Once there was a girl
and she was sweet and quiet and happily religious.
She dreamed of falling in love every day until
she heard the new boy in school had asked about her,
and they went walking on the north shore of the harbor after school
that one day,
with his hunky friend and her friend.
And then she stopped dreaming of anything but him,
the cute boy that no one really knew yet,
and she kept him all to herself,
and she kept him safe until he joined the stupid Marine Corps,
and then they slowly fell apart,
but she loved him so much that their division wasn't something she acknowledged;
she wrote to him and called him
and met him on leave in Harrisburg and Virginia Beach
and said yes when he offered her that beautiful diamond ring
on the cold and windy beach,
and she should have offered him her self, finally, after all their time together...
she would regret that one for many, many years.
She went home, and showed her friends the ring,
and was giddy for weeks,
and then he couldn't make it to her prom, at the last minute,
and she was devastated,
but her friend saved the day and got the last tux in town and filled the evening with laughter and joy.
On her birthday, a few weeks later, she opened the door and almost couldn't smile,
she was so overwhelmed with joy and surprise:
he was there!
She cried with relief and happiness and held him so tightly; he cried, too.
They didn't leave each other's side for the whole weekend;
they walked on their favorite beach.
She didn't know it would be the last time she would kiss him,
or rest her face in the crook of his neck;
she didn't know it would be the last time she would see him smile at her
while telling her how much he loved her.
She didn't know that someone would tell him
that she was cheating on him (she wasn't);
she didn't know that while she was starting her freshman year
at Brigham Young University,
and he was beginning his duties with Presidential Support in D.C.,
that he was drinking himself into oblivion,
almost ruining his career,
in order to drown out the lies he'd heard about her.
She didn't know that when he didn't come home for Christmas
he was letting go of her...
and maybe she was too wrapped up in her new life in Utah
to notice it as keenly as she should have.
They played phone tag a lot after Christmas,
and then it was February,
and she called him that one time, at the barracks,
and asked for him by rank and last name, as always,
and when they asked if she was his fiancé she said yes,
the man's thick southern accent unscrambled itself in her ear,
and her brain registered the phrase he'd really said,
"He's with his fiancé," unbelievably,
broken world, broken heart set in motion with that phone call,
as she was given a glimpse of his world,
so far away,
phone tag that had finally yielded the game-ending, career-ending injury.
She cried for hours, then days.
She called again and was told he'd moved.
She asked her roommate to call the new number they gave her...
too afraid of what she would find.
A woman answered; it was not a new barracks.
A woman answered; he was away for the next week, could she take a message?
A woman answered. A woman answered. "This is his wife."
She waited until he was back before she called a second time.
He answered, and she had prepared a cool, distant speech,
quietly asking if he'd planned on telling her he'd married someone else,
and then wishing him well,
even though her sad kindness was greeted with bitter cold.
Her heart was shredded into tiny slivers of light gone out.
She didn't know how to breathe anymore,
because her whole world had twisted into a grotesque impression of itself.
She told the story over and over, until the raw ends of her nerves dulled
and it only felt like having a truck drive over her chest.
She cried herself to sleep every night for months.
She dreamed of him in vivid detail,
those dreams where you wake up crying,
panting from having been wrenched form the alternate reality
your brain created to soothe you...
she dreamed he had joined the CIA and needed to cut ties with his old life,
dreamed that was why he'd taken a chainsaw to her heart,
why he'd severed their bond with the slash of a machete.
She called again, once.
She wanted him to know that he hadn't broken her,
that she was fine without him.
(Instead, she later found out that he'd told his wife she was some crazy girl he'd gone on a few dates with in high school. Passive-aggressive pussy.)
She went home that summer,
and worked at her same job she'd had in high school,
waiting tables at the western-themed restaurant,
overlooking the achingly beautiful harbor,
the restaurant where he'd come to ask her on their first date,
where he'd sent her roses after their second date,
where he'd waited for her to finish work so they could go walking down Main St.
and have her first kiss on the street between the Thorndike and that jewelry store that isn't there anymore...
She went to work, and cried when she told Lisa P, and Jan, and Shirly, and Beth...
they hugged her and told her it would take twice as long as they'd been together to get over this kind of thing...
four years sounded like an eternity.
She let Greg and Glen make fun of him,
because it made her smile a little through her still-puffy eyes.
She developed a crush on Glen because he wasn't out of the closet yet;
she was disappointed when he introduced her to his friend,
but the friend was almost the perfect salve for her still-crushed heart.
He wasn't her type; she didn't like him that much; but he would fall in love with her, and that was necessary for her healing...
She felt so selfish after she broke his heart
because it's only a matter of time
before you break the heart of a person
who thinks you love them.
She did throw her virginity at him in a lousy attempt to get back at her sweet boy for marrying someone else; it didn't work, obviously.
It did open the door for her to escape mormonism, though, so it wasn't a total loss.
And then...there were the Utah boys -
long-haired stoner boys to rescue her from the homogenous dating landscape of BYU,
where she had never quite belonged.
She hopped from one to the next,
hoping that under one of their beds would be the magic potion,
allowing her heart to heal, instead of limping along, still dripping blood.
She grew tired of the games, and took a break from it all,
then met the man she would marry.
She knew as soon as they met that they would marry;
at a certain point, she didn't really want to marry him,
but she felt like it was what was supposed to happen, so she did.
He was broken, and she thought she could fix him, classic story.
His childhood had been so hard,
so she excused him for his roughness,
for his coldness,
for his insane jealousy.
She closed her eyes and turned her head away while he spent hours fucking her.
She dreamed of far away places and sweet Marine faces
while the pain spread where pleasure should be.
She was sure she was to blame for whatever was wrong;
she kept heaping more love on him, but it slid off like sand, and piled up at his feet.
She crafted the image of a perfect life,
pushed the boulder of housewifery uphill all day every day,
to make his home happy,
but somehow it was never enough.
She dreamed of her home in Maine,
hating the oppressive social fabric of Utah,
feeling trapped there, trapped with him.
She grew weary of not being loved,
and of constant accusations of infidelity.
She found herself again, when the babies were 2,
and she started working out and writing;
she felt strong and beautiful and necessary.
She flirted with the idea of never trying to satisfy him again,
and the idea of falling in love again;
she continued to crave Maine with the fervor of an addict.
They tried to fall in love with each other again (for the first time),
and for a few months it seemed like it had worked,
but then everything went back to the same old,
and she knew it was all her fault,
that she was to blame for her own misery;
she would never be satisfied with this
(later, she would wonder why it seemed so bad, so impossible, but it was.)
She would be relieved when he finally asked for a divorce;
unaccountably, and briefly, she would be jealous of the woman
who came over the night she moved out,
the woman who replaced her in his life as seamlessly as a fulfilled warranty.
She would delight in settling into her pretty little house with her sons
and the cat they got to have since Dad was allergic,
but they didn't live with Dad anymore...
this broke her heart too much to really love the cat.
She thought about getting wings tattooed on her back,
because all she'd wanted for years was to fly away from that man,
but now she didn't need wings; she was free.
She was happy.
And then she found her soul mate, the sweetest man on earth,
who loved everything about her and was everything she'd dreamed of;
every cliché, every love song.
Her heart was finally whole again, and she gave her entire soul to him;
this would prove too painful,
so she had to pull back a little, and keep some of herself for herself,
but it didn't diminish her love for him,
or her sense of security and blissful joy.
Blending their families was harder than she'd expected;
leaving her cherished hometown nearly broke her;
living on the plains of Iowa was as barren as it sounds.
She would follow him around the country,
like a devoted puppy,
never quite daring to put down roots,
and not even daring to hold onto her dream of returning to Maine.
She tumbled along, letting her world revolve around him,
because her heart was beating in his chest.
She was happy; he was her home.