Her

The person I didn’t want to be, but was

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Just say the word, and I will give you the rest of your life on a silver platter.

I stood there, unable to look into his fierce brown eyes.  No one says that in real life, do they?  That’s the kind of stuff people say in the movies.  Is this really happening?  His lips were drawn tight against white teeth, and his brown face was full of frustration.  He was firm and intense, determined to get his point across, as his six foot stature and broad shoulders leaned down closer to me when he said it.  He looked almost mad, and I could not blame him.  I also knew he meant it.  A man like him would never say something like that and not follow through.  The question was, could I?

I watched the heat waves rise from the pavement around my freshly painted red toenails in my peep toed pumps.  I leaned against the hot bricks of our office building just to get a little more space between us, and felt the sting of heat from them though my skirt and blouse as well.   I did not budge though.  I knew I had to remain strong.

My head was spinning with a million thoughts and I remained motionless and silent, as Frankie Chavez stood there.  He had one arm against the wall near my head, and the other hand in the pants pocket of his blue pinstriped suit.  He was always such a smart dresser.  I liked that about him.   There were a lot of things I liked about Frankie, but I did not like the way he had lied to me.   Poor guy, doesn’t even know I know, though.  He should have thought  about the fact that I might figure out who really sent the flowers. 

I didn’t have it in me to bother confronting him.  What’s done is done, right?   Why make him feel like he needs to lie more, or give me some lame excuse as to why he’d done it?  While it was in the minds of some, a minor infraction, I had never taken kindly to being lied to, and I wasn’t about to start now.  If he would lie to me about something so inconsequential, what else would he lie about?  Besides, I also knew he was telling a much bigger lie.

“I’m sorry,”  I finally mustered.  “I just can’t do it.  It’s wrong, and I won’t.  This has to stop.  It ends here.”

He looked at me with disbelief and shock, and said nothing.  I think he wanted to cry, and I felt like I had to be the worst person on the planet.  His hand fell from the wall and I turned with my head down and walked back into the building.

Frankie sat in the office next to mine.  The way that floor was set up, we were the only two on that side of the foyer (along with the conference room) and the other offices were on the other side of the foyer.   That meant we spent some time visiting here and there and we also worked together on a few projects.  I thought a lot of him and respected him a great deal.   He was highly intelligent, well spoken, well put together.  He had his ducks in a row, had a huge heart, and was your all around good guy.   One time I was frantic with an emergency cash flow problem I had no idea how I was going to fix.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash and gave me two hundred bucks.  No questions asked.  That was just the kind of guy he was.  We had become good friends.   We would visit about a lot of things and I had also gone through a really difficult break up with a man I had been with over two years.  Frankie was a great listener, no matter what I had to say.  Not only did he listen, he paid attention.

Then I started to come to work and walk into my office and around the desk to my chair and find a flower from his garden sitting there.  Or I would have a meeting and come back to find a sandwich from McDonald’s there, or one he had made at home.  It always made me smile and frankly touched my heart.  No one had ever done such sweet things for me like that before, and I loved it.   But I always kept it in perspective.  We were friends, and I never took it as anything else.  Frankie had lived with the same woman a lot of years and I had no reason to believe he was unhappy, nor that his kind gestures meant anything other than he was being nice.

Over time though, that changed.   There was the awkward super quick kiss and then the even more awkward apologies and discussion about it afterward.  Which led to more discussions about it again, which led to us getting involved.   No, we never shoved anything off of any desks and did dirty things in the office, as one might assume happens.  There were plenty of stolen moments in vehicles or at my house over lunch; or he’d hang out sometimes in the evenings when he could.  We’d go out to the bar and sing karaoke sometimes, and we had a lot of fun together.  For all intents and purposes, things were great!  Except for one thing.  Her.

I had met her a couple of times in passing, and she seemed really nice.  She seemed to like me too.  Of course, that was before I started sleeping with her man.  Sometimes I wondered if she knew.  They say the woman always know.  I think that’s mostly true.  Frankie never spoke poorly of her, and still had not.  I never brought her up either.  It was almost like an unspoken rule that she was off limits.  I respected him for not doing that.  She didn’t deserve that.  She didn’t deserve any of it.

So, we’re just going along and having a good ole time.  I’m lying to myself, and he’s lying to her, and everything’s just grand.  Then one day, I get a bouquet of flowers.  A dozen orange with red tip roses, and a blank card.  They were simply gorgeous!

I could only surmise that the came from Frankie, but he looked just as shocked to see them as I had been surprised.  He told me he had not sent them.

“What do you mean you didn’t send them!?”  I said excitedly.   “Of course you did!  Quit playing games!”

Again, he told me he had not.  This went on for a couple of minutes and Frankie starts acting weird.  I am telling him that I have no idea who else it could be but him, he’s saying it isn’t, and I’m insisting it has to be!

“You REALLY don’t know who sent them?”  He asks with a finality to his voice.

“No.   I assumed they were from you.  The card is blank.  See?”  I hold up the card for him to see.

“Okay, yeah.  It was me.”  He says with an impish smile.

I get up and walk around the desk and give him a hug, but he’s stiff and awkward.  Something seems kind of off, but I can’t place it.  I mean, if it wasn’t him, I could see him being upset and thinking that maybe I was just saying I didn’t know who they were from to try and throw him off or keep him from getting to mad at me.  But he had just admitted he had sent them, and if he hadn’t, I honestly had no clue who they’d be from.  Yeah, that’s awkward.

I take the flowers home with me after work and set them on the table.  I begin to wonder if maybe they were from James, with whom I had recently broken up with.  It had been a few months and I had taken that super hard.  I thought for sure he was THE ONE, what with the painting as a sign from heaven and all.  So, when that hadn’t worked out, I was broken hearted for well over a year.  But we had been on more friendly terms lately.  I wondered if maybe he had sent them.  Is that even possible? 

James played the trumpet in a band.  Another member in the band went to our church and was kind of seeing a friend of mine, so we had gone to hear them play at a local bar.  That’s how I met James.  I really liked him and he seemed to like me.  But he didn’t ask for a number or anything and I am not a real forward person.  The next time we went to hear them play, James was with someone.  So, now I understood why he didn’t ask for my number or anything.  I don’t know if it was because I was drinking or what, but when my friend and I were getting ready to leave, I walked right up to him and said hello and gave him a hug right in front of the gal he was with.  Kind of crummy of me.  Right?   Well, obviously, I am in a crummy stage of life during that time anyway.  The next time we go, she’s not there.  James spends a lot of time talking to me between sets and during songs he didn’t play on, and he tells me he’s available.  That was that.

We had only been on two or three dates, when one evening we are at his house and he disappears a moment and returns with an unframed canvas.  He turns it around and it’s a painting of an angel, or a woman with wings.  I can’t honestly say what an actual angel looks like.  This woman was nude, but she had her arms across her breasts and her body was twisted in such a way that it wasn’t something you would look at as porn or erotica.  Her wings were white and stretched out and her hair was flowing, and her face…..was mine.

I looked at him with an open mouth.  “Is that…me?”  I ask hesitantly.

“I think so.”  He says quietly.

“How did you do that from memory after only seeing me a couple of times?  Wait, what do you mean you THINK so?”

“I painted this picture over a year ago.”  He says wistfully.  “I was going through a really rough time, and I had this dream.  In this dream, this woman came to me and she told me….some things.  (He never told me what.)  It changed my life and I know she was an angel.  It made a huge impact on me, so of course, I painted her.”

“But she looks like…like me.”  I said, confused.

“I know.”  He says with a smile.  “I knew it was you the first time I saw you.  I know who you are.”  He said quietly, and kissed me on my cheek.

This is a true story.  I can’t make this sh*t up.  So, as you can imagine, when it doesn’t work out two years later, I am completely devastated, to say the least.  It was over a year before I could even go a day without thinking of him.  It was probably about two years before I was actually over him.  Maybe even a bit longer.  He was it for me.  It was complete heartbreak to realize he didn’t see me that way.  I have never taken a break up so hard in my life.  Not before.  Not after.  It was complete and total annihilation of my heart for me.

He married some really weird dorky chick.  Everyone says so.  I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better.  But the fact that it’s true does not really make me feel better.  Cuz that would mean I was worse than her, right?  Hey, if he’s happy.  Whatever.

Breaking up with him was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, and it took me a few years of doubting my decision to eventually realize I had done the right thing.  But that’s another story for another day.

So, I grab the flowers, jump in my little red Eclipse, and drive down the street 8 or 9 blocks to James’ house and knock on the door.  I give him the flowers and watch his face closely to see if there’s any sign of recognition.  He invites me in and we chat at the kitchen table a few moments and then he begins to busy himself about the kitchen as I sit there, like we had done so many times before.  Saturday and Sunday mornings he would always get up early and start making me breakfast, and I would get up and sit at the table and visit with him while he did.  He would never let me help.  I think I still missed him, and that was a problem.

There’s no sign of recognition with the flowers, nor is there any indication given that any type of feelings are being rekindled on his part.  He’s just being nice.  I go home and go on with my life and forget about it.

A week or so later, I get a call from my dad.  He’s just calling to see how I’m doing and wants to check in with me.  At the end of the conversation he tells me something that catches me off guard.

“I know you’ve been going through a rough time lately.”  He begins.  “So, daddy sent you some flowers.  I didn’t sign the card, but I have thought better of it. I just wanted you to know that daddy loves you.”

I tell my dad thank you and that I really appreciate such a sweet gesture.  I hang up the phone, and I am PISSED.

I can’t say how long it takes me to make up my mind about what I will do.  I sit on it a few days.  In the meantime, I am distancing myself from Frankie.  While I can understand on some level why he would lie to me about such a stupid thing, I am also mad that he would lie to me about such a stupid thing.  Part of me considers telling him that it was my dad and confronting him; and this would also relieve any thoughts or concerns that he may have had about me getting flowers from another love interest-but part of me now wanted him to wonder.  Served him right for lying!  I never told him, either.

He came to work really down and I asked him what was wrong, and he told me his dog Diablo had died over night.  I was truly sad about Diablo.  He was this huge Rottweiler and the sweetest thing ever.  Yet, I just didn’t have it in me to be all that compassionate towards Frankie, though I did tell him I was very sorry.   That’s how we ended up outside that day.

He was upset with me and so I asked him what was wrong and he asked me if we could talk outside.  He then proceeded to tell me that I was not appropriately upset about Diablo to meet his needs.  More specifically, I was not consoling him or being as attentive as I might otherwise be, and he noticed it.  He was not wrong.

I honestly don’t recall how we got from his dog dying to him saying that, other than I had begun to tell him that I was having second thoughts about what we were doing.

I was feeling guilty as hell.  The woman he lived with was nice and I had been her before.  I knew how awful that felt.  To have someone take your man from you.  I had been in her shoes more than once, in fact.  Maybe that was why I did what I did.  I didn’t want to be her anymore.  I didn’t like being who I was anymore either, though.  He was reassuring me that what we were doing was not just a fling.  Yet, I knew that still didn’t make it right.

Technically, they weren’t married, so I could have played that card if I really wanted to.  I knew better though.  I could have been cold hearted and taken what I wanted and told myself that’s just the way it goes.  All is fair in love and war, right?  I could not do that either.   As much as I did not want to be her, I was her on so many levels.  Doing that to her, was the same as doing it to myself.  I think a lot of women who are so desperately making sure they are not her, do not realize what they are really doing and make the complete circle.

There were several months spent in awkward attempts to avoid and be polite after that until healing took place and I left the organization.  I didn’t see him much after that but when I did, we were still good friends.   I saw him with her at the store not too long ago.  We chatted and caught up a few minutes.  He told me he was going to retire soon and they were raising one of his grandchildren.  He had recently had surgery on his head (I can’t remember why) and had it operated on and was doing fine, but was ready to slow down.  She had stuck by his side through all of it, and he had stuck by hers.  He looked happy and content, and I was glad.

I spent many years and guilt over what I did, and this happened in the late 90’s.  Even knowing that God had forgiven me for it, forgiving myself was something I struggled to do.   But that day, as I left the store, I think I finally did.  I had done the right thing in the end, and that can never be wrong.

 

 

 

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