I loved him, I love him still. I was never in love with him, and I’m beginning to understand he wasn’t in love with me, either – at least not at the end of our marriage; obsessed isn’t synonymous with being in love.
I don’t know when it happened – when he stopped feeling intense, romantic love for me, and I suppose that no longer matters – if it ever did. Perhaps I had been mistaking obsession for love for a very long time.
When I was in the eleventh grade, just before I began dating Paul, I was going out with a boy, Evan, my parents – actually my mother, wanted me to date; according to her, he had good breeding and his family was well connected and traveled in the right circles. I laughed at this then, just as I do now, but I agreed, reluctantly, to attend campus events with this boy whilst away at school.
One late afternoon, at the end of a recital, we took the long way back to my dorm, stopping to chat in one of the school’s gardens. Before I realized what was happening, he was holding me too tight, kissing me too hard, and touching me in places I didn’t want to be touched. When I finally broke free of him, I sent him away, but I remained in the garden alone.
I wasn’t there long when Paul, fresh from baseball practice, walked through the garden on his way to the dining hall. I wanted to hide – I didn’t want him to see me like I was; I had been crying, and my blouse had been torn in the kerfuffle with Evan – but the garden had no hiding places, and its single path in and out left me no recourse other than to address Paul.
He smiled when he saw me, but immediately thereafter realized something was wrong. I didn’t want to tell anyone, especially Paul, what had happened with Evan, so I ended up telling him that Evan and I had been making out and things simply went too far.
I knew he didn’t believe me – making out with a boy in the gardens was definitely out of character for me, but he didn’t press me for the truth. He asked if he could walk me back to my dorm, and I said that he could, and somewhere between the garden and my room we decided to skip the dining hall and go into the village for dinner.
An hour later, Paul arrived at my door and we went to dinner. I didn’t find out until we got back to campus that Paul had, between dropping me off at my room to get ready for dinner, and returning to collect me so we could go to dinner, beaten the hell out of Evan.
I was, even then, horrified. I don’t like, and never have, the age-old notion that a man defends a woman’s honor through physical altercation with another man he believes has wronged her. I passed it off as adolescent posturing, for the most part; Evan, in the final analysis, was just being a sixteen year old boy – yes, what he did was wrong, and yes I asked him to stop several times before he actually did, but I wasn’t harmed in any real way by what happened;
and Paul, he was just …
I no longer know how to complete the sentence; I haven’t for a long, long time.