several people who I drifted away from.  I just wanted to clear the air with you so that if by chance we ever bump into each other, it’s not awkward.  Or at the very least, won’t be as awkward.  There might be another party one day, or someone has a kid or something….and well, it just might happen.  Who knows what the future holds.  We might just laugh about this at the next reunion when your bald and ugly and certainly no longer hot (Can you please be ugly at the next one?  It will make things so much easier).  And by the way, I am going to look stunning at the next one just to rub it in–hahaha 😊

(Seen at 5:07 pm)

Anyways, I have thought long and hard about whether or not to tell my husband.  But it would only hurt him.  Right now we are discussing a trial separation, but everyone is saying I am making a mistake.  That he loves me so much.  That he is a good guy who screwed up etc.  I don’t need any drama in the future and nothing physical ever happened between us.  So I am just going to put this behind me.  And hope that I am making the right decision on that.

I wish you the best.  I will always think of you when I see vintage cars.  You have certainly cursed me in that way.  Maybe over time, this will all feel like a big mistake.  But I am still wrestling with, “I can’t explain it.  It’s what I am attracted to….it wants what it wants.”

I am not expecting a reply, but rather wanted the chance to say my peace.  Get everything off my chest and finally say…goodbye.

(Seen at 5:08 pm)

 

It took two more days for our friendship to be severed.  But only twenty-four hours for my racing heartbeat to suddenly stop.  Yes, it stopped.  Finally.

I wish I could say that was the end of my story.  But the truth is, it’s only the beginning of my sordid tale.

An amuse-bouche if you will.

 

 

 

 

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Goodbye

The following day, as if on cue, Laura rang to see how things were going.  There was no use trying to gloss over the facts.  So I just came right out and said, “I told him I wanted a divorce last night.”  Unfortunately, between her kids and mine, we couldn’t really discuss things further as we were surrounded by several pairs of listening ears.  We both hung up, promising to reconnect in a few days.

I grabbed my iPad and opened up Facebook, only to find I had no reply from Billy.  I could see he read my message though.  And to be honest, it was driving me nuts.  I didn’t know where Billy’s head was at, and all I wanted to do was talk to him face to face.  My heart was still racing every time I thought of him.  But his silence was invading my thoughts during the day.  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of him going mute, so I decided to go for a run.  In fact, I spent several hours running that week.  I just had to keep myself busy, as any downtime brought my thoughts back to him.  Perhaps Billy just needed time to mull things over before he responded.  That is what I told myself, until Laura finally phoned later that week.

“Please don’t be mad.  I am your friend and I want to talk to you about something.  Are you alone?”

Catching my breathe I replied, “Yeah, I just finished my run.  I’m walking back to my car.  Why?  What’s up?”

Laura filled her lungs in and sighed, “I kept thinking about Billy and how you told your husband you wanted a divorce.  And it was really bothering me that Billy hadn’t replied to you.  I couldn’t sleep.  I kept tossing and turning thinking about everything.  First the reunion, then the party.  By around midnight, I finally got up and logged into Facebook.”

“Yes…and?”

“Billy was online so I messaged him.  I explained that I knew everything.  That I had read his messages and didn’t understand why he wasn’t replying to you.  I said if he didn’t feel comfortable talking to you face to face, would he talk to me?'”

I implored, “And what did he say?”

“He said yes.  So yesterday, Nick and I met Billy for coffee.  Just the three of us.  Nick just sat there listening.  He knows everything too.  But he just sat there for moral support while I grilled Billy.”

“FUCK, are you kidding me?”

“No.  Look, I was just trying to help out because I don’t want you throwing your marriage away.  I told Billy that I considered you a really good friend and as your friend, if he is serious about you, then he better step up and say so right now.  You have kids.  You’re seriously contemplating leaving your husband now.  And while trying to pull this relationship into the real world, it appears he is stalling things.”

She continued, “I honestly think you married the right person.  Yes, he cheated on you.  And yes, you’ve been through some shitty years now.  And likely, you haven’t entirely dealt with that.  But I really believe your marriage can be restored.  I care about you honey.  I don’t want you making a mistake that you will end up regretting later.”

Wiping the sweat away from my face and the occasional tear I said, “So what did Billy say?”

“He admitted to having feelings for you.  And flirting with you.  But he has been down this road before.  And he was emphatically clear that he wants no part whatsoever in breaking up any marriage.  Good or bad.  He just can’t go down this road again.”

“Ok…” I said as I tried to swallow the ever present lump in my throat that was forming.

Laura continued, “You know our church talked about this before.  But I have never seen it play out before my eyes.  They talked about people reuniting with past boyfriends or old classmates from school.  One thing leads to another and the next thing you know, both parties think they have feelings for one another.  The thing that struck me the most about your story was the second you tried to take your relationship outside the virtual world, he froze.”

“My phone is about to die.  And I have to get home.  Can I call you later?”

“Yeah that’s fine.  I just wanted to say that I am sorry if you feel I overstepped any boundaries.  But I felt you deserved an answer.  Billy suddenly turned into this wimpy little kid that couldn’t even communicate.  I mean come on, what are we fourteen?  He needed to man up and respond to you.  This is just bullshit from my perspective and Nick agrees too.”

Feeling pressure mounting in my chest now, I responded, “Yeah I agree.  It’s just I would have rather have had the opportunity to talk to him face to face.  So I could get closure myself.  There is a lot to be said for body language and all those non verbal clues.  I know he feels what I feel.  But I get it.  This would be a game changer for his life.  Who really wants to date a divorced mother with two kids?”

“Honey, there’s a reason why Billy is still single, despite being incredibly good looking.  He sucks at relationships, that’s why he’s not married!  Just keep that in perspective ok?”

“Alright.  Thanks Laura.  I do appreciate it.  The closure part.  Should I email him one last time?”

“Sure, say your goodbye’s but then unfriend him immediately.  I’ll be watching.”

I fished my key out of my sports bra and unlocked my car.  Tears started to well up in my eyes thinking I would never see him again.  But I clenched my teeth and held my composure together.  As I turned the key counter-clockwise in the ignition, chords from a piano started to play solemnly on the radio.

 

Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’ll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

 

The tears that I had been holding back leaked from my eyes.  One streamed down my face.  Then another.  The salty liquid reached my quivering lips as I felt my heart surging with sadness.  A sense of loss overcame me as I closed my eyes and pursed my lips.  In a flash, I was standing back at the bar.  Billy locking eyes with me.  Smiling.  Staring at me intently.  I could almost reach out to him, it was that fresh in my mind.  The image and that moment seemed purposely ingrained.

So poignant.  That moment.  Sitting in the car.

As the lyrics played out over the radio, I knew what I had to do.

It was time to say goodbye to Billy.

For good.

 

 

 

The Prelude

As I sat across from my husband, nursing a hangover, I kept thinking about how “Billy wants to be friends”.  I was mentally trying to figure out how he found me, in between bites of my breakfast.  Like a Polaroid going off in my mind, I suddenly recalled the bartender taking a group photo from the night before.  That must have been it.  Jeff must have tagged me.

You could hear the clanking of our silverware, as we continued with our breakfast.  Him, bacon and eggs.  Me, hash browns and coffee.  Not much has changed in fourteen years of marriage.  I can predict my husbands wants and desires like a weatherman predicts tomorrow’s California sunshine.  We were both utterly exhausted, so no words were exchanged.  This wasn’t the first late night between us.  We actually met at an underground club in Europe.  And not your ordinary club in the American sense.  This place was legendary for hardcore music lovers who had been up for two days.  A Sunday afternoon session if you will, to cap the weekend off.  But those days were long behind us.  And had been from the start of our marriage.  However, it felt eerily familiar to be this narcoleptic sitting across from him.

[click here to ACCEPT] kept popping in my mind.  That, and wondering if Jeff had really posted the group photo.  My curiosity grew as my stomach swelled full and I finally reached for my phone.  Sure enough, I was right.  There on Facebook was the photo from the previous night.  I was surrounded by my dearest girlfriends from twenty years ago, while Billy stood directly behind me…smiling.

I would look at that photo several times in the coming weeks, wondering if I should finally leave my husband.  Wondering if my marriage had completely run it’s course.  I didn’t know how else to reconcile the racing heartbeat that never stopped.  I had that exact same feeling when I met my husband, which I took as a sign.  A sign that somehow, I had made a terrible decision in marrying my husband.  And that perhaps, Billy and I were meant to be together.

But Billy knew I was married.  For the duration of our meal, I rationalized that perhaps I had misinterpreted everything at the bar.  And adding me, to the other 2158 “friends” Billy had, likely meant nothing to him.  So I accepted his friendship.  In one click, we were reconnected.

It took all of three days for Billy to contact me. Very PC of course.

“Good to see you!  You haven’t aged at all.  Your husband is rad too.  Next time I’m up that way, maybe we can meet at the brewery.  You guys get a sitter.”

I broke out in the biggest grin replying back, “Yeah I feel the same.  I really was surprised to see you.  In all honesty, I thought you were someone’s husband and not alumni.  You look so different than how I remember you.”

Without missing a beat he replied, “Ha.  Reynolds didn’t even recognize me.”  All the guys referred to each other by their last names.  It started back in junior high, when the boys PE teacher called them out by their last names during drills.  It stuck.  And to this day, that’s how they refer to one another: Reynolds, Weaver, Fuller and Collins.  They were thick as thieves at one point.  But time had distanced everyone from each other.

And so our friendship began.  It was mostly benign stuff, like comparing notes about the reunion.  Did you talk to this person or that person?  Wasn’t that person funny?  But eventually our chit-chat turned more personal, like most people’s would after you’ve flushed out all the boring stuff.

One morning, I was told that a classmate was murdered and it floored me.  I immediately sent Billy a message.  “I just heard about her passing.  Did you know?”  He immediately got online to talk.  “Whaaaat?  When?  How?”  I quickly replied, “All I know is she was murdered.”  Billy wrote, “So sad.  I liked her.  Urgh, I’m reading about it online.  So so sad.”

A few days later, my husband took the kids to a soccer game.  So I had time to myself which rarely happens.  Pouring myself a glass of wine, I logged back in and Billy sent me a message.  “Hiiiiiiiiiii.  What are you doing?”  “Just sitting her with a glass of wine. Everyone went to a soccer game.  I’m actually alone for once which never happens. You?”

“Sitting at a bar watching the World Series.  It’s empty.  Too many Halloween parties.” Billy wasn’t in California.  He was back east, a trip he made several times a month to oversea business.  Wondering where he would rather live, I asked, “Do you like being back there?  Or are you a So Cal guy at heart?”  He said, “Ha!  I only ever “visit” here, even when I moved.  I’ve never lived further than four miles from the house I grew up in.  Except when here.”

“So your parents are still in town?” I asked.  Billy replied, “My mom is.  Old man died a few years ago.  Same house across from school.”  Regretfully I said, “I’m sorry Billy.  I didn’t know.  We put mine in a home.  Twelve brain surgeries, two comas, nearly died a few times.”

“That’s tough.  At least mine went quick.  Died on his motorcycle surrounded by his friends, with the sun on his face.  Kinda awesome.” Collecting my thoughts, I finally replied, “You can’t ask for a better way to go.  Surrounded by your friends, doing something you love.”  Billy paused and finally replied, “True.  Very very true.”

I should probably share that Billy has a penchant for restoring vintage cars.  Or rather an obsession for a certain German manufacturer.  It started with his father and migrated down to him.  One day, he shared some old B&W photos of his Dad leaning against one of his prized possessions.  It was definitely unexpected.  Quite sweet and nostalgic.  And in that moment, I realized just how much his fathers death had impacted him.  He missed him.  And I understood.  For although my father was still alive, he was completely brain damaged.  I lost him in every way, except the physical.

A few days passed and Billy sent me more photos.  Only this time, it was inside his business.  Maybe he was trying to impress me.  Who knows.  I wish I could divulge more because it’s interesting.  And especially for someone like him.  You could say our friendship was getting closer at that point.  Although I yearned to see him again, I figured it would be another decade until that would happen.

My phone rang.  It was Kara.  “I’ve been so busy honey, but I’ve been wanting to call you.  The reunion was so much fun.  Now everyone wants to hang out again.  How about me, you and Laura throw a Halloween party?”