The Affair..Two and a half months later...
July 1, 1994...Michael's 40th birthday. He'd never been one to care, one way or another about which birthday it was. It never really mattered to him...well, except maybe that 16th one when he was able to stand in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles and finally get that little rectangular piece of paper that gave him a certain amount of freedom. Funny, he thought, what we end up doing with that freedom when we finally get it.
It had been a long two and a half months. When he had arrived home there was a mixture of rejoicing and accusation, much as when a child has been missing for many hours, the mother will smother him with tears and kisses, then tell him angrily if he ever does that again she will kill him.
He had taken an additional week off from work at the time, hired a kid sitter and the two of them went off for a week to the ocean beaches. A mixture of relief and desperation haunted him, although by this time he had well learned the art of putting on a happy face. Relief that he had done what he had to do, desperation because he knew it wasn't at all what he wanted. They walked along the beach, flew kites, rented mopeds, made love, but in his mind he was never there with her...always with Sara. But he knew how much he had hurt Sara and knew he would never have her again, so resigned himself to what he had.
He woke as normal on his birthday, up before anyone, and went through his ritual by rote of showering, dressing and eating breakfast. This was his quiet time, his alone time, his time to sort through the questions that came to him throughout his waking hours. He walked into the bedroom, bent to kiss his wife good-bye and received the typical sleepy, "humph," in return. Quietly he closed the bedroom door and left.
His work started at 7:30 but he usually arrived a half an hour or so early. Not through any particular dedication to the job, but because he preferred the quiet alone time that he could have unto himself whenever possible. He would turn on the lights to the clinic, straighten things up if necessary and sit down to his desk.
At 7:00 the phone rang. Probably an early patient canceling already, he thought to himself. He answers, giving the name of the clinic with a quick, "May I help you?" tacked onto the end.
"Happy birthday," the shy, deliciously Southern accent said on the other end of the line, immediately bringing his heart to his throat.
He hesitated, he knew for too long, but he literally couldn't speak. "Hello," he replied, not knowing what to expect.
"I hope you're not angry, and I won't ever bother you, again, but I had to call you and wish you a happy birthday on your 40th...it is your 40th, isn't it?" she asked.
"Yes, it is..." he hesitated again, "thank you." God why couldn't he say what he wanted to, but he knew why...he always got tongue tied when he had so many things he wanted to say, and in the end he said nothing at all.
"I still love you, Michael," her soft response came back.
"I love you, too, Sara," he replied without hesitation this time.
"Well, I don't want to keep you, but I had to call you...don't ask me why, it was just something I was driven to do." She quickly hung up the phone before the tears overtook her.
Stunned would not have been a strong enough word to describe what Michael was feeling at that moment. In a matter of a minute and a half, every emotion he had ever felt came flooding back into him. Sitting at his desk, taking pen and paper in hand, he began to write...
My darling Sara,
I can't tell you how surprised and happy I am that you called today. You are the first person to wish me a happy birthday, and the only person I cared if I heard it from. The last two months have been a nightmare for me. Having you constantly on my mind yet never being able to hold you, tell you how desperately in love with you I am.
I want you to know, there has not been a day, an hour since we parted that I haven't thought of you. I want you, no, need you in my life, if even just from a distance such as we are now, but I also need you to know that this is all it can be for now. I can't leave my family again, put them through what I put them through before. I'm sorry, but this is how I was raised and I can't just make that all go away, as much as I tell myself that I can or as much as I want to be able to make it happen.
I love you, with all my heart, and I always will. I love you more than life itself and hope you can find it within yourself to understand and forgive me for the choices I felt I was forced to make. Please write back to me.
His hands shaking, he addressed the envelope, to her work address, hoping she was still at the same place, stamped it and walked it down to the mailbox.
The phone call came four days later. Sara told Michael how she had shook with fear and anticipation the day that the letter arrived. How she had begun opening it six different times, but stopped each time for fear that he was writing an angry response to her call. How finally she had found the courage to open it and had to close her office door so that her coworkers would not see the tears of joy that flooded from her eyes. Sara also told Michael that she felt the same. She couldn't stand not having him, somehow, in her life. Just the hope of someday being together was better than the desperate ache of not having any contact at all.
"I thought sure you didn't want anything at all to do with me when you didn't answer my letter," she said.
"What letter?" he asked, yet again taken aback.
"About a week or two after I got back, I sent a letter to your office," she said.
"I never received it. God, Sara, I would have responded in a heartbeat if I had," he replied, wondering what ever happened to that letter. Although deep down he was pretty sure he knew...his receptionist had been his wife's maid of honor at their wedding. What else had never made it to his desk? God only knew, but confronting the situation was out of the question for him, so he would be forced to let it pass.
They exchanged new post office boxes and wrote again, sometimes several times a day, their love for each other growing yet stronger, even with, or perhaps because of, the distance between them.
His wife was from Texas, and for the next month and a half they made plans for an extended road trip. From Washington, across to Montana, down through Colorado (through Denver as it turned out) and finally into Texas to spend a week or so with her family. His brother was in Texas, too, only about 30 miles from her family. He told Sara of his plans, even sent her an itinerary of where they would be each day. He also told her that he wasn't sure if he would be able to write during the trip, but asked that she remember that his thoughts would be constantly on her. He wasn't exactly looking forward to the trip, other than the chance to see his brother again and stopping at the one place he had always wanted to visit, Tombstone, AZ. He'd always been fascinated with that town, ever since being a little boy. Sometimes he thought he had been born 100 years too late.
The trip was relatively uneventful in the beginning. The usual bickering of the kids during the long hours of the drive, although they had just bought a custom van complete with television and individual stereos installed for the boys. They went to Six Flags, Wet and Wild, Fiesta Texas, anything the boys wanted to do, he did willingly. He did his best to not get angry or upset with the petty things that happened, after all, they were just kids.
As it turned out, he was able to send Sara a postcard from every place they visited, even picking up little trinkets to send to her from all the amusement parks they went to. He would leave, under the pretense of going to the store for this or that and spend a few minutes writing a quick note to her, telling her how much he loved and desired her, describing all of the things he wanted to be doing to, for, with her and mailing it before going back to wherever they were staying. In all, he sent some 30 mailings to her during the three weeks of the vacation.
While in Texas, he and his brother were able to be off by themselves for the day. They had bought a couple of six-packs and lay in the Guadalupe River, talking. Michael had already decided he was going to tell his brother at least part of the story, but after a few beers, the entire saga flowed from him. God, it felt good to be able to share all of this with someone. Years ago, he would never have considered telling his brother any of this, but now they were extremely close and Michael knew his brother would keep his confidence. His brother stared in wonder as the story unfolded, unable to believe his ears. Michael had always been the straight laced one in the family, and the very idea that he had done what he had done, and indeed continued to do, was much more than his brother had ever expected. Nonjudgemental, as Michael knew he would be, his brother offered the love and support that only a sibling can.
It's amazing, what can finally precipitate a life changing decision. Something very trivial can be the 'straw that broke the camel's back'.
Tombstone, August, 1994...
He had finally arrived. A place that was so full of historical significance that the entire town was an historical landmark. He could almost feel the presence of the legendary Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Ike Clanton. He could almost smell the residual of gunpowder assaulting his nostrils, even though he knew it was only his imagination. But the Gunfight at the OK Corral was a minor skirmish compared to the war that broke out between his family, and the carnage was nearly equal.
Intolerable would just about have described his wife and stepsons. From the time they arrived, the flood of how boring this place was, and that there was nothing to do, and why in the hell had he dragged them all the way out here besieged him. Finally and for all time, he snapped. The anger that had been within him over the last several months flowed forth. He finally got the picture. Awaiting him for the rest of his life was the prospect of doing whatever they wanted and all would be well, but try for one goddamned day to do something that for over 30 years had been a dream of his and he would be bludgeoned for it.
His anger didn't come out as violent, although he certainly told them in no uncertain terms that they were welcome to go back to the motel and do whatever the hell they wanted to...but his anger went inward and he had such clarity of vision, probably for the first time in his life.
His letter to Sara that night...
My Darling Sara,
Today I had an epiphany. I will not stay in this situation one minute longer than I have to. After some long hard thinking I have finally made a decision that I should have made four months ago and I hope, my love, that it is not too late. I am going to leave my family, once and for all and do whatever it takes to be with you. Why should I put myself through the torment of staying with someone I can barely tolerate when I know there is the one person that I have ever truly loved waiting for me, reading this letter right now. If plans work out as I have them in my head, I should be able to be with you, in your arms, making love with you by Halloween. Please say you'll believe that I will never leave you again. I know that's a lot to ask, and I wouldn't blame you if you just laughed and tore this letter up, but I give you my solemn promise that it will never happen again. I know, now, that you are the only thing in life that I want and I can't stand the thought of being apart from you for any longer than it takes to settle things with "her". I love you more right this second than I ever have, and not nearly as much as I will tomorrow.
When Sara read the letter three days later, she was glad she was sitting down. Finally, they would be together, two souls that both of them believed beyond any doubt had been put on this Earth so somehow find each other and have a life together. They had both wasted the first half of their lives...they would spend the rest of their lives making up for that to one another.
Ahhh, the sweet innocence of youth...even into the 40s. There are two sayings that are appropriate at this point...The best laid plans of mice and men, oft times go awry...and that the Good Lord works in mysterious ways...Michael and Sara were soon to find out just exactly what those sayings meant...
Author's note: This is not the end of the story...this is actually the 4th - 8th month of a nearly three year relationship that, as of this writing, is still tenuously viable. This is also a true narrative. I would appreciate comments, either pro or con on the main character's choices and whether you are interested in how this relationship progresses.
Copyright, 1996 By Rick R. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright, 1995 - 2006 by Cindy. Not to be used without express permission.