What was I thinking to let him in yet once again? Every fiber in my body said to send him away. But, I didn’t listen; or didn’t want to listen. Just as before, I allowed him in. I wanted to believe this time he was right. This time everything would be okay. This time it would be different. This time, this time, this time…
Was it really over 30 years since that sunny afternoon in the park? Classes just ending at NYU and the future stretched before us. How could I not be mesmerized by his infectious optimism? It couldn’t fail, I think he said. And I believed him. Jonathan just had a way about him. His wavy brown hair failing across his brow and eager smile made it hard not to be swept up in his enthusiasm. His quirky clothing helped him stand out. Wide purple tie over madras shirt one day or a skinny black bolero over a silver shirt the next, yet always crisply ironed jeans. He reached out for my hand and naturally I gave it to him. Like an obedient puppy I followed, ignoring those warning bells in the background and the words of caution spouted from jealous girlfriends, I presumed.
And, he was right. Certainly, there were the usual challenges of cash flow management, creating a customer base and building reputation, but it actually did work, at least at first. Over time, his ties became more conservative and usually silk, his shirts were no longer from L.L. Bean but the crisply ironed jeans always remained. It was easy for me to ignore the warning bells clanging louder; I could just revel in his impish grin. It would be great, it would be wonderful, he explained. So I went along with the next expansion, the moving, the new offices or adding more employees.
All the while money remained a problem; there never was any. The arguments grew louder and more personal. The children seemed to get in way. But, it never took much – him brushing my cheek or taking my hands into his. Paige, I love you, he would say. Naturally, I didn’t leave. I resisted complaining. I held my tongue and pretended I couldn’t hear those bells tolling.
So watching the pieces of our lives slowly be sold for less than a quarter of their value until the empty walls entombed us in a casket of debt and failure I had no one to blame but myself. Of course, I knew what I was thinking; giving in that which keeps you in situations you never expect and drives you forward when you should retreat. Shifting uncomfortably on the overstuffed cushions, I pulled my hands away from his this time and then sent him away. I needed to think, or so I told him.
With a scolding mantel clock clicking behind me and a harvest of crumpled tissues holding vigil beside me, I sat cursing those warning bells that no longer rang. Cursing that practical attorney telling me the best option was divorce then personal bankruptcy. That would protect the children from our creditors, he said. I could call them back, Jonathan and his meek lawyer. I could schedule another meeting, but I knew that wouldn’t happen. I would never sign the divorce papers, although I should.
The dimming light of afternoon descended over the apartment as he left. His hair was mostly grey and cropped short now and he sported black linen over those crisply ironed jeans. Blinking, I saw so clearly that sunny afternoon, the wavy hair on his forehead and silly purple tie. Thankfully, that would be the image to stay with me here and now. The thinking was over. I knew what I had to do. The rings slipped so easily from my finger. There was no reason to say any more than, it’s better this way. The cold air was a sharp contrast to the warmth of the living room yet, I knew I would only feel it for a moment. Closing my eyes I stepped from the railing.
GBD 16 March 2013