I wanted but never expected Edward to be faithful. From what I knew he was. There was never evidence of another woman in the almost two years I rushed to meet him. If there was another, I would have left him. I wouldn’t have been able to accept someone else in his apartment, let alone bed. They like him, were mine, even if temporarily.
I always knew but didn’t believe he would leave me. In the spring of 1977, he left. As soon as his Stanford internship ended he accepted a hospital research assignment on the East Coast. He said I could follow but it was just words, his way of saying goodbye, goodbye forever. He knew I wasn’t abandoning my family. It was time for him to start his, not an instant one with another's kids.
He insisted I keep all of the attire adornments he’d acquired for me stashed in his apartment. I filled the station wagon and took them to the Salvation Army. I asked if he wanted the jewelry back which upset him. I apologized but then he requested I return the panties he’d bought. He put them in plastic bags and explained he didn’t want another to see me in them when I asked why. I thought he took them to remember me by. That’s what I told myself. Knowing the idiosyncrasies of men better now, I don’t think so. At the Salvation Army drop off, I noticed some adornment items were missing. Perhaps I as a mannequin moved to the east coast with him.
I took my husband to buy new panties he selected, my notification, if there was another, he was gone.
There was a big going away party at Edward’s apartment. I didn’t attend. I didn’t want to see it stripped of the things remembered while others trampled our private place. Seeing it without the fish tank, water bed, with empty cupboards and refrigerator, cleaned but abandoned stove where I prepared meals would be too much. I didn’t know nor ask what happened to the fish tank. I was afraid he’d given it to a friend.
I told him I’d never seen another in our sanctuary and didn’t want to see it filled with strangers. That is what I said but instead knew I would be socially ill at ease among his peers, knew I would break down and cry and attract questions. I didn’t want to be stared at, the uneducated Asian woman he was oddly fixated about. He was relieved I opted out, a sign he was returning to his own.
The morning after the party, I arranged to meet him outside the apartment complex and drove him to the San Francisco Airport. I didn’t know where he spent the night and was afraid to ask.
He carried only two bags. Everything else was packed and shipped, including his Porsche. We said little as I drove, parked the car and walked with him to the ticket counter. I carried one of his bags. He didn’t reach his free hand to hold mine. He checked his bags and we proceeded to the gate, holding hands but because I took his in mine.
There were no security checks before D. B. Cooper. One went to the gate to board or see a passenger off, their private persona unfettered, even if one carried a weapon.
I had a jeweler make a gold necklace with a little guppy fish and gave it to him as we sat at the gate, an hour early, avoiding conversation. He surprised me and gave me a little gold frog. I held his hand. After a respectable moment, he pulled his hand away and we sat with hands in our laps, nervously fondling our gifts in silence, waiting for the boarding calls. There was nothing to say. It was over. I sensed a hint of relief in his demeanor. We faced opposite arms of a Y, each future move pulling us further away.
The rest of the passengers heeded the boarding row calls as we continued to sit silent, a nervous glance to one another punctuating the row calls. At the final call, it was time. We stood up, briefly kissed, our last physical touch. I looked up and wiped tears from my eyes. He looked down, picked up his carryon bag, went to the gate, gave the agent his ticket and turned back.to me.
“Remember me, Sweetie Pie.”
The agent took his ticket, past the door he turned again, blew a kiss and was shooed into the aluminum tube. The door closed, was sealed shut and he was out of my life. He met me a twenty-five-old girl in a shoe store and left me a twenty-seven-year-old woman, alone at the airport.
I cried as I waited for the plane to back up. I cried as I saw it taxi on the runway. I cried as it zoomed to gain speed, arched up into the sky and disappeared. I cried on the drive home.
He called when settled in. We kept a brief period of telephone communication. I told myself he was still time stressed in his new position to explain his curt and aloof conversations. No longer was he interested in my thoughts. It was not long before he met and married, an Asian woman, a Philippine nurse. He told me about meeting her but then called no more.
It was over, over, over. I stared at my fish tank and thought of him, my prince guppy gone from my life. I was past tense in his life but he was still present tense in mine. Not long after the little frog in my fish tank disappeared. I searched but never found it. I gave the fish tank, sans frog but with guppies, to a girl at work.
I couldn’t drive near his apartment complex, not even near Stanford. I played the song "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Thelma Houston over and over until I could say the lyrics by heart.
Family demands, however, pulled me back to my domestic world. To forget, I worked at being the best wife and mom. Still, once in a while, when alone and feeling lonely, I took my gold frog keepsake from its hiding place and stared at it in my hand. It ensured my memories were real. He was a reality if only in memories. He’d changed me. Reassured, I’d put it back in its hiding place.
I still have the gold frog and am looking at it now.
I’m crying listening to "Don't Leave Me This Way" as I look at my reflection in the mirror with the glow of bee's wax candlelight. I feel so alone.
The candle flickers, the frog and music frame my poignant memories. I smell again a redwood, eucalyptus and hibiscus evening's aromas surrounding an apartment complex pool, long gone. I mentally retrace the steps of that first evening which changed me. The door stands before my memory as I cross the threshold again. The night I became a woman I will always remember.
I never forgot my prince. I followed his career. He became a recognized luminary in cancer research. I hoped he occasionally thought of me and snooped enough to find out he started a family. Once the internet developed I found his email address through the hospital and sent him a note wishing him the best on his birthday. He didn’t reply. I suspected he wouldn't but it still hurt. Chastened, I never emailed again.
I began to wonder if I was only his Asian fetish, his Oriental dress-up doll and if my subsequent affairs were just repeated attempts to cross his threshold again and again.
Reality took a long time to accept, but I’ve accepted it.
Author Notes: When lover leaves she remains in love but years later begins to understand it wan't love at all.