Edward filled what I thought was missing in life but our physical time together was limited. With his internship and studies, he was more time stressed than me. I never his infatuation. How could he be in love with me? I wasn’t his peer. He didn’t fit my Tropicana Village upbringing, dysfunctional family and swing shift world. He was to be a doctor. I, well wafer fab aligner said it all. Additionally, I was married and the mother of kids. Even if single, without children, he would eventually be claimed by his own and leave me, abandoned.
I accepted a long-term relationship was impossible, kept him in the present tense and didn't dwell on the preordained end. Our relationship was a temporary veer into a cul-de-sac, the entry sign, “No Outlet”. Edward's life highway was his career and a future family, without me.
He once attempted to introduce me to his world but it backfired. He took me to a formal medical award occasion at Stanford and bought me a black gown and a real pearl necklace to attend it as his “arm candy.” I ended up as ill at ease as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman at the Polo Turf Club. Those at the soiree were academics and doctors. Edward spent his time talking to them. I was on my own after a few introductions. Maladroit, I kept my mouth shut, nodded agreement to what was said and smiled. I talked about the table floral arrangements to have a conversation without sounding stupid when cornered yet knew I appeared such doing so.
A few women commented how lovely I looked. I knew they were fishing to know who this uneducated, Asian girl, wearing a wedding ring was and how she had enchanted Edward. I didn’t relax until we left. Asked if I had a good time, I said it was lovely, which it was, but not for me. I never attended one of his formal functions again with excuses I couldn’t get away.
Edward’s cul-de-sac time was 3 or 4 Friday nights a month from 6:30 PM to 5:30 AM, less than 12 hours. I stopped by his apartment for "nooners", typically twice a week, on the “T”’s, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours. Total physical time together was only 4 to 15 hours a week. His image did often drift into my mind, most often while working as I aligned silicon wafers on the microscope. As I peered down his image would smile up and I would carry on imaginary conversations in which I was as sophisticated and acerbic in wit as he was.
While he frequently crept into my mind, I tried to concentrate on family when with them, my life’s path. I kept telling myself I not to drift off and crash into a walnut tree on the side of my highway. Most of my time outside work remained with family. During the week my swing shift schedule, leave house at 5:30 PM, return at 2:30 AM, sleep until 6:30, get hubby and kids off, clean house, greet kids, prepare family dinner, meet hubby and start the next shift meant most of my time not at work was centered on family. Weekends flew by as a blur of backed up domestic chores, an outing with the kids, Sunday BBQ with his and my family, ensuring hubby was milked and catch up sleep.
While Edward stamped me as his with attire, jewelry, perfume, cosmetics, nail polish and sex games it never entered my mind to leave my husband. My wedding ring was my statement. I was married, a mother of 2 kids. I always kept this emblem on, my declaration of my true status. It vexed Edward but there was a betrayal line I couldn’t cross. I’d never leave my husband even if Edward asked me to marry him despite our differences and my having kids. That’s what I told myself. The reality was he never hinted, inferred or asked me to marry him.
After 2 years cracks began to occur in the relationship. I read novels I selected not him. His disinterest in them if I talked about them irked me. Tom Jones was too much like Country Western music for my taste. The sex games became history. His fastidious attention to my attire became boring. While we didn’t argue the periods of silence when together lengthened.
I knew from the beginning one day he would leave me. One day he did.
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 another in his apartment let alone bed, they like he, 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.
I asked if he wanted the jewelry back which upset him. I apologized but then he requested I return the panties he bought. He put them in plastic bags and replied 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 know. I took my husband to buy new ones 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. He carried only 2 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 kept 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, always.”
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 25-old girl in a shoe store and left me a 27-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. 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 candle light. 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.
Author Notes: When lover leaves she remains in love but years later begins to understand it wan't love at all.