If only he knew her, then he'd understand.
But knowing her equals heartache, and that she cannot bear. So she remains in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal herself to him. Her true self. Bare. Raw. Real.
But that moment never comes. There never was a perfect moment.
They're old now—together, but distant. They raised children and once they were grown and gone, that time was supposed to be theirs. But it never happened.
They were busy, always, and they stayed busy till that very moment.
They're old and, finally, she decides that there's no better time than now. Her new perfect moment came as they're sitting at the small kitchen table set with three chairs, just in case someone comes to visit in their tiny, two-bedroom duplex in Portland.
"Honey," she says. "I've been hiding something from you for all these years."
Her hand begins to shake. She lowers the mug of cooling coffee with cream to the table. Grasping her right hand with her left to steady it, she took in a deep breath. 'I'm not the woman who you think I am. The woman you thought I was. I'm…'
Her eyes began to well.
He looked at her, placing his iPhone 47s on the light wood table. 'I know,' he said. 'I know everything.'
Her heart fluttered and her stomach tightened. 'What do you mean?' quivered from her lips.
'I know everything,' he repeated. 'I know exactly who you are. I know who I married, Dear.'
Dear? She thought. Me 'Dear'? Who's 'Dear'?
'I'm not stupid,' he said.
'I didn't think you were.' A tear crept over her water line and traced the soft wrinkles around her eyes, trailing down around her mouth and dripped onto her deflated chest. 'What do you know?'
She wanted to say, what do you think you know, but she knew he'd be upset by the presumption. He always was. That's why she never said anything. She was always talking, but never saying anything.
That's the safest route with him.
It'd been almost forty years and her looks had faded, her body, once large yet supple and still desired by men of many preferences, now hung in slumps of aged flesh.
He, once large too, had gotten in shape in his mid-thirties. His skin was rough, but his body was mobile and enough to start again with.
She, however, felt 'done'. There was no going forward or moving on for her. She was an old woman, unsightly to most. This is what she had, everything she had.
Men become more appealing with age while women grow tired and worn, at least in the eyes of society. Such is life, I suppose.
'I know everything,' he repeated.
She turned her face to the window and sighed.
Maybe I'll tell him next year. She stared at his handsome face for a moment. His eyes dropped back down to his phone and she looked out the window again.
The world hadn't changed as much as they thought it would. She, at one point, thought that wouldn't be so with him, though.
He changed his body and he grew as a father, lover, and friend to others. But not enough to help her muster the courage to tell him.
Maybe next year, she thought. Maybe next year.
What do I want to do with this?
Hmm… Good question.
I don't want to get my hopes too high, but it's something to look forward to.
'How's your business going?'
'Fine.' I hate it.
My fingers are crossed, but I'm not sure if that's enough anymore.
They always end up letting you down.
It always happens in droves.
She caught me with the knife when I was sixteen, maybe seventeen.
There's no winning with blame.
Every time I think I'm getting better at this whole life thing, I do something wrong and set it back.
I like getting older.
There's something about with age and experience comes wisdom that's exhilarating.
I'll see this one through, I tell myself. I'll finish it.
After this, I'll put it to bed. After this, I'll move forward.
Something I learned as a visual artist and writer is that some of the best healing comes from expression.
There's something surreal about standing in front of a crowd of strangers—writers who all want the same thing.
At the end of the Writers In Paradise sessions, everyone got a chance to present a refined version of their submitted work, or a new story they were working on.
I was the only teenager at Writers in Paradise with Dennis Lehane, Sterling Watson and other well-known authors back in 2006.