Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 18, Part 2

It was difficult for her to answer. After all, what did he mean by love? Did he mean sexual desire, romantic notions of soul-mates and passion? Did he mean an enduring affection, an attachment born of nostalgia? Or was he talking about the desire to move forward together, to remain committed to walking through life together even after all they’d endured? By any definition, she wasn’t so sure and
was quiet for long enough that when she finally did answer, it didn’t matter anymore.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Ever since she died...” he started, and she saw that tears were coming down his cheeks.

“Greg. We’ve both been through hell,” she said.

“No, Amy. You can say that, but it’s not what you really think.” Now his face was red, and a gnarled vein at his temple bulged ominously. She was worried he could either explode or implode, easily; he seemed capable of either an aneurysm or a murderous attack. “Let me explain something to you about yourself, since you don’t seem to know it,” he began again, his voice humid with sarcasm about to break into fury. “You didn’t just have an affair with that woman for no reason. You did it because you hate me.”

“I don’t hate you.”

“You do, you do. You should admit this to yourself, at least,” he said. “You took up with her because you blame me for P.J. That’s who you are, Amy.”

She could see her reflection in the back of a DVD case on the coffee table, and idly wondered what movie it was, then felt guilty for it. Her face was suffused with pink shock and the oily shine of new tears. But her eyes didn’t look like those of a person who’d had a sincere cry. Her eyes looked dead.

“You only married me because you wanted a kid. You wanted to undo your own damage, or some fucked-up thing that had nothing to do with me. But I couldn’t give you a baby. I think you started hating me right then.”

“I didn’t,” she insisted, although she was feeling less sure.

“Then, when we finally had the baby, I still wanted to be your husband, stupid pawn that I was,” he said. “I was extraneous at that point. Yet I still loved you, I still wanted to be with you. I didn’t get it. . And then P.J. died, and you never forgave me.”

“Greg, you’re wrong,” her voice was now gaining a hysterical tinge, and she seemed to be pleading with him, which disgusted her. “You’re taking everything and twisting it into something horrible.”

“It is something horrible! It’s fucking tragic, is what it is,” he was yelling now, and his eyes were bulging, his fists clenched.

Amy, frightened, was half-whispering “stop it, stop it,” as if she were an autistic child. Greg’s tears were falling faster, and his face was, finally, not familiar to her at all.

“Say it! You blame me! You always have.”

And all at once, she decided to say it. Looking at this stranger, she had the feeling of suddenly recognizing something she’d been expecting for a long time. She realized that underneath the presumed familiarity born of shared household tasks, proximity while asleep, and a catalog of memories, there was a person she didn’t know at all and she felt able to hurt this person.

“Okay, Yes! I do blame you! I blame you!” This came out in a scream that hurt her throat, even as she unleashed it. “Did you ever even love her? Did you want to have her? Or did you just want to placate me so I would shut up and you could get laid?”

He stared for several long minutes, his face attempting quizzical indifference, but his unmistakable hurt and anger sickened the look, made him seem like a child fighting off the urge to cry.

“Okay, thank you, Amy,” he said calmly, as if he’d extracted something from her that she would have been wise to keep. She felt duped. “Finally, thank you for admitting to your deranged thought process. I honestly do appreciate it.”

“See! Even now, you just want to be right,” she was now sobbing, and intermittently swallowing her own tears. “I’m talking about our daughter, and you just want to have the right answers.”

His face became shadowed, and seemed sad now, and tired. “That’s not true,” he said. “I was actually hoping to be wrong about this, Amy.”

Something about his cool self-possession, now that he’d gotten the desired confession from her, enraged her, rose up in her like a rogue shadow. She wanted to punch him, but she’d seen enough sappy movies to know there was no dignity in the ineffectual pummeling of men by tearful women. This frustrated her even further, the knowledge that in all her anger, she couldn’t hurt him physically.

“You never loved her!” she screamed.

“You know, I am so tired of you thinking you have a monopoly on loving P.J.,” he said. “I did love her, very much. I might not have needed her to fill my own fucked-up needs, but I loved her. Just as much as you did. And I loved you, too.”

She was silent, except for the long, purging sobs, the ones she’d wanted to let out for a long, long time.

“You just assume you would have been such a good mother,” he said, maintaining his eerie composure. “But can you really be so sure? Look at what you’ve done with this time instead, Amy. You could have tried to pick up the pieces like a decent human being. But no; you fucked it all up.”

“That’s because I lost her.”

“How can you know that, though? You might’ve done it anyway. Probably, you would’ve. It might have just taken a bit longer.”

“No, Greg. Not if she were still here. No.”

“Maybe everyone’s better off this way,” he said. He was the referee rendering his irrevocable verdict, as she dissolved into a mess of tears and hammering headaches. “Including P.J. She deserved better.”

Better off dead; this was what he was really saying. He couldn’t have really meant that. But it was the last thing she heard him say before she walked out the door, leaving his slumped figure in the chair huddled in self protection, looking shockingly small. It was the last thing he said, and it reverberated in the air and it would hover around her remembrance of this face, with whom she’d shared all kinds of moments in time. Maybe that was unfair. But it counted.

“Drink this shot,” Lynette said. “Drink it fast; get it out of the way so you can drink the next one. Think of it like that. Drink them fast, like ripping off a band-aid.”

She drank the shot, and it scorched down her throat like the stomach-lurching descent of a roller coaster. Yes, like ripping off a band-aid, only to reveal her gaping, increasingly ugly wound.

“There you go,” Lynette said. “We just have to get you caught up to me, that’s all. Then you’ll be having fun.”

She looked around the dark bar at the sharp-focus quality of the other patrons, which made them somehow seem somehow more real than she was. She was slowly starting to feel the warm comfort of alcohol, which presented the illusion that maybe, even though she could never forgive herself, she could perhaps create a new life of some kind. She could move on. She laughed in relief as the alcohol seared into her.

“What we need is to go dancing,” Lynette said. “That’s what we’re going to do. Dance the night away.”

Amy hated dancing, but the night would need to be done away with, regardless. Dancing was just one of the countless activities that could be used to dispense with the burden of slow-moving hours, time which would be determined to have flown once it had amassed into years. There was something literally fatal about the term killing time, she realized. People killed entire lifetimes in this way, by dispensing of boring or uncomfortable moments as wastefully and meaninglessly as possible. And right now, it was exactly what she needed to do. She would dance these hours away for now, and maybe later, much later, she would allow herself the luxury of wanting them all back.

Check out previous chapters of Trivial Pursuits {?} right here.

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