Wrongs, Rights, and The Stuff In the Middle

It was three days after I broken up with Dennis, and the phone was ringing.  He usually called me on Thursdays, to touch base on our Monday evenings in case one or both of us needed to beg off.   I knew it was him, and couldn’t decide whether or not to pick up the phone.

I’d actually kind of surprised myself by breaking up with him.  I had certainly known all along that it was going to be me that ended the relationship when my moral dilemma outweighed my loneliness.   Right from the start, when I’d stood in his living room looking at his family photos, imagining my face in all of the places where hers was, I knew that what I was doing wasn’t right.  But I had been able to talk myself into letting myself be selfish for a while.  It wasn’t often I got to be selfish with the way my life was set up, and for a while, I was able to push the quiet voice of reason aside.

But as I spent the holidays alone, without the man who was dominating more and more of my thoughts, I knew that our days were numbered.   I wanted more than Dennis was able or even willing to give; I was changing the rules.  And so after our usual Monday evening visit, as we lay in bed together,  I told him that I would need to stop seeing him.  That I respected his boundaries and wishes, but that my moral confusion had finally hit a critical level.  I couldn’t bear thinking about his wife and what we were doing to her each time we were together.   That I loved that he’d been there for me at a time when I most needed someone, but I couldn’t continue to be in this thing feeling all of what I was feeling.

Dennis had offered to maintain a friendship with me, whatever it was that I wanted or needed.   Which is likely why my phone was now on its fourth ring this Thursday night, because he wanted to check in and make sure I was OK.

I picked up.  “Hello?”

“I wasn’t sure you were going to answer.”

“I wasn’t sure I was either,” I told him.

“Why?”  His voice was so warm, so kind.

“I wasn’t completely honest with you the other night.”  I sat on the edge of my bed, looking at myself in the mirror.  God, I looked tired.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, here’s the thing,” I started, taking a deep breath.  “The stuff I said about being bothered by all of this, that’s all true.  It bothers me more each time.  But the reason why isn’t because I’m some saint.  It’s because each time I see you,  I’m this much closer to falling in love with you.  I’m so close to it, I might already be there.  And every minute I’m loving you, that makes this all so much worse.  It’s one thing for it to mean nothing, but it’s not nothing anymore.  It’s everything.”

“Oh.”  I knew that he was balking at the emotion I’d just expressed.  I knew the rules, here.  We were both clear on the fact that he was never going to leave his life, and this was supposed to be a fun escape for us both.

“I want to get married, have more children, build a family for Zachary.  And now that I’ve spent so much time with you…God, I want you to do those things with me.”

I could just see his chest rising and falling with the deep sigh that resonated into the receiver.

“I know you don’t want those things,” I continued.  I could see my face bright red in the mirror now.  “You’ve been very honest and fair about the fact that you don’t.  I knew that going in.  It’s not really fair of me to want those things from you when you’ve been so straightforward.  Which is why I have to do this.  I can’t keep wanting more from you and getting mad at you for not being able to give it to me, when that was never supposed to happen in the first place.”

“I understand,” he said sadly.  “I didn’t before, but now I do.”  He paused.  ” I have a confession to make, as well.  I am starting to love you, too.”

I nervously wrapped and unwrapped the phone cord around my fingers, watching it leave marks on them as I twisted it tighter, tighter.  “That’s nice to hear,” I finally said slowly.  “I suppose it doesn’t really matter in the end, though.  Am I right?”

After an endless pause:  “You’re right.”

“I should probably go,” I said, releasing the phone cord and letting it bob back and forth from the release of the tension.

“I’ll miss you,” Dennis said huskily, his voice deep and sad.

“I’ll miss you too,” I said, hanging up the phone softly on its cradle.

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One Response

  1. […] I had known that, of course.  He’d told me that after I’d broken up with him. […]

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