It’s hard to describe what it feels like to discover your husband has been cheating on you. Luckily, I’m not often asked about it, because people are usually too afraid to ask. They convince themselves that it’s none of their business, that I probably don’t want to talk about it, or that it would just make an otherwise lovely afternoon uncomfortable. The truth is that I want to say all of this out loud because it really happened. When you keep it inside, the details begin to morph; you slowly and steadily start to question whether something this ugly could have occurred outside a TV-movie script, and how in hell you could possibly have reached such a moronic level of stupidity that you didn't see it coming. Or going.
Image: Iryna Yeroshko via Flickr
Picture this. You are in a fast car, black, no doubt, flying down the road, nothing for miles ahead but time and possibility. At the wheel, your man, who gave you a ring and a carefully articulated promise in exchange for your heart, in all its pumping, pulsing exuberance. The air is delicious, the potholes extant but far between on this highway, probably in the desert southwest where there are no speed limits and, if there were, the postings too thickly shrouded in dust to read, anyway. It’s all a blissful blur.
Youth, years, life whistling by, you are traveling forward, without question, without thought. You've forgotten to think. You begin to nod off, but a rude bump in the pavement jolts you upright with the vague sense, a peripheral nudging, that you've misplaced something. You clutch your chest intuitively. Your man, your spouse, who promised to cherish and obey and love you despite your flaws too numerous to mention, whose most intimate places you've memorized with your fingertips, who has been your shelter and your storm, your sunrise and your midnight phone call, is holding your heart in his hand. Remember? You gave it to him, you trusted him with it, although at this moment he appears unaware of his duty. You notice that you are not buckled into your seat and, for that matter, there is no seat belt at all. All the while, he is on his cell phone, checking his messages, stifling a chuckle at something someone said and he won’t tell you what it was.
The cell phone is in his right hand, at his ear. He is steering with his knees because his left hand is dangling your heart out his open window, by a thread, a ligament, whatever the fuck hearts are made of, fuck it because the loser is about to let go.
"Wait wait wait wait wait..." you squeeze out of your tightening throat, wait a minute, but he doesn't hear you, the road noise surrounding you, the voice mail too distracting at this moment, the last moment you are going to be sitting thigh to thigh, the radio blasting a country song you don’t recognize, and suddenly you don’t recognize him at all. He throws his head back as he laughs and forgets that he even has a left hand, and just like that, like the moment you first met his eyes, like the moment he first said he loved you, like the moment you said I do, like the moment you found his lover’s scrawled note, like the unfamiliar smells and the downward glances and the coldness of your bed and it all comes rushing around your head like the wind, finally, finally, your heart is aloft.
At obscene speeds on a desert highway, the wind is unpredictable. Depending on the aerodynamics of your vehicle, and this being a dubious metaphor to start with, it’s anyone’s guess where an object tossed mindlessly out the window will end up. In this case, following the curves of your soon-to-be-ex-spouse’s vehicle, the wind catches your heart and carries it for the most piercing moment of your life, then whips it into the back seat. There it bounces off the upholstery leaving no trace of regret, and explodes into the back of your head, covering you in blood, showering you in lost hope, decorating your flesh in shards of rejection for you are the unwanted. You are not good enough, you are second-rate, second-place, second to her. The evidence of your failure, not his, seeps down the front of your shirt for everyone to view, and when they do, their mouths will gape in pity and revulsion and utter gratitude that they are not as stupid as you.
Pulling off to the side of the road, so that you might not mar the leather bucket seat, he stops and opens the car door, not out of chivalry but to keep you from defacing the inside handle. Quickly, neatly, he is gone, the blueprint of your lives tossing about his backseat, the edges curled, the carefully drawn schematic stained beyond recognition. But he will draw up another one, and most likely sell the car, given the seat belt problem.
You are not dead, much as you wish you were. As it turns out, that’s a good thing, because you need to keep moving. You are in the dark, covered in dust on the side of the cowboy highway, emotional roadkill ready to be picked at, if only someone would pay attention. They don’t want to hear, so you never tell. And that’s a shame, because what you never get to tell everyone, because they never want to know, is what your heart felt like as it fell from his grasp. The exhilaration, to take flight, at last.