Remember Me

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Men have no idea how deeply they cut us.

I ran into Ralph at a seaside restaurant. He was with his brother; I was just finishing up a uncomfortable business lunch.

I knew Ralph from a previous life. He was the brother-in-law of my old boyfriend. He and his wife were good to us during those lust-filled years. We were the young rutting couple, they were the seasoned watchful parents of two young children. Ralph is probably around sixty years old now.

I have always had a soft spot for Ralph. Although I left my boyfriend and moved on with my life, Ralph was a good husband and stayed true to his wife when she was diagnosed and finally succumbed to cancer. This made me admire him and I was more than happy to sit down and catch up with him.

We gossiped about my old boyfriend’s family and I dropped the bomb that my husband and I were separating. Ralph gave all the token expressions of sympathy, regret, and condolence.

I wanted to know how his life was going and if he had someone special in his life. He got a misty look in his eye and started to tell me about a woman that he was seeing. He knew her long ago and by pure fate or coincidence or whatever you want to call it, he ran into her again after his wife had died.

He told me he was in an airport in South America and he saw a woman sitting across the room. “Her head was bowed down low and when I went up to her and she looked up, I knew I would be with her even though she was with another man.”

Such a romantic sentiment! I was impressed how in touch he was and that he could describe to me the exact moment when he was struck by this woman.

Once we talked about his new love and new life, I made a careful inquiry about his wife. I asked how long it had been now since she was gone.

“It’s been three years now,” he said.

“Three years, Ralph? Are you sure?” I couldn’t help but question him. I remember reading her obituary in the local paper and it was probably about five years ago. Five years ago next month, actually. (My memory is my curse.)

“Oh, yeah, maybe you are right. Yes, probably. I’ve been with (insert new woman’s name here) for about three years and that was two years after she died so maybe you’re right. Yes, it was probably five years ago.”

I was hit between the eyes with this statement. This man could describe to me the exact moment he knew when he would have a new girlfriend, how her head was tilted, and what a momentous moment it was for him. But he had trouble remembering how long his wife of twenty-five years had been gone. The mother of his children.

The woman he watched wither away from within.

Now I’m trying to understand my own reaction more than pass judgment on this man who I still think is a fine person.

I was cut by his lack of clarity. I bled for that woman who sleeps in the graveyard near my house. I know it is important to move on, keep living, and forge ahead but I felt a great loyalty to her at that moment. The forgotten dead wife.

The sad and funny thing is that when I knew them long ago, I liked him more than I liked her.

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