He pattered in after me, and I immediately regretted walking into the closet. I was cornered.
“You have nothing to say? I just told you I’ve seen everything you’ve said to him.”
“I stick with my initial statement of—that’s creepy.”
His mouth gaped. “That’s all?”
“You knew I texted him. I wasn’t texting him in secret. My god, half the time I blow the guy off. What exactly are you saying?”
“You shouldn’t be texting him, you’re married.”
“I don’t text him,” I said. “I answer him when he texts me. And let’s talk about who texts you, Darius. I saw an awful lot of names on your phone the other day in your office.”
“I think you’re a sociopath,” he said.
“Yeah? You’re probably right.” I pushed past him out of the closet and back into the bedroom. I wished he’d leave. I had nothing to say to him anymore.
“Why when I bring something up you deflect to me?” he said.
I didn’t know how to hide my shock anymore. I was losing my cool, and fast.
“You are saying that I shouldn’t be texting men while married, yet you text women, and clearly quite a lot of them. So, are you admitting to being a hypocrite, or a complete sociopath?”
“I’m going to call Ryan,” he said. “Tell him all the shitty things you say about him being shallow.”
“Ryan is a good person. I don’t know if he’s in love with me. I’ve not cared to ask, because I’m in love with you. So, call him if you fucking like, but don’t be an asshole.”
Darius’s face softened. He set his phone down on the dresser in front of me, and as he did, his thumb brushed the upload button on Instagram. Just a little mistake, a nick of the thumb. I thought he was setting it down to make nice with me, when all of a sudden, his photo album popped up and I saw it all. Tits, tits, and more tits. There was also pussy, but mostly tits.
For a frozen minute we stared at each other. Four pairs of shell-shocked eyes, two hearts beating so fast you could almost hear them in the silence. Betrayed. It goes something like this:
I knew in that moment that all of my suspicions were true and real. The tits weren’t mine. The pussy wasn’t mine. He’d been outsourcing. As he scrambled for words, his hands out like he was trying to ward me off, I punched him in the face. He fell backwards in surprise, hit the dresser. My bottles of perfume scattered, rolled off, and crashed to the floor. I could smell the fug of flowers and musk as a bottle cracked and the liquid seeped into the wood. A photo of Mercy was knocked over too, the glass cracked. He held the spot on his face I’d hit, looking at me with something like fear. It was Mercy who sent me over the edge. Because when you fucked over your wife, you also fucked over your children.
“Who are they?” I asked. And then I screamed it, “Who the fuck are they?”
“No one,” he said. “They’re no ones!”
“I don’t know,” he said.
I attacked him, fists flailing, words flying.
Don’t wake up, Mercy, don’t wake up. I need to do this.
And then I just stopped. I was tired, not physically. I could have beat on him all night. I was tired of life. This was the sort of thing that happened to other people, not me. My husband didn’t have dozens of naked women saved in an album on his phone, next to pictures of my daughter. My husband wanted only me. He loved me enough to deny the fractured parts of himself that could destroy our love. Didn’t he? No. The coward. I looked at him in disgust.
“Why?” I asked.
“You did it,” he said. “With Ryan. I saw the picture you sent him last year. You’ve been emotionally cheating on me with him, don’t deny it!”
“Oh,” I said. “You cheated on me because of a picture I sent Ryan. In my bikini. That makes sense. I mean, why would you talk to me about what I did? That would be stupid. Instead you start fucking other women?”
He stared at me, that’s all. He just stared at me.
“You and I are really good when we’re good. But we’re awful just the same,” he said.
“What the ever living fuck are you talking about, you psycho? You cheated on me!”
“You say terrible things about my family. You are as much to blame for this as I am!”
The coffee mug was right there. I just launched it at his head. Goddamn my terrible aim. It smashed into pieces next to his head.
“You’re crazy,” he said. “You’re a sociopath.”
“Sure,” I said. “Get out of my house. You have ten minutes.”
I walked out, back straight, eyes running, heart aching.
I was good at grieving. Some people hid their pain, pretended they were fine. Those people deserved a medal. That ol’ brave face thing. Nah, not me. I didn’t have a brave face, but by God did I know how to sob. It came right from my belly and shook me down until I couldn’t breathe. I’d cry in the shower, or late at night so Mercy couldn’t hear me. When it became too much I called my mother to take Mercy. Cue the next stage: wall staring. How many days did I stare at a wall? Two? Three? I didn’t eat or drink anything, and I didn’t move. I watched the last three years of my life play out on that wall; the days of courtship, the text messages that said things like, I want to give you things you’ve never had. To experience things with you that you’ve never experienced. I want to make you feel what you make me feel. The hesitant first kiss, and the delicate vulnerability of the days after. The zeal of hope and future. I remembered the early days of diapers, and bottles—two very tired new parents having so much fun amidst the chaos. I remembered the tenderness, the way he’d look at me when I came home from a book signing, or trip—how his eyes lit up at baggage claim, and he’d hold me for long minutes. I remembered feeling safe and settled. Marveling at the good man I’d found. The wall played a reel of Thanksgivings, and Christmases, birthdays and vacations. Cooking—he loved my cooking, eating, drunken kisses by the fire pit, and the tender, reverent way he made love to me. One, two, three years a lie. How could I be so stupid? Was I that broken that I put on blinders to preserve something that wasn’t real?
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