Thursday, November 5, 2009

Too late

“Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me? Her, you chose to cheat on me with her…the woman you swore up and down all these years you had no feelings for. I knew it! I just knew you were lying! Oh my god, I’m such a fool, I’m such a stupid fool. Look at you, standing there with your head hung like some guilty dog that shit on the rug. Jesus Christ, you come here to our home…what was once our home together and you tell me this now. How could you tell me this now?” Kate gripped the edge of the kitchen counter with both hands and spoke through gritted teeth, as if Graham didn’t deserve the intimacy of her open mouth forming the words.

He hadn’t realized it till she said it, but he did have his head hung…and he wasn’t trying to fight back or defend himself either. Graham didn’t even venture an attempt at making any of the points he had intended to make while he mentally rehearsed this conversation on the drive here. Points like, Kate left the marriage long before he cheated…that this never would have happened if she’d tried to be even half the wife he thought she would be back when they got married. Or other points like the fact that Kate always misunderstood him but Sara got it, she got him. Sara knew practically everything about him…understood the deeper meaning behind his cowboy fascinations, related to the way he was raised, and even saw the unspoken love he still carried deep in his heart for his dead son. Sara seemed to understand it all. Not that she accepted him as is, no, in fact she called him on every single thing that was ever his own damn fault…wouldn’t dream of backing down and sure wasn’t afraid of his anger.

Maybe that was it? Sara could take his anger, she was strong enough not to be consumed by it, not to let it destroy her. And somehow that defused it, somehow Sara’s indifference to his anger made it superfluous and it fizzled out before it could grow to destructive levels. Kate was always so easily crippled by his rage that it only fueled it. Why was that, why would her weakness add to his fury?

A sudden sting hit his face unexpectedly as his neck snapped back from the blunt force. Kate had slapped him, and hard. He’d been so lost in his thoughts that he had stopped listening, tuned out her self-righteous rant and was caught totally off guard.

“You son of a fucking bitch, you’re not even listening to me!” Kate’s voice grew shrill; she could break glass if it got any higher pitched.

“I’m sorry…I was just thinking…”

“What, about her? You bastard. You can’t even manage to keep your mind off that bitch long enough to confess to me that you screwed her!”

Graham drew in a measured breath, “No, I was thinking that I wish things were different, I wish I was different with you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean, huh? I suppose you’re different with her, right? Of course, Sara brings out the best in you, she’s magic,” and with that Kate gulped, as if she’d used all the air in her lungs up before she could finish the sentence. But something else had been triggered. She sputtered and began to both laugh and sob at the same time in some knee-jerk reflex reaction that was clearly beyond her control. She sounded like some heaving lunatic.

“Get out,” she spat out between the staccato rhythms of her unnatural, gasping laughter, “Get the hell out of my house and don’t you ever come back here, I swear Graham, I’ll shoot you dead in your tracks with one of your own stupid cowboy pistols!”

Graham stood there frozen. He’d never seen Kate like this, never heard her speak this way or act like this. He started to say something, but thought better of it and only whispered, “I’m sorry Kate,” as he turned to go. He could still hear her unnatural sputtering and choking laughter as he walked down the front path towards his car in the street.

He sat there a moment before turning the key in the ignition. He thought about going back in. But it was late and he’d be hitting rush hour traffic as it was. Besides, what more could either of them say? It would only give Kate more opportunity to rip him to shreds, or worse yet, devolve into a screaming match neither of them needed. He turned the key and pulled away from the house heading out towards the highway for the long drive.

This was not how Graham had intended this whole thing to go, not even close. It was, however, pretty close to how Sara said it should go, damn her – why was she always right about everything? Sara had told him that he needed to take whatever Kate dished out, that they both deserved it. If Kate were stronger, if she were not battling the damn cancer then maybe things would be different. But she was dealing with cancer and the minute Graham took one look at her he knew that Sara had been right. This was the mother of his children, he couldn’t lay any blame, deserved or not, on her doorstep, not now. Cancer trumps a lousy marriage. Cancer pretty much trumps anything.

And despite her energetic rage Kate looked weakened, to see her like this was shocking. It killed him to think of all she had endured. She was so thin, so pale. There was something almost translucent about her face. Was this normal? Would she recover and regain her strength…her looks?

He couldn’t help but think back to the first time he saw her. Kate had been the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen…and best of all, she had no idea just how pretty she was. There wasn’t a stuck up bone in her body. He hated stuck up women, women who acted like they didn’t know the effect they were having on a guy but so obviously did. There wasn’t a single bit of artifice in Kate’s entire psyche. Yet Kate was almost always the best looking woman in any room she was in. How was it possible she wasn’t aware of that? Graham had never really wondered that before…he’d always just been pleased at her lack of conceit. But now that he thought about it, how could she not have known how beautiful she really was…still is, even now, even breast-less and bald. Though diminished, there was something still lovely there, still striking.

But he knew better than to go down that road. He’d spent enough time longing for a woman he now realized he’d never really known. To feel sorry for her was one thing, but to even think of opening that door would be catastrophic. Besides, he’d already burned that bridge way beyond any repair.

And then another thought struck him almost harder than Kate’s slap in the face. The realization made him squirm uncomfortably in his seat and grip the steering wheel tighter. Holy shit, was that why he’d done it? What if Sara and he weren’t two lost souls reuniting after all? All those years with Kate he never strayed…not after Ethan, not when she got fat, not ever. He’d wanted to leave but just couldn’t do it. That’s not what you did. You didn’t leave your wife after the death of your child. You didn’t leave your wife just because she was lazy or distant. But he’d wanted to…he didn’t realize just how much until that night with Sara. What if that was his way of finally shutting the door on Kate permanently, of escalating the punishment by severing all possible strings that bound them together? What if he cheated because he just didn't have the guts to walk out the door?

Shit, that’s too much psychobabble to wade thru, he thought, laughing to himself. There you go, Sara’s influence yet again, always making him think too much. Damn, either way, whatever this was, that woman got under his skin and into his head way too easy. Maybe that’s what love really was. What the hell did he know anyway?

Graham was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t see the other car swerving into his lane until it was too late.