Edward filled what I thought was the void in my life, but our physical time together was limited. With his internship and studies, he was more time stressed than me. I didn’t understand 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”. Not knowing expected academic protocol, I ended up ill at ease, similar to 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 came over to me and commented on how lovely I looked. I knew they were subtlety fishing to learn who this uneducated, Asian girl, wearing a wedding ring, was and how she had enchanted “their” Edward. My mind raced for evasive responses to the bait of their proffered inquiries. My attempted adroit replies only ensnared me as a trespasser to “their” event.
The men were worse. Their brazen introductions and chatter innuendos inferred I was Edward’s Asian whore. I didn’t relax until we left, feeling intellectually naked. 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 functions again with excuses I couldn’t get away.
Edward’s physical time together with me was limited to romantic Friday nights, from 6:30 PM to 5:30 AM. 11 hours or less. His weekday testosterone milking on the two hour “T”’s, added 4 hours. Total time together was fifteen hours weekly. In addition, his image often drifted into my mind, 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.
While Edward crept into my mind at home, I concentrated on family when with them. I kept reminding myself not to veer across the double yellow line of my life’s highway into a head on crash.
Time with family, especially hubby, was also truncated due to our two different work shifts. During the week he left for work at 7:30 AM, returned at 5:30 PM as I left for work, and I returned at 2:30 AM then slept until 6:30. Half of the hour when we got up he spent getting ready for work while I prepared breakfast. The remaining half hour was spent snarfing down breakfast with the kids which meant only two and half-hours of awake time together during the work week which was more kids’ time.
There was 4 hours of sleep snuggle time in bed together and once or twice a week half hour wakeup up sex to ensure he was testosterone milked but it wasn’t until the weekend we had conversation time together.
Weekends flew by as a blur of backed up domestic chores, a Saturday family outing, Sunday BBQ with parents and catch up sleep which left only Sunday evening to squeeze in a `romance interlude.
It all meant most of my awake time was at work where fellow employees became a second family.
Although Edward stamped me as his with attire, jewelry, perfume, cosmetics, nail polish and sex games it never entered my mind to leave my husband and family. My wedding ring was my irrevocable statement, I was married, a mother of two and belonged to my husband., this emblem always on, the declaration of my true status.
Doing so vexed Edward but this 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, implied, suggested, inferred or asked me to marry him.
After two years, cracks began to occur in our 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. I noticed he had a mild case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). While we didn’t argue, the periods of silence when together lengthened.
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 knew from the beginning, one day he would leave me. One day he did.I always knew, but didn’t believe, he would. 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 wanted me to take the apartment stashed adornments he’d purchased. There was no possibility of my taking it all home. It would cause too much suspicion. I packed everything in boxes and loaded them in the station wagon. As I packed, it was apparent items were missing.
He’d saved the panties and things he was particularly fond of and put them in plastic bags to take with him. His explanation was, he didn’t want another to see me in them. I assumed he wanted them to remember me by. Knowing male idiosyncrasies better now, I don’t think so. I suspect they were saved to adorn another Asian mannequin, on the east coast.
I skimmed through the attire, kept a few items, mostly shoes, saved most of the jewelry, cosmetics, and perfume, and took the rest to the Salvation Army.
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 knew I ‘d 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, by security, 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 apart.
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 Filipino 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’s flame, frog’s caress and music’s melody frame 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.
I took my husband to buy new panties he selected, my notification, if there was another, he was gone.
Author Notes: When lover leaves she remains in love but years later begins to understand it wan't love at all.