Tuesday, November 17, 2009

She Wanted Out

Colorado 31, 2007

[Inspired by a few recent conversations.]

She wanted out. She wanted it to be over. To be ended. No more. History.

She hated to say so, but they had been right. It was a stupid idea. Always had been. She’d known it, too, but wasn’t listening to her inside voice. Instead, the outside voice said, “Sure, whatever.”

They’d been together and broken up several times over two decades. At first he wouldn’t leave his marriage because his children were young. That made it easy because she didn’t want another marriage anyway. She already had a daughter to raise on her own and a career worth pursuing.

He was older and rich and famous and traveled a lot. Sometimes she traveled with him. She’d travel to his city. Every now and then she’d get fed up with him and ashamed of herself and swear she didn’t want to go on like this.

But they did. His children grew up. His wife eventually left him. Her daughter grew up and went off on her own.

Then he got sick. Really sick. The doctor said he probably had just a few months. She took a leave from her job and went to live in his city and sit with him in the hospital. They talked about what could have been, both knowing that the fantasy they painted was something neither of them wanted. Part of the allure of their relationship had always been that neither really wanted anything more than what they had. But talking passed the time. She did love him. She held his hand. She cried as his condition worsened. He said he worried about her.

One day he proposed to her. He didn’t want to take chances that she’d be made to leave his side for wont of a legal connection or be ignored when expressing his desires as his death approached. He told her again that he loved her and held out the prospect of the prestige that having his name could provide.

She said, “Sure, whatever,” being neither interested in his name nor his prestige. She’d never wanted to be married to him. But she did want to make him happy. The hospital chaplain married them that afternoon. It seemed to lift his spirits.

Her daughter thought it violated everything her mother had ever taught her about being independent. Her girlfriends thought she was crazy to take this distracting matrimonial detour in her career. Her mother said she was kind to not leave him alone at this lonely stage of life, but asked whether marriage was really necessary.

As the days dragged on, she began to occupy more of her time planning how she would resume her life and her career after his death.

Only he didn’t die. His condition did get worse. They were trying lots of things on him, and at one point the doctor did say it might be a matter of days. Then it got better, enough that he could be moved from intensive care to a regular room. Two weeks later he could stand up and walk. He still had the disease, but for now the disease wasn’t going to claim his life.

Everyone was happy. He was going to have more time for life, for the work for which he was famous, and for his new marriage.

That’s when she decided she wanted out. She didn’t want to move to his city and be his wife. She wanted their old relationship back. She wanted her own life. She wanted to be his occasional companion, not the woman who cooked his meals and washed his clothes.

A friend suggested an affair with another man. She didn’t want out of the marriage enough to be unfaithful. She decided that a divorce couldn’t be her fault even if it was her desire. It would be easier if he were the one to be unfaithful, which given his tattered record for fidelity wasn’t such a far-fetched idea. But it seemed unlikely now that this would happen, what with his new found lease of life.

All this she thought about as she rode the plane home to collect her things.


  1. Oh, I am just thanking God I'm not her! Sounds awful. I do think there are lots of scenarios out there just like that. Interesting.

  2. Great story and it gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach. I've done a fair number of large things in life based on "Sure, whatever".