It’s a moment that travels with me, a moment that defines me. Deeper than the scar on the base of my right hand where I thought I could cut myself free from this tragic wreckage of a relationship. The moment when I realized the woman I loved had cheated on me. She would have never told me, had I never found that snippet of a text message that she saved as a picture and forgot to delete. The conversation itself, long purged from her phone, along with any other trace of him. A snippet, I found by accident the night she was out with her co-workers, and I picked her up and carried her out of the bar, I drover her home and tucked her into our bed. Her phone buzzed, and that’s when I saw it. I went looking for a picture she had taken of the two of us the day before where I thought we looked particularly nice, and that’s where I found this:
I shake her awake, bleary eyed she denies everything. “It’s a joke” she mutters. Though, there’s nothing funny about this. I’m surprised by how easily the lie comes to her lips. Then again I’ve heard her lie countless times to her family and her business partners. I assumed these lies were reserved for others– not for me. I am left alone with my thoughts until the morning. The day passes and I almost forget. Almost. Like an afterthought, as casually as if I had asked her about the weather or what she wanted to eat. Her face drops. For the moment, she can’t speak. And that’s when I knew.
We sit there on our bed. She tells me this in great detail because I keep asking questions. I am torn between the fury and the fascination for the truth. I need this, I need this image, as bright and as accurate in my mind, deep and embedded into my flesh so I can never forget it. So it haunts me forever. I ask questions, because it keeps me from screaming and unraveling the very room. She paints it for me: She’s drunk in Mexico while on vacation for her friends’ wedding, and her ex-boyfriend carries her from the party to her bed. He undresses her, and presses himself inside of her, and there they lay until morning. That same morning, when she texted me she loved me, and that she was thinking about me. That same morning where she joked about riding golf carts and sunrises and longing for my arms. That same morning I spent sanding and polishing the wooden stand for the globe I was restoring, a present to surprise her on her return. To show her she was my world, encapsulated literally on a stand for her to twirl under her hand and survey at her whim. My world, given to her.
That same morning, she’s wearing the orange dress I helped pick out, the dress she modeled for me in the wedding shop, talking about how one day in the near future we’d be there again, and she’d be trying on a white dress instead of an orange one. That orange dress, pulled up around her waist, and her wasted on a bed somewhere in Mexico, with him thrusting on top of her, and everything here, everything at home, everything that was us completely forgotten. She never did unpack that orange dress in front of me. I always assumed it was stained with him.
I close my eyes. She continues talking. I feel something shift and shut off inside of me, it hurts terribly as it moves. A little blinking light attached to a switch to a thread of my humanity. The light flickers and goes black; the bulb cools with the cold wind of each one of her words as they pass through her lips. It’s weeks later when I even notice its absence. I try the switch again, fluttering and muttering to myself, wondering when it broke and what it did in the first place. Over time it becomes just another dismantled piece collecting dust, mounted on the wall-turned-museum of all the things I used to believe, like miracles and Santa Claus– just one less light in the world, one less thing to believe in.
I’m inside of her repeatedly that night. She cries. I’m not sure if she’s thinking I’ve forgiven her, or she’s just happy she has me for a few hours more. I push myself inside of her, reckless and unprotected. Somehow I’m thinking if I fill her with my seed, there’s less of him and more of me, and I can somehow push him out. I know this is the last time I’ll ever get to see her like this. This is the death of us, orchestrated by His cock and her inability to remain faithful to me. I watch her panting, as she finishes, her back arching and her mouth open, her toes curled and her eyes rolled back in her head. She says I’m the only one who can make her cum like this. She’s probably told him the same thing too. I think about how many other people have seen her this way. How many other people will. It kills me. The light in me has gone off.
– – – –
Somehow we limp on, battered and embattled, this bitter ragged relationship. Bound by stubbornness and pride relabeled as love. I watch her, like a wounded creature waiting to be struck again. My heart never stops wincing, always anticipating the next blow falling, the next lie unraveling, so much so my face has contorted into a permanent snarl. Part sneer, part scream, part fear, each day– less and less me. We’re held together by superglue and band-aids. The slightest upset to our delicate balance pulls us apart at the seams, sending us spiraling in opposite directions only to smack back together like two cocked fists made of glass. I begin striking preemptively. The rage explodes without warning: it covers the walls in frothing butter, lines the floors with broken glass and sends her cowering to the side of our bed. Door frames get kicked off their hinges. We run out of dishes to break. Even on the good days, we’re still picking shards and splinters out of our feet, drinking out of plastic cups because everything else has been smashed to pieces. The light has gone off. I am no longer me but I refuse to leave. Stubbornness and pride, mislabeled as love. I love her, but I can’t stand her. I hate her, but I can’t stand the thought of her with someone else.
I begin to realize there is nothing more she can do to me, no further way she can harm me than she has done already. In our final fight, I shred that orange dress to pieces. It’s become a symbol of everything wrong with us. My fingernails claw through it, as if it were her flesh. The seams tear as I twist it violently, ripping, unraveling– destroyed. I leave it as a tattered heap on the floor of her room. The light in me is off.
…and it never goes back on again.