“I am addicting. I have the good stuff,” I said to Jen over dinner one evening when she asked if Clark was still calling me. He was – in fact, he said that he wanted to be more than a penis and explore our possibility. But every time he contacted me all he talked about was coming back to my bed. While he was trying to decide what to do about me, I decided that he was not worth my time.
“You have the good stuff?” Jen asked.
“Yes. Clark said that my kisses are sweeter than honey. I am made of charm. And my body is as seductive and irresistible as a siren’s song,” I said smiling.
She laughed long and hard. I love the sound of her laughter - not because she is one of the few people who find me remotely amusing – but the way the soft melody climbed from behind her breasts like a blues singer pours his soul into a harmonica. Her cheeks rose so high they squeezed her brown eyes shut. Her full breasts shivered beneath the red dress that swooped past her waist and flared over her wide hips. She looked beautiful and I wanted to tell her, except she would stop laughing and become flustered by the compliment. I didn’t want her to stop laughing. It’s been several weeks since I’ve heard Jen laugh.
There was a cat-fight between Jen and John’s wife. I’m not sure who won, but Jen showed up at my door one day looking like she had tussled with Gracie, the neighbor’s black Roth wilder and lost. Her blood splattered white blouse was missing a sleeve. One black pump dangled from her shaking hand. She stood before me trembling and licking a swollen bloody lip before walking into my arms.
I rushed her inside to assess the damage and see if I needed to call an ambulance.
“I knew that dog is wicked,” I said.
“What dog?” She mumbled.
“Gracie,” I said.
It’s not Gracie,” she said with a painful half smile. “It’s John’s wife. She came to my job and attacked me,”
I poured her a glass of wine, and listened to the horrid wife-attack story while I cleaned her wounds. She suffered minor scratches, but an inch-long scratch-mark along her cheek seemed deep enough to leave a scar. The sting of the alcohol brought tears to her eyes – tears that continued to flow long after I cleaned and dressed her wounds.
According to Jen’s account, John found out that his wife was going to confront her and showed up at her job too. He was the one who pulled her and his wife apart. Jen said he left without a backward glance at her. "He didn’t even check to see if I was ok," she sobbed.
“Did you at least get one punch in? A kick? Something?” I asked trying to make light of the situation.
“I tore out her weave. It’s in my car,” Jen said.
I chuckled. Jen was like me. We are the proverbial symbol of the crab. We will walk sideways to avoid confrontations at all cost. We do not pick fights. But if we’re backed into a corner and forced to use our claws, we’ll fight our way through a thousand armed men.
She gulped the first glass of wine, refilled and did it again. I let her cry in silence for a long time. I had tried to be supportive. I told myself that she would come to her senses and left John long ago. But it’s been seven, eight, or was it nine years since she had been waiting for him to leave his wife? I’ve lost count.
“What the fuck, Jen,” I said. “Is this what you’re reduced to – fighting over a lying, cowardly, two-timing fucker? He’s showing you who he is – why don’t you believe him? Is this a prize you really want to win?”
“No,” she said, a fresh pool of tears ran down her face. I felt a little bad for screaming at her in such a fragile state. But I was more shocked by her answer. The last time we discussed John, she told me that I didn’t understand their relationship because she loves unconditionally, and I love with conditions.
“I sure do and you should too,” I said.
“Then you’ve never loved anyone,” she said. “Love is unconditional,”
“Love is a choice,” I said. “My love for a man is on the basis that he is someone whom I trust, admire and whose values I believe in – one who is respectful of me and treat me with dignity – that he appreciates the contribution that I bring to our relationship. I will not love a man who does not care about my happiness, treats me like an afterthought, beats me, uses me, betrays, lies, deceives me…. I will extract such a man from my life,”
“Yet you expect someone to love you unconditionally,” she said.
“No. I want a man who will demand that any bad behavior that I have that threatens our well-being and the happiness of our lives be eliminated or we cannot go on. My love is absolutely conditional on how I expect to be treated and the kind of person with whom I want to spend my life. I am not a slave to my emotions, Jen. I do not believe in loving someone no matter what. If a situation is not good for me, I’m out.”
“All I know is that my heart wants what it wants and it doesn’t care that John is married,” she said.
That’s how we had ended the conversation. I’ve always wondered if what she called love was love. How does one love someone who treats them badly?
Kahlil Gibran said, “We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.”
And so, the last several weeks began with Jen sinking into a depressive state that had me checking on her ten times a day even though she told me to cut it out. “I’m not going to do anything stupid, Kit, it’s just that I saw him and I’m more upset and disappointed in myself than anything else,”
This seeing that Jen spoke of is a process in which the veil that we create of someone –the vision on which our love, admiration and respect is built – the pedestal on which we place them – crumbles. And we see the situations and the people, not as we want them to be – but as they are.
The silence that comes with the realization can be deafening and the negative self-reflections, haunting.
I was at this place of silence and self-reflection not long ago. Jen stopped by after work one evening to tell me that my occasional hook-ups with Michael did not make any damn sense and that I needed to stop it. “You thought that he cheated on you. You broke up. You say that you do not want him back, why are you are you still fucking him?” she asked looking baffled.
I knew why – it was payback. I derived some satisfaction fucking Michael knowing that the woman with whom he cheated on me could not satisfy him sexually the way I could. But whom exactly was I paying back? It was a completely fucking twisted logic and I knew it.
When I found out that Michael was still involved with this woman, and that she had no idea that he and I were still fucking, I came to my senses. The already cracked veil in which Michael lived in my heart shattered. And I saw what we really were, lives reeked of secrets, disrespect and disloyalty. I wanted no part of such a life. I didn’t want to pay any one back for anything. Michael wasn’t a prize I wanted to win.
And then there was Clark’s last night in my bed – I saw him sprawled beside me made of bitterness and regret with nothing to contribute to us than a penis. We barely had our present – I left.
Jen and Ally say that I am intolerant and decisive to the point of madness. I am. I've reached a place in my life that I know who I am and what I want from life, my career and my relationships. I pride myself on being able to make tough decisions in an instant even if I have to act against my heart. I decide when change is necessary, and jump into the unknown. I have never regretted leaving a man who was not good for me.
And so, I stared at Jen’s beautiful face across from me on the outdoor patio of the Italian restaurant where we met for dinner. Decorated with blooming pots of white Geraniums, Drop-more Blue Catmint, yellow Wild Crocus and reddish-orange Maltese Cross flowers, it was a perfect summer evening just before sundown. Jen and I relaxed over a glass of wine and talked. I noticed how the red against her olive skin tone added a touch of color to her cheeks. The thin scratch along her cheek had a purplish hue - healing, like everything else in life.
“You look beautiful,” I said.
She stared at me and blushed.
I giggled. “How about I arrange a forgiveness ceremony for us?” I asked. “We’ll start with forgiving ourselves for the decisions we made that have not served us well.” (More on my forgiveness ceremonies later)
“Let’s do it,” Jen said.
“I’m glad you’re smiling again,” I said.
“It’s different this time, Kit,” she said. “I don’t feel the same way about him. I don’t think I’m going back to him this time,"
I touched her hand gently. "You are the prize, Jen." I said. "You've always been the prize,"
She blushed again. I have come to realize that Jen does not know her value. And that's a problem. When we don't know our value, we are vulnerable to people who will place their value on us. If we accept what they tell us we're worth, that's when we lose touch with ourselves and give away our power.
"Somewhere between heartaches and waiting comes another chance to be found by someone who can show you that you don't deserve to be just an option but a choice." ~Unknown~