I had always pictured Chris and I together forever. Nothing could ever break us apart, not even time. But one day, things just sort of dissolved, until I woke and there was nothing left. I sat and studied his face for hours while he slept the day before I left, searching for find a resemblance to the man I loved. I saw a stranger.
So I left. Yes, there were times I looked back. I had to. But not because I regretted leaving-rather, because I wanted to know what I’d done wrong, so I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. At least my part was covered that way. I only had to find someone who didn’t have too many faults of his own.
We met for coffee a few weeks after the split. Chris had called me and wanted to talk.
I pushed my way into the café, scanning the area for Chris. Spying him in the corner, I walked over to him and after we had greeted one another, took a seat on a vinyl-covered chair.
I told the waitress I wanted a light, decaf, with no sugar. Chris raised his brows, and with a pleasant smile, he said, “Oh, are we on a diet?”
“No, but I’m trying to live a healthier lifestyle now.”
“Why? You weren’t ever concerned with that before.”
“Well, I just figured…” I trailed of, not knowing how to complete the thought without hurting him. Instead of going on, I fiddled with a coffee stirrer.
“What?” Chris asked.
“Nothing. Never mind. So, what did you want to talk to me about?”
“Us. This change I see in you, in the kids, in everything. Oh, I don’t know. I guess I just want to know what happened.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Why, Grace? Why did you leave? You never told me why, not even when I asked. You just left. Was it me? Did I do something?”
“Okay. Money. It was the money.”
“What money? We never had any.”
“Exactly. I couldn’t keep up. You were so hungry, there was never enough for the rest of us.”
I shrugged. At least now, I had no one to be angry at. If I was broke, it was because there really wasn’t enough money. Not that it got squandered on meaningless things, like jet skis and boats. Before, it was all I could do not to explode every time I balanced the checkbook. We had a good income between us, and I was always waiting for things to even out, for him to stop wanting this, or that, for the bills to get caught up and to feel secure for once. But as the years sped by, it was only more of the same, until I couldn’t handle it anymore. I left, and I took the kids with me.
“What about this… change? Grace, was there someone else?”
As I shook my head, I thought of the times I had wished there was, just to take the edge off of my irritation towards Chris. Truly, I don’t think I could have done something like that. Not that I wasn’t attracted towards other men at times. It just wouldn’t work.
The waitress brought us our coffees, and we sat stirring for several minutes. I thought of odd, comforting remembrances, such as the times we would argue, then I would drink, and the next day, we would make up by making love and going out to eat. This often happened when the money was low, and a bill would have to be paid late so we could afford such an extravagance.
Each time we would get a lump of money, like when we filed taxes and got a refund, we would sit and talk about what we wanted to do with it. Chris always had high dreams about his share of it (we usually split it up, so that each member of our family got an ‘equal’ amount). The problem was, Chris always wanted the big ‘toys,’ so if he went over on his estimation, as he invariably did nearly every time, it would cut into mine and the kids’ shares.
“Are you happy?” Chris asked.
“For the most part, yes.”
“And the kids, are they content?”
“Ask them, Chris. Don’t ask me.”
A pained look creased Chris’ forehead, and he exclaimed, “How do you sleep at night?”
It was then that I noticed the dark rings under his eyes.
“Alone? How do you do it?”
“I don’t know. I just do.”