Formula: infidelity, swearing, heartbreak, singular mention of suicidal thoughts.
“This is the last time,” she told him. His lips left her neck. The lust inside him was dampened by curiosity.
“The last time?” he asked.
“I can’t keep lying to my husband. I’ve handed in my notice at work already. I’m moving away. This will be the last time you see me.” She drew the covers up around herself as armour. “Say something.”
Every assumption he’d made about their relationship imploded. He’d built his happiness on their stolen moments. He wilted, an alpine flower in the scorching desert sun.
“Then kiss me like it’s the last time,” he said. The usual passion was reinforced with a determination to make every moment mean something. He leaned in for a kiss. Her arms closed around him. The covers fell away. They stayed longer than usual in the hotel room. All of the usual reasons they might be late were inadequate. Both give their every breath to it. Despite his insistent passion, grief ate at his satisfaction.
For her, having planned those moments, it was a fitting send off. She shivered with sexual saturation as she stood beneath the scalding water of the hotel shower. He sat like a discarded condom on the bed. The mattress has been dislodged from its nook. The sheets curled in a corner, lost and forgotten.
“Kiss me goodbye,” she demanded. “I’m going.”
He looks at her desperately for a moment. Nodding to himself he stood. He was raw from sweat and exertion. White flesh was pink with a flush. Sweat matted his hair to his head.
Part of her, the same part that had entered so willingly into the affair, wanted to say it wasn’t over. She rubbed the ring on her finger. She would keep the secret forever. There was a man at home who loved her. She had enough guilt for a thousand lifetimes.
His kiss was the last hit of her favourite drug before going cold turkey. Even as her head implored her to leave her body began to collapse imperceptibly towards his. She pushed away, looking down. His eyes were a bath in her heart. She could not pull it out, it had to be pushed through, no matter the trauma that would bring.
“Goodbye,” she gasped. Turning, she fled through the hotel door. Her feet tapped a rapid march on the carpet until she was safe in the lift.
“See you again next week?” asked the girl on the desk who knew their schedule far too well. They had been sloppy. Caution had been overtaken by lust. She threw the receptionist a heart hearted smile and rushed away.
Cold water dispelled the last of his thoughts about her. Curling into a ball on the shower floor, he thought about his wife. Once they had been an inferno of passion. He was addicted to that feeling. He had been the fire in her eyes. Time had smothered those flames. He’d spent years trying to rebuild that spark.
Sitting in a cold puddle of misery, it was time to admit that the fire was dead. It calmed him. Drying himself, he dressed. Long deep breaths calmed the grief he felt after watching his lover walk away. He wouldn’t chase her. He was done fighting for affection that wasn’t there.
On the train home he researched divorce lawyers. An empty home welcomed him. The detritus of a relationship in decline watched him pack his bags. Photos of them kissing in the beginning turned to staged shots for occasions. A calendar outlined the many things his wife had coming up, none of them involved him. She had a life, that wasn’t the problem. Him not being part of her life, that was the problem.
Long after the sun had set, the door slammed.
“You can’t imagine the day I’ve had,” she yelled through the house. He didn’t respond. “Are you home?”
He said nothing, folding shirts tight. Somehow everything he needed would fit in the suitcase.
“Didn’t you hear me?” asked his wife, entering the bedroom as the hairs on the back of her neck rose.
“I did.” He turned his head, but he can’t look at her. The pain has returned. Pain he’s been pushing down for years is rising to the surface.
“What’s going on? Where are we going?” She put a hand on his shoulder. He shrugged it off.
“I’m leaving. I can’t live like this anymore.”
“Like what?” Her words are flecked with tears.
“Waiting for you to love me like you used to.” He turned, watching her tremble. He resisted the instinct to hold her. It was time to rip off the plaster. “I used to spend my time trying to be a man you would love. I wanted to feel the affection you showed me when we met. Some things I read told me I needed to give you more free time for yourself. I had to do the work so that you weren’t tired , so that you weren’t doing it all. I do the dishes. I do the washing. I vacuum. You have time.
I read something else that said if you saw too much of me you would be bored. I took more hours at work hoping you would miss me. That didn’t work.
I read that taking care of your appearance is important. I had to stay the man you fell for. I had to dress like the man you wanted. That didn’t work.
You took the new job. You give all of your time and passion to people you’ll never see again. I lie in bed next to you every night wanting you to hold me. When I reach out to touch you, you push me away.
We’ve been together for twelve years and I’ve felt like I’m alone for most of it now. Do you know how many times I’ve thought about suicide? I need someone who wants me.” Words tripped off his tongue rapid fire. He’d rehearsed them a thousand times in his head.
“I love you. Don’t you love me?” she asked.
“Of course I do. I wouldn’t have waited this long if I didn’t love you. What we have now though,” he waved his hands around. “It’s not love anymore. It’s just a habit that we need to break. Are you happy? I’m not happy.” As she wept, part of him hated himself for hurting her. Another part was angry that it was news to her that their relationship was in tatters.
“I’m happy. I was happy. I thought we were happy.” Her words were dribbling out of her mouth like the tears rolling down her cheeks. It was the last sign he needed that he didn’t buckle at her distress.
“You’re happy at work. You’re happy with your friends and your colleagues and that’s where your love goes. With me,” he was lost for adequate words. “I just need to go before I hate you the way I hate myself.”
“I had an affair.”
“You what?” Her tears evaporated in the instant heat of her rage. Her voice rose to a roar as she slapped him. The warm imprint of her fingers across his cheek was the most passionate touch she’d given him in years. “So you’re leaving me for some slut?”
“No. The affair is over. I’m leaving you because I haven’t been happy in the relationship in a very long time. Apparently you never noticed.”
“Are you blaming me because you can’t keep your dick in your trousers? That’s bullshit. Were you expecting me to be waiting in bed for you whenever you got home from work? Fuck you.” She screamed loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear. It was fair. He deserved it.
“No. I never expected any of that. I just need more attention than you were ever going to give me,” he began but she cut him off.
“Fuck you. Asshole. I gave you the best years of my life.”
“Okay. I know I’ve wronged you, but let's not pretend you really need me.”
“Why should I? Just because you’re a lonely sack of shit who can’t make friends. How is that my fault?”
“BECAUSE I LEFT EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE BEHIND TO BE WITH YOU! You know I struggle with new people. I came here for you and you dropped hints that we might move back but it never happened.”
“We have jobs here,” she said, using the same argument as ever.
“So what,” he shrugged, “you’d be just as qualified as you are here, just I would have support from people I know. I would have people to talk to who get me.”
“Get out. I’m done.”
“I’ll leave,” he said. “But I’m selling the house.”
“IT’S MY FUCKING HOUSE!”
“No. I put down the deposit. The deed is in my name and I’ve made sixty percent of the payments since we moved in.” He looked at the clothes in the suitcase. There was so much more in the house. Most of it was the accumulation of a life together, things she bought him.
“Because we agreed you would,” she said. He eyed the flush of passion which had spread from her cheeks to her chest. He knew the constellation of her freckles, though he hadn’t seen them in months.
“That was before I took a pay cut to keep my job and you changed work. You get paid double what you used to.” He zipped up the contents of the suitcase.
“Then you should have brought it up. That’s not my fault.”
“Maybe not, but you haven’t lost out. You’d have paid triple what you have been if you were renting. When I sell this place you’ll get your share.”
“I’m taking the house,” she said, laughing bitterly. “I’m going to get a lawyer to kick your ass. You’ll be living in a box when I’m done with you.
“Good to see what you really care about,” he replied. His jaw tenses with anger. He hoisted the suitcase off the bed and let it slam to the ground. “Move. I’m going.”
“No.” She folded her arms across the nurse’s uniform.
“Why?” He shook his head in confusion.
“Because.” She tried to blink back tears that were already halfway down her face. He looked away, feeling tears of his own forming. She didn’t know why she stood in his way. Sighing, she stepped back. He moved past her, trundling the case behind him.
She wanted to threaten to cut everything he had left into ribbons, but that would have been a lie. A knot in her stomach said that despite the betrayal, some of what he said had been true. She’d known he wasn’t fitting into her home city. Friendships he’d made never lasted.
Reminding herself to be angry, she slammed the door of the bedroom. The bang was a gunshot in the near silence of the house. Then came the yell and the tumbling sounds of something bouncing down the stairs.
She waited, hands over her mouth. Say something, she thought. Just make a noise.
Ripping the door open she saw the empty landing and looked down. He lay at the bottom of the stairs, arms bent the wrong way. One lens of his glasses had shattered into his cheek. His blue eyes stared at nothing.
“The choice is yours,” said the doctor. “Life support will only prolong this state for him. The chances of him waking from the coma are almost zero. Take your time.” The man in a white coat turned and walked away. The door of the hospital room clicked as it shut behind him. A life sign monitor beeped steadily. Lines and numbers that meant nothing flickered.
“What the fuck do I do now?” asked the wife. Looking at the man in the bed, she never saw another woman watching him. His lover cried silently, peering through the blinds. Blowing her nose, she walked away. Her husband was waiting. He would never know what the man in that bed had meant to her.