(Original version July 2007. Rewritten 2010)
Keeping secrets for other people can be a dangerous business that leads to heart ache and misery. You might think it’s an innocent secret, you might think it can’t possibly hurt anyone – but sometimes you can be wrong.
It was a year ago when I saw him at the grocery store talking to Linda, the check out girl. He caught up with me in the rainy parking lot and asked me not mention it to anyone. He’d lied about being sick to get out of a dinner party his wife, Barbara, was keen on going to. He couldn’t stand some of her friends, after all. What harm is there in that?
The suicide note clutched between my fingers screams out the damage done. Tonight, of all the nights, Barbara finally found out where he really was. But, it wasn’t as innocent as I thought, and no one was as surprised as Barbara when Linda called and announced she was pregnant with his child.
Their affair started that rainy night. He’d chatted with her at the checkout line, cast a joke in her direction, and she’d taken the bait. They’d met after her shift for the first time in a flea-bitten motel room while I’d gone home and had a cup of tea and his wife had smiled and chatted at her dinner party. He’d betrayed her while she told stories about how dashing he was.
Barbara clutched the phone with shaking hands, and I looked up from my pasta with too much concern. Tears filled her eyes and smeared the world into a melting kaleidoscope; one where my friendly worry was not longer important. She looked through the watery haze to her husband, who sat with a fork halfway to his mouth, spaghetti hanging off like an unfinished sentence.
She went insane when she hung up from Linda, if you can call the phone thrown to the floor hanging up. A purple vase soon joined it, and then a pot. She hurled razor sharp abuses at him like she hurled their possessions, and all the while her eyes demanded, “How could you?”
And I ran. I pushed my plate away, mumbled some excuse and I dashed to my car. The safety of my house was welcome, and I hid behind the walls with my knowledge. How could I have told her that I’d seen it all begin? Something so innocent that I’d never bothered to mention it, not even to my sister.
But guilt gnawed at me with pointed teeth and so I came back, only to discover this scene. The body sways on the end of the rope, turning in slow circles, a mocking dance, and the note left behind says simply “I’m sorry.” But she isn’t here to read it; she’s left and taken her suitcase of belongings with her, leaving him alone.
The swaying shadow flickers across the wall as he turns slowly, lifeless face gazing at me, whispering to my imagination. “Don’t tell,” he seems to say, asking me to keep another secret.
Fav song of the moment – “Away” – Breaking Benjamin
“I see you coz you won’t get out of my way
I hear you coz you won’t quit screaming my name
I feel you coz you won’t stop touching my skin…”