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 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.
His attempt to introduce me to his world backfired. He took me to a formal medical award occasion at Stanford and bought me a black gown and a real pearl necklace for my attendance, as his “arm candy”. Not knowing the 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 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 Edward. My mind raced to avoid a gullible response to their proffered bait. 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 functions again with excuses I couldn’t get away.
Edward’s relationship time was three or four Friday nights a month with eight to eleven-hour interludes. I stopped by his apartment for "nooners", typically twice a week, on the “T”’s, Tuesday and Thursday for two hours max. Total physical time together was only twelve to fifteen hours a week. His image did often drift 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 he crept into mind my life’s path, I kept telling myself not to drift and crash on my life’s highway. Most of my time outside work remained with family where I centered my world.
My standard weekday routine was, leave the house at 5:30 PM, return at 2:30 AM, sleep until 6:30 AM, get hubby and kids off, clean house, greet kids, prepared family dinner met hubby, and leave for the next shift. It meant most of my time not at work was centered on family. Weekends flew by as a blur of backed up domestic chores, a Saturday outing with the kids and hubby, Sunday BBQ with family, and catch up sleep whenever possible. I also ensure hubby was sexually milked.
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. I was a married woman, a mother of two kids. My wedding ring was my statement as such and always kept this emblem on, a declaration of my true status. The ring vexed Edward but to remove it was a demarcation 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, or asked me to marry him.
After two years, relationship cracks began to occur. I read novels I selected, not him. His disinterest if I talked about them irked me. His music idol, 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 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 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 part of my mannequin image 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 or 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 would 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 branches of a life Y. Each, each future moment pulling us further 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 as I listen to "Don't Leave Me This Way". 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.
Author Notes: When lover leaves she remains in love but years later begins to understand it wan't love at all.