We were sitting opposite one another in Bruce’s living room
We’d agreed to meet at his house an hour earlier
It was clear by the dishes stacked in the sink,
The expired milk in the refrigerator,
The pumpkins still on his lawn a week after Halloween,
he hadn’t been staying there
But I already knew that
That’s what we were meeting to talk abt
Stupidly, I’d packed a suitcase; fleece and Backgammon and lingerie
Brought ingredients to make Bruce’s favorite pecan pie
The one I’d made a week earlier, taken with us up north to a cabin in the woods
I had once again misread the situation
The situation, I realized quickly, was Bruce was trying to ultimatum me
Into moving in with him
Use another woman like a gun to my head to get me to let go all my silly talk
Of sobriety and therapy and wellness, of wanting my husband to be healthy,
And just move in with him – “I’m your husband! You need to be my wife!” -
Or lose him forever to this woman who was like a gun
The one he’d used to get me to marry him two years earlier
Even though over the summer, after this woman had come to the house to try to
Collect Bruce and failed, Bruce had said to me, “Now that you’ve seen her
I can’t use her to get you to do anything!” and we’d laughed: hahahahaha!
But that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to give it another try
One more time
Two weeks earlier he’d come to me promising
The cycle was broken
Something I was certain – stomach lurchingly certain – Bruce was promising her now
We’d gone to our favorite steakhouse for dinner,
Sat side by side in the booth
Gone for a walk in the cemetery by my house after
“We’ll have headstones that say simply ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ like these from a hundred years ago,” Bruce had said. “Or ‘dom’ and ‘sub’.”
We’d both laughed again, knowing Bruce was the sub in that imagining
Believing the cycle was broken
Believing I was dominant when it came to Bruce
Now Bruce kept glancing at the clock
I wasn’t going to be staying over unless I agreed to Bruce’s stiff demands
I wasn’t going to need my lingerie, Backgammon, the pecans in a bag on the counter
I was going to agree to his demands or he was going to agree to hers
This was what I – painfully, stomach-droppingly – ascertained as Bruce looked
Again at the clock
“Come on,” he was saying “U-Haul’s still open, we can go right now!”
It’s hard to know if there was any part of Bruce that thought I would say ok
That he and I would rent a U-Haul truck and load my bed and bookcases and dining room table into it, drive it over that night
Maybe that wasn’t the point and the point was just that he’d asked
I contemplated instead what would become of the photographs of Bruce and me and Bruce’s son hanging on his wall
The ones I’d only a couple months earlier had printed and placed in frames
He would have to throw them out, of course, along with my cards and letters and poems,
His wedding ring …
“I can’t believe you won’t just move in with me and be my wife!” Bruce was screaming
As I sat quietly, silently sobbing, on the couch staring at the pictures of me and Bruce and Bruce’s son.
A few minutes later Bruce stood, pulled me to my feet.
“Come on!” Bruce said. “Time to go!”
I knew it was something abt the clock, something abt meeting demands Bruce had been given by someone else, Bruce’s son’s mom.
I knew there were photographs of the three of them hanging on a wall somewhere
in a living room I’d never been invited into.
The funniest thing was, I thought, backing out of Bruce’s drive, Bruce’s life,
I hadn’t seen it coming this time. Always before I could see it. But it’d been only five days since Bruce had sent me the text saying he’d had more happy days with me than with everyone else he’d ever known combined.
It’s hard to see something like this coming when you believe something like that.
I wondered how long it would be before I took my ring off, put away all signs of Bruce in my house
I was already planning to wear the work jeans and shirt he’d left there the Friday before,
The Friday we’d driven up north – wear them like pajamas, like I was a widow in mourning rather than a discarded wife.
“You’re making yourself cry,” Bruce had said when I was still in his living room,
When everything was still possible, in Bruce’s mind, at least – the U-Haul, the family in the photographs on the wall, pretending a woman used like a gun to my head won’t forever be kept in my husband’s pocket, that our marriage wouldn’t forever be under threat of fire from her,
All my wrongdoings and shortcomings punished by Bruce’s going to her.
“I can’t believe you! I’m literally begging you on hand and knee to come and live with me and be my wife!” Bruce had screamed.
I couldn’t believe it either.
Three and a half years, a Vegas elopement, two rehab stays, finally, two weeks ago, a week’s sobriety, and he wasn’t willing to wait another two months,
To prove consistency, to prove his devotion, to prove he couldn’t ever again love another woman
I couldn’t believe it either.
In the morning Bruce texted me, “You’re the most stubborn person I know.”
I was drinking coffee in my chair, envisioning the shag carpet I had longed to have installed
In Bruce’s house when I was finally able to move in.
I was wiping my nose on the sleeve of Bruce’s work shirt, feeling terribly, and finally, discarded.
Consoling myself with the promise I would never again have a woman held like a gun to my head
Reminding myself it was ok to want a man who doesn’t hold another woman at all, to my head or anyplace else.