I marvel at my friends’ lack of insight. They know me. Some of them for twenty-five years. Long enough. In the immediate wake of my divorce, they thought I was grieving the loss of my husband, the loss of our life together and the promise of a future, the loss of confidence in my own ability to sustain a relationship – of being one of those unlucky women who, as my mother had said time and again about those neighbor women whose marriages had fallen apart, “couldn’t hold a man.” That’s what my friends thought and those are the holes that they tried to patch in those days just after John left me for another woman or, in this case, girl.
But I was mourning none of these things. I knew that I would miss some of the comforts of marriage. I could not allow myself to dismiss the idea that somewhere down the line I would regret and maybe terribly regret the lonely table, the lonely bed and the lonely-looking future. But I was not feeling that then; not at all. And, as time tells all, I never have. My only hurt, my only grief then was the same grief that has haunted me since I was seventeen; since that day when my mother nodded me into my bedroom and told me that the doctors had found something wrong with Tommy’s blood.
Before then – in the weeks and months before that day – I had felt every force of life filling me and I was careful not to mention the depth of my happiness for fear that my joy might inspire resentment or be seen as bragging and that karma would come back on me and ruin the perfect life that laid before me. What I had was so perfect and so completely what I wanted that I dared not give anyone – anyone other than Tommy – the first hint of it. We would sneak up on it and pick the perfect fruit before anyone saw us, before anyone could shake the tree.
Tommy was best friends with my older brother, Sam. When Sam went away to college Tommy – much to my surprise and delight – kept coming around and sitting on the front fence. There were several of us kids out there at first, but as the hours wore on the others would leave and Tommy and I would go on talking, first about Sam and then about everything else. After a few weeks I allowed myself to start believing what would have been obvious to anyone else.
I couldn’t believe my luck. This tall boy with the curly, brown hair. This boy that my parents loved. He was mine and I never would want anything else.