Karen called in sick. It's Monday, 11am and she's still in bed when her cell phone rings. It sits on the end table on a charger. She opens her eyes and looks at it then reaches over to see who it is. Its Dave. She flips it open presses the button to answer.
“Hey you what's up.” Karen puts her guard up. She hasn't spoken to Dave in 10 days, the longest stretch of time since they've been seeing each other, now 8 months. “Sleeping.”
“Not working today?'
“No, called in.”
“Oh.” There's a pause of silence. Dave is trying to size up her mood. He knows she's upset with him. He breaks the silence. “You feeling alright.”
“Yea.” Another pause. Her guard is holding. She wants to end the call, make a real stance. Dave is a bad idea, she knows it, her friends know it. “Well I won't bother you then, I'll let you rest.”
“Why did you call.” Her guard is weakening.
“Just to say hi, see how your doing.”
“I'm alright.” She's not. She misses him and hates herself for it. He's like a bad drug that gives her emotional highs along with the guilty, self-loathing hangover.
“Well, I'll let you go then.” Another pause. She won't say goodbye and end it, the silence tells Dave that she's clinging. “You wanna talk.” he asks.
“I don't know, about...”
she interrupts “You lied to me about your separation, you lied about where your living...”
“I didn't lie.”
“Oh bullshit Dave, common.”
“I didn't, when I told you I was moving out it was true.”
“You said you were MOVED out not GOING to move out.”
“Alright, whatever, you have your version I have mine. I don't want to fight.”
“You still home?”
“Physically or emotionally?”
“Goodbye.” She hangs up abruptly. On the other end Dave smiles then thinks to himself “That was a dumb thing to say”
Karen is with her friend Jenna that evening. They're at Pablo's, a Mexican restaurant/sports bar. They sit at the bar. It's quiet, no one else is there but the bartender. “Dave called this morning.”
“What did that jerk have to say.”
“Same bullshit, I just hung up on him.”
“Good for you.”
“He must think I'm stupid or something.”
“Well you have to just move on, you know he's a bastard scumbag cheat.” Karen wants to be convinced this is true, emotions overwhelm her reasoning. He can't be that bad, he has a heart somewhere, she thinks, looking at her wine glass, caressing the side. “What are you thinking right now” Jenna asks.
“Nothing. I mean, I know he's everything you say but...”
“No no no. Don't go there.”
“What, tell me what you were going to say?”
“Okay, your right, I get it. But I think that he, you know looks at me as the 'other woman'” putting quotation fingers up as she says this “but at the same time I think that he didn't expect that he would like me.”
“Karen?” Jenna says in a sigh.
“No let me finish, and so because...Okay let me start again, he's a bad person for one. But I think in being a bad person he realizes that he doesn't have to be that way and part of me thinks that he wants to start over again.”
“You mean leave his wife and go with you?”
“Okay for one thing I don't think that a guy who leaves his wife for another woman is someone who is a bad person mending his ways. That's not what people do in order to be a good person.”
“Alright, I agree with that ninety percent of the time...”
“Oh, here we go...”
“No hear me out, I think with Dave, with his situation he got married to the wrong abusive woman and I think that because he has a heart doesn't want to break it off like that, I don't know, does this make sense?”
“You know what I think?'
“What, tell me because, I really don't know what to think...” Karen's voice is cracking, she slips into tears “...because I really love him..” now crying “...and I can't think that this can't be real.” The two embrace.
Days go by then weeks. There is no contact between Karen and Dave. Karen is feeling better about it. She misses him less and less and is accustomed to his absence. There were nights when she was tempted to call but didn't. Days after her breakdown she was in a state of mourning over the split. One particular evening when she couldn't sleep she broke down in tears and when she stopped sobbing thought that she would get over it and move on. The thought made her even sadder, not only was the relationship over but the love will soon leave her as well, this made her cry in a way that her voice stuttered and then couldn't breathe with her stomach tightening, mouth opened wide.
Then months go by and there is no contact. Karen thinks about the relationship rarely. She is almost embarrassed about the whole thing. Her attitude is that she is stronger because of it. She doesn't hate Dave. Not in a delusional sense, she didn't invent him, she was fooled by him. Its his fault that he was a manipulator but the fault lies within her for falling for him. She gathers this and other insights reading articles and books. She's surprised that there is a large industry of information that have to do with what she went through. She feels reformed thanks to the material. When she speaks about the affair it's in a self-deprecating manner as though a confession. “But you have to move on and realize that you're better then that. You have to first respect yourself, that's important, if you can't do that there is nothing.” She is filled with advise about relationships and self realization, her friends are a little annoyed with it but are far more relieved that there is no more Dave. It's a good trade-off. Jenna after a while comes to the conclusion that she hasn't really moved on thinking that if it were over, the constant talk about it being over and how “happy” she is means it isn't fully finished because there is reference to it. There should be none, then it's over.
Saturday morning almost a full nine months since the phone call she had with Dave, Karen receives a
letter. It's from Dave. A small sized envelope with addresses written in blue pen. She opens the letter.
Hey, how are you. This isn't what you think. I'm not trying to rekindle anything or torment you in any. You haven't heard from me in a long time and there is a reason for it. I'm dying. I found out shortly after the last time we spoke. You probably think I should have told you sooner or something but the truth is I wasn't what you thought of me. Maybe you come to know this by now, I hope you do, but in reality I'm just what people call a creep. I know that you loved me, that was my goal. It kept you where I wanted you. I could've called you and in all probability would have if I wasn't sick and further messed up your life. I don't want to die and in fact I'm really scared about it. As much as I don't want to die I think maybe it was for a reason. I feel guilty about what I've done to you and other people. I don't look for forgiveness I just want to some way make things right. You have a lot to offer someone and I know you'll make someone happy. If I may give you some advice I would say don't trust so easily, love so blindly. I can't believe how much I relished the thought of confusing you and manipulating your emotions. Want to know something that is sick and evil. I used to brag about it with my friends. Some of them were in the same kind of situation. Can you imagine? My greatest guilt is what I've done to my wife. I never told her about my affairs (no, contrary to what I told you, you weren't unique.) and I don't think I will, what good would that do? But I have to live (well I guess now die) knowing that I was not a good person. Maybe this is a step towards redemption or part of me getting closer to God. Please don't try to contact me for I won't answer. I'm sorry.
Karen is stunned. Although the truth is out her emotions are rekindled. Instead of reaffirming what everyone she knew was telling her and she had resolved to believe, she starts to backtrack “Maybe he did love me after all. Why would he write to tell me this if he didn't care about me?” “I knew there was something there.” “He put on an act to himself and his friends, he loved me but he was in denial.”