John and I were alone in the city for several nights last month; our pied-a-terre, that once belonged to my parents, a delightful respite from work and day to day life.
I’ve changed very little in the apartment since my mother gave me the keys during the height of my affair with John – for some reason I just never got around to making it my own; even the pictures there are of people and places long, long ago …
I first noticed this during a particularly vulnerable time in my life; Paul’s behavior was erratic, my mother’s illness had returned and was terminal, I was in love – for the first time in my life, with a man who was not my husband, and I was searching for answers.
I was visiting my mother, and I couldn’t sleep; no matter what I did I could not quiet my mind – I wanted out of my marriage, and I was just beginning to realize that. About two in the morning, I got dressed, left a note for my mother, took the keys to her car, and the key to the Manhattan apartment she had just given me, and drove into the city.
It had been several years since I had been inside the apartment, and it felt strange to be there alone. I made tea and sat down at the piano, but I didn’t play, I just sat there admiring the glow from the city lights across the park. Exhausted, I made my way to what had been my bedroom as a child, but suddenly realized I was now the master of the house, so turned the opposite direction and walked down the hall.
And there they were, the pictures of my wedding day. Hanging one below the other just outside the door to what had been my parents bedroom suite – lasting memories of a day I now wished had never been.
I looked at each picture in turn; my father and I alone; my mother, father and I, me with each set of my grandparents, me with my mother …
I had seen the photos many times, but for the first time ever I realized Paul wasn’t in this set of displayed pictures. Our wedding portrait was prominently displayed in my parent’s home, but here – in Manhattan, it was as if Paul did not exist – even in photos taken on the day of his marriage.
In that moment, my guilt was overwhelming. I knew the photos were not meant to exclude Paul from our lives; his absence there indicative of nothing – but they were, on that chilly morning, a reminder of all I had done to him, and continued to do, even though I knew my love for John was destroying him.
I got into bed and cried until I just couldn’t cry anymore, and then I slept. When John called later in the morning, he knew by the tone of my voice something was wrong. I told him about the pictures, how I’d never noticed Paul’s absence among them before, and I shared the depth of my guilt. He listened, and he understood.
Last month, John and I took those pictures down from the wall they had adorned for almost three decades …
but their outline remains in the faded paint, the scars of what has been.