Day 7 – 10:00AM, New York City.

I walk and walk, paying little attention to where I am going and what I am doing. I think about marriage. How it’s just a lie. How it means nothing now and no one can change that. I think about how easy it was for James to throw it all away. Maybe the right thing is to go. To move on. Let him be free to be with the woman he’s loved since high school and I can find a new life somewhere else. Just me.

When I do stop to look up, I freeze as I’m accosted by the gaze of bright bluish green eyes staring back at me. The face is white fur with a pink nose and the mouth seems to be smiling at me. A snow leopard. I pause and study the sign, an advertisement for the Central Park Zoo. I realise I’m close to it and drawn by the image of the snow leopard, head towards it.

I remember the animation ‘Madagascar’ and realise the place looks just like it. The buildings are old, covered in green foliage and though the gates to the park are closed, there are people cutting through the outside.For some reason I feel like I’m in another world, another time and place, like I’ve somehow escaped the city and my life and entered into something magical.  I take a seat and from my vantage point, can see over the wall at the sea lions twirling in their pools.

I want to go inside for a walk. I want to see the snow leopards. More than that, a deep part of me wants James to see them with me. I stare at the sea lion popping its head out of the water. I really can’t let go, can I?

I take a picture and message it to James. His response is immediate.

James: I’m on the way.

When he shows up I don’t say anything. He sits on the bench beside me and we stare at the sea lions.

“I want to see the snow leopard,” I say.

“Let’s get the tickets.”

I get up and follow him to the ticket booth where we do just that. We enter through the gates and begin at the aviary, following the map around the zoo. We don’t talk. We don’t discuss anything that happened or what had transpired hours earlier. Instead we just stare at the exhibits.

I remember another time we were at a zoo. It was a birthday treat for him. The first birthday of his we’d celebrated together. We’d had breakfast at a seaside cafe, walked a coastal walk, then headed to the zoo. We’d talked and laughed and made fun of the animals. We’d given them voices and accents and realised after a while they all sounded the same because we were terrible at accents.

Things really could change overnight.

We reach the snow leopard exhibit and I rush inside, but there’s no sign of a snow leopard.

“They tend to hide out in the tall grass. It’s rare to spot one,” a lady wearing a staff uniform explains to everyone walking in. I can’t help but wonder if they just have an empty exhibit and tell everyone the same thing. I’m disappointed. We wait it out. Five minutes. Ten minutes. I don’t want to leave. I just want to see a snow leopard.

“Let’s see the rest of the zoo and come back,” James says. Reluctantly, I nod and follow him out. We see birds and bears and lizards and all other kinds of animals, but it’s the red panda that really catches my attention. Eventually we sit down and James buys us cold drinks from the kiosk. Sitting on a bench, it seems he wants to talk, but I’m not ready yet.

“Let’s go see the snow leopards,” I say. He relents and we head back to the exhibit. I stand by the corner looking through the glass, while he disappears as a family crowd around him.

“Look! Look!” I hear James’ voice rise above the children. I try to peer past heads as the crowd begin to shout excitedly.

“There! A snow leopard!”

“There’s another one!”

I crane my head, stand on tiptoe, but all I see are heads. James is waving at me to get to him. I want to, but it’s impossible as everyone crowds in. A part of me deflates, thinking I’ll miss them. Then, right in front of the glass strolls a snow leopard, giant, majestic, panting. She passes and hides in the corner where only his tail can be seen. A second follows after it, smaller in build, unhappy at being growled at by the other, but obediently following. It’s cub.

My heart leaps. They’re so beautiful, yet terrifying.

“Did you see?” James is next to me and the crowd is dispersing. I nod, happy that I at least saw them. We watch them for a little longer, hiding in their corners, just able to be glimpsed if we press our faces to the glass. Then we leave and the excitement slowly ebbs and I’m back in reality with James.

We pass the gift shop and I see the stuffed toy snow leopards sitting in the stand. I pause and look at them and for a moment wish James would buy me one – to give me a gift, no matter how small, because gifts were always my thing and never his.

I could count off my hand the number of gifts he’d ever bought me in our relationship. I’d learnt to go without them. Given excuses. Said it wasn’t him. But as I stare at the snow leopards I realise it doesn’t matter if it’s a part of you or not to do something. You do it because you love the other person. You do it because they love it, not because you do. Maybe that’s what was lacking. Maybe Lisa was right. It was always me giving and him taking, never the other way.

We leave the gift shop and after a quick glance at the food on offer, decide to head elsewhere. We wander back through Central Park towards the city and James stops me.

“Let’s sit over there for a bit.” He points to an empty spot on the grass where other people have already laid out rugs and towels and are busy chatting and lunching.

“I’m hungry,” I say.

“Just for a bit.”

I know I can’t get out of it, so I follow him and we sit on the grass. I don’t tell him how I hate sitting on grass. How I always think about there being poo or pee or nasty bugs crawling around. It’s worse when it’s slightly wet grass. He should know this though right? Does he really know so little about me? Have I lived in this fantasy world just as badly as he lived in his?

“Let’s talk about this,” he says.

“I think we should get a divorce,” I cut in.

His jaw clenches and his eyes well up. He obviously didn’t see that coming.

“This is not going to work. I don’t want to spend forever wondering and doubting. I’ve read about people who are still trying to understand it years later. Relationships where no one trusts the other. I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want that. I don’t want to go through this again and have you decide one day that you really did prefer someone else. That I didn’t matter. I’ll head home and get the paperwork ready.”

He closes his eyes. I hate to hurt him. I really do. But some things I can’t change.

“Is there no other way?”

I stare at the people eating their lunch. The joggers and cyclists passing. People walking their dogs, going about their lives, looking peaceful, calm and perfect.

“I think it’s for the best.”

“Isn’t there anything I could do?”

You’ve already done enough…haven’t you?

“No. Let’s just get this out of the way and move on.”

He starts to cry. Not uncontrollable sobs partnered with wailing. It’s more masculine, quiet, but somehow uncontrollable.

“I’m so sorry I hurt you like this…” There’s regret on his face and I see the realisation on his face that it’s really gone. Us. What we had and shared. What he was there to save. Then his face changes and he shakes his head. “No, I’m not letting you go like this. I’m going to keep fighting for you.”

“It’s too late for that.” You should have fought for me when it mattered. “I don’t want to see you again, James. Once I go, I’m gone. Don’t come looking for me. Don’t show up on the doorstep. I can’t…” I start to cry. A beautiful warm and sunny day surrounded by happy chatty people in Central Park and I’m bawling.

I get up and he follows after me. He grabs my hand to stop me. Hollywood would be proud. I turn around and thump him on the chest.

“Why can’t you just get me a stupid snow leopard?” I blurt between tears. He swears and then he’s hugging me and I’m crying into his chest, hating myself for being so weak, so indecisive, so incapable from walking away from someone who has broken me.

He takes my hand and walks me back to the zoo gift shop. We stop at the stand and he picks out one of the snow leopards, the one with the cuter face that looks like it’s smiling. He buys it and hands me the bag. As we head out he pauses at the stand and gets a red panda as well.

“So she has a friend,” he says. He pays for it and returns with a second bag, red panda inside. I take the bag and stare at the two stuffed toys. For some reason, I can’t help but smile. Did he just bring our marriage back from the brink with a toy? I’m such a kid. But more than that. I really am an emotional mess.

Day 7 – 7:00AM, New York City.

I am developing a habit of checking his history. Phone, Facebook, messaging apps, browser searches, anything. I don’t know what I’m looking for. Evidence of a crime already confessed, trialled and sentenced?

Either way my search brings up messages between them from when we were dating. There’s one that makes me stop. It’s half english and half tagalog, but I can get the gist of it. It was around the time of our honeymoon and she is congratulating him on the wedding and saying she would like to meet me on the Philippines leg of our trip. I never met her and in her next message she tells him she saw our photos and is upset he didn’t tell her we were there.

James’ response? He apologises for upsetting her. Tells her he didn’t mean to and hopes she isn’t offended and they can still work things out.

What the fuck? Why does he have to justify what we do as a married couple? Why does he need to apologise to her? Who does she think she is to act all put out at him when his life isn’t her business?

I click over to another screen and look at the dates of his history search. Right after meeting this girl for their hook up, he’d messaged his ex girlfriend and asked for her new number. He had mentioned this to me during his confession, but as I read through the messages, I see he’s really working to get his ex interested in catching up with him. While appearing reluctant at first, she relents and gives him her new number.

He had stopped at that. He didn’t know what he was doing, but he knew he was making things worse. Suddenly it wasn’t about this other woman. It wasn’t about having her. It was about making him feel better by getting the attention he craved from anyone who would give it.

He’d told me on the flight to New York to see me, he had been chatting with one of the air hostesses. She seemed interested in him and even told him she would be spending a few days on her own in New York City and didn’t know anyone. It was like an open door for him. His next question could have been to ask for her number, to meet up with her. It crossed his mind and he backed away. Here he was, on a flight to chase after the wife who he had betrayed, and he had somehow chatted up an attractive stranger and was left with an opening to cheat all over again.

He walked away from the conversation, leaving behind a confused air hostess, and himself, knowing he needed help. Bad.

While scrolling through more of his history, he comes out of the bedroom and finds me. He glances at the screen, but doesn’t do anything to stop me. It’s an open book now and he’s given me access to anything and everything.

“What’s this?” I show him the message I’d been reading. He translates it, cringing as he goes. I already know what it says, but hearing him read it to me causes the rage to erupt.

“Why do you have to explain yourself and apologise?”

Silence. He doesn’t have an answer.

“I’m your wife! You shouldn’t have to justify yourself to her. It’s none of her fucking business what we do!” I slam his laptop shut and throw it. One part of my brain reminds me how expensive the macbook is that just went hurtling through the air. The other wants to smash his face as well. He reaches a hand out and knocks the laptop, stopping it from flying far and it drops onto the lounge. By then I’ve grabbed whatever else is sitting on the coffee table and end up smashing both our phones into the wall.

Screaming and crying, I lash at him, throwing slaps and punches at his face and body. I want him to hurt – to physically hurt so he can get a glimpse of how much I am hurting. It hurts me to hurt him and by the end of it I’m a sobbing mess and my hands are throbbing.

“I hate you. You bastard! I don’t want anything to do with you.” I get up and storm out.

Day 6 – 8:30AM, New York City.

We head to Central Park, talking along the way about New York City, the places we’ve both been to and what happened when I had run out that night at 3:00AM in Manila. The conversation is open, honest, real, no pretence, no holding back, no blaming or accusing.

It surprises me how well I’m listening to him and how much he tells me. It’s almost like I’m talking to someone who isn’t my husband. I thought I knew the man I had married, but the more we talk, the less sure I am. It’s as if I knew the man he projected, rather than who he really was deep down inside. It’s jarring, thinking maybe our whole relationship was built on lies.

As we walk around the lake, he tells me about her and where it all began for him; when she became his fantasy – the one who got away. It hurts to listen to the man I love talk about another woman with such fondness and protectiveness. It’s cathartic for him. I can’t decide what it is for me. A part of me wants to listen and be supportive. Another wants to understand. The rest went into nuclear meltdown when the force of the initial impact hit  on d-day.

The other woman was a friend he’d met in school. He was friends with her brother and he would hang out at her place. Back then he was bullied and she was one of the more popular girls. They never talked when he went over, but one time he called her house to find out where her brother was. She answered and instead of just telling him she didn’t know, she ended up having a chat with him. Their chat led to flirting and him asking her why he never saw her at church. She said she would be there on Sunday just for him, and he laughed and said she wouldn’t show up.

That Sunday she did show up and he felt great about it, until she ignored him for another guy who was there, who turned out to be her boyfriend. It became confusing for him when she’d flirt with him and then ignore him. She was like a drug he knew was bad for him, but couldn’t get enough of.

One night during a youth meeting at church, they ended up alone in a room when the others had wandered out. He went to leave and she broke into tears, sobbing and accusing him of ignoring her and not taking her hints that she wanted to be with him. He told her she had a boyfriend and was ignoring him, not the other way around. Their confession of feelings for each other led to their first kiss.

They were interrupted by the others returning, but that night James went home thrilled. His first kiss with a girl. One he liked. One who was popular and every other guy wanted. It was an ego boost for a young bullied boy used to rejection. Plus she had a boyfriend. Which meant she was choosing him over the other guy.

It didn’t matter that she stopped paying attention to him after that. Inside he believed she wanted him. He couldn’t get that kiss out of his head. They met again in secret. He stole the keys to his dad’s office and organised to meet her there alone.

That night they made out and would have had sex if his dad hadn’t shown up and put an end to it.

“The memory of that night never went away. It was like a fantasy stuck in my head. I wanted to meet up with her again after to finish what we’d started, but it never happened,” James says.

Not until that night… I bite my tongue to keep it in and keep listening to his recount.

They never got the chance to rendezvous again. She stayed with her boyfriend, but eventually they broke up. James had hoped she’d get together with him, but she chose someone else. Then someone else. It was like she ended up with every other guy except him. Still, through the years, he hung around as a friend and whenever he moved on or met another girl, she’d show up, call, make him feel needed.

After he’d migrated overseas and met me, they still occasionally talked, but he’d lost interest by then. They never spoke again until he learnt her dad had been terminally ill and sent his condolences. She spoke to him a little, shared with him what was going on, and he ended the conversation there. Another year would pass with on and off attempts of greeting each other and re-establishing communication, but nothing eventuated.

One day she called and told him she’d fallen pregnant. She didn’t want to marry the guy and was unhappy with him. James was there for her, spoke to her and pitied her, and this coincided with a trip to Manila for him. He hadn’t told me he’d met up with her there, or the fact when he was leaving, she told him to dump me and be with her. She’d begged him to take her overseas with him.

“She was still messaging me when I was at the airport,” he says, “begging me to take her with me.”

He’d considered it back then. Seriously considered it. It hurts to hear him say it. To know that for almost nine years he never told me about this girl, never told me they were in contact or of this meeting, or the fact if he had told me I could have seen trouble back then and warned him. That somehow I could have protected us and he could have too. But it was too late for all that now. We could both see it. The damage had been done and their roots went deeper than just that one night.

“I wanted to help her.” This was the girl he’d wanted from school and who had never been his. Now she was pregnant with another man’s child and she was saying she wanted to be with him.

“She was just using you,” I say. He falls silent, like he can’t accept it, and I know somewhere inside his fantasy can do no wrong.

For whatever reason, James said no to her offer of being together. A few months later he proposed to me, and a year later we were married. He still kept in contact with this girl now and then during our marriage. She ended up marrying the guy who got her pregnant and contacted James months later to ask for money because it was expensive to raise a child. I don’t ask him if he sent her anything. Right now, I don’t want to know.

Day 6 – 8:00AM, New York City.

“I have something for you.” James is standing in the kitchen pulling his glasses case from his backpack. When he opens it, I glimpse my wedding and engagement rings; the ones I left in Manila. Dropping to one knee, he holds them out to me.

I stare. I don’t want to touch them. The sight of them make me sick. They’re no longer a symbol of love, commitment or the sanctity of marriage. They just remind me how all those things meant nothing. They were lies, easily tossed away at a whim.

Marriage – no longer something sacred and pure created by God, but a lie created by man; a false sense of security where two people construct a make believe world and then watch it shatter.

The sight of those rings is a slap in the face. I want to throw them out the window or take them somewhere to melt them down. He was wearing his wedding ring the night he was pawing at another woman. It did nothing to stop him and it did nothing to deter her. In the end it’s just material. If there was any symbolism behind it, it was this: Marriage is a sham and ours didn’t mean a thing, so we should stop pretending.

I recall my first week reunited with him in Manila. How one night I’d been feeling frustrated, like he’d detached and I couldn’t connect.

“Maybe we should have an open relationship,” I’d said.

Normally he’d say, “No.” This time he’d laughed and said, “I know you, you wouldn’t even bother looking.”

I’d laughed too. What a stupid idea. Yet in the background he already had someone else. It would’ve all fit in perfectly if he’d said, “yes.” For him, anyway.

He’s on his knee still, waiting, holding out the ring like the time he’d proposed. I’d hesitated a little then, blown away by the whole thing at the time. I don’t hesitate now.

“I can’t.” I shake my head and walk to the front door. He looks cut. I don’t tell him my reasons. What they mean to me now. Without a word, he puts them back in his glasses case and follows me out of the apartment.

Day 6 – 3:00AM, New York City.

Hysterical Bonding. There’s a name and psychological explanation for the non-stop sex. It’s primal, like pissing to mark my territory. It does nothing to quench the anger and self-loathing that follows.

I find myself at 3:00am, sitting in the bathtub, crying, and biting my hand to muffle the cries of anguish. James is sleeping, exhausted from my demands for sex, my need to feel like owning him, claiming him, making myself feel better or worse or both at the same time.

I hate myself and what I’ve done. I hate that I’m here and how I can’t walk away, but worse, I feel like an overweight giant compared to the other woman who I’m told is framed like Rachel, my beautiful, confident friend and television reporter – in other words, around five feet and probably weighing a mere forty-five kilograms. I remember hugging Rachel before leaving and she was tiny. Like hugging air.

I look at my submerged and naked body, just under five foot nine and fifty-eight kilograms. I’m hideous. Huge. A whale. I can’t compare, and no matter how I play it, no matter how pretty I thought I was, how fit I was, how nicely I dressed, or how many people told me to model, I had lost…to her. I had bought into the hollywood myth of health and beauty and thought if James was going to cheat, it’d be with the next level up. I was wrong.

She’d blocked James and myself on Facebook and visa versa, and he’d deleted all the conversations they’d shared and any of her contact details from his phone. She’d even changed the spelling of her name so I wouldn’t be able to search her and her family and tell her husband what she’d been up to, but a betrayed woman on the rampage becomes a skilled hunter and I still managed to trawl through her page and study her photos.

I’ve turned into a stalker. I look at her page, her updates, her photos and then her partner’s and then her children and then I hate her because she looks so damned happy and I’m so damned sad. I despise her smiling face, the way her children are laughing, and how her husband is cuddling her.

Does he know? Would she ever tell him? Or confess that the video she dedicated to him on Father’s Day was two days after she’d been on a bed kissing my husband and grinding her hips on his crotch? That it’d come after she’d been messaging and calling my husband to tell her she missed him and complained daily how shit her husband was? That she also shared this video with James so he could see pictures of her?

I doubt it. The thought makes me furious and I want to crush them. To tell her husband what happened and break that fake social media smile. But I can’t. All I can do is sit in this bathtub, biting my arm, hating myself, and crying, because beyond the hurt and the rage, I know I’m not like that. I can’t ruin a family, even though she’s ruined mine.

Day 5 – 9:00AM, New York City.

I survive the night. Somehow.

I crawl back under the warm covers, exhausted, feeling like I’ve wrestled with God and the devil at the same time, and we’d made a unanimous agreement just to get some sleep.

It’s a joke of course. I don’t sleep a wink. So I lie there pretending, and the longer I lie there, the longer the feeling sinks in. I miss him. I actually miss him despite everything.

I start to think of holding him, being close to him, having his arm around me, hearing his voice, looking in his eyes, making love to him…everything about him suddenly feels so far and yet becomes the one thing I want.

It’s done now. Over. Because he’d wanted someone else…

But he said he wanted you…

If he wanted me, why did he do it in the first place?

Shut up. Go to sleep.

I don’t. Instead, I get up and look at flights. Should I leave with Lisa today? Or fly to Europe and stay with Sara?

He’s in New York for another week. Should I just see him? Talk things through in person then make a decision? Get some more answers?

His message on my phone tells me he’s sorry. He regrets everything he’s done. He calls himself a worm. I can’t agree more. Yet…

Why do I miss him so much? He’s nothing but a cheat…

Me: Where are you staying?

His response is immediate.

James: Some place in Jersey.

He sends photos of a dump he’d found online and rented for cheap. Holed up in Lisa’s expensive hotel, I almost feel sorry for him.

Me: Lisa leaves today. I need a place to stay. Not with you.

What am I doing?

James: I’ll sort something out.

Lisa struggles out of bed and heads into the shower.

James: Where are you?

I choose to ignore that one.

James: What time does she leave?

Me: Meet me at 11am. Central Park.

I glance at the tourist map Lisa and I had been using to get around.

Me: On the corner of 59th and 5th.

I get up and pack my backpack. Lisa gets out of the shower looking awake and refreshed. I’m glad to see her smiling again.

“I haven’t decided what to do, but I’m going to see him today. I just want to talk to him…to be sure about stuff before I do anything…” I say.

It surprises me when she doesn’t get angry. Instead she sighs, hugs me, and accepts my decision.

“Just remember what I said,” she says. “You need to take care of you.”

We finish packing, check-out, and I walk her to the bus terminal.

“I had a lot of fun. I’m glad we ended up here together in the end.” She hugs me as the bus pulls up to take her to the airport. I thank her for being there for me and wish her a safe trip home. I wait for the bus to leave before I make the trek up to 59th. It looks close enough to walk on the map, but after ten minutes in the heat, laden down by my backpack and a five litre bottle of water we’d been drinking at the hotel, I find I’m still nowhere near it.

I feel faint from lack of sleep and food and end up chugging most of the water at each traffic light. I wonder if the people around me think I’m crazy to walk around with the giant bottle of water. They wouldn’t be far from it. I probably am a little crazy.

If only you all knew…I’m going to see him…my cheating husband…Is this a mistake?

As I draw closer, my stomach flutters and my heart races. It has all the symptoms of a first date.

What’s wrong with me?

I’m a giddy teenager again. I slow my pace to catch my breath and drink more water. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. The next thought stops me in my tracks.

What if he sees me and realises he feels nothing for me…that this was all a mistake?

The light flashes to cross, the count down triggers, people swarm back and forth around me as I stand on the curb. Cars begin to go past. Everything moves in fast-forward except me. I want to turn around right then and there. This was a dumb idea to begin with.

Just walk away. You don’t need to go through this again. He already chose someone else over you…

I cross the road and keep going towards Central Park. When I reach the corner, there’s no entrance like I’d thought. The main entrance is actually further along 59th street. I head down it, wondering if he’ll know where to meet since I don’t have any credit or wifi to message.

Climbing the steps, I spot him standing by the fence, looking back and forth. He’s thinner, rugged, like the few days have taken their toll as well. My fluttering stomach returns. It’s like meeting him for our first date all over again. A shyness creeps over me as I walk towards him. He turns and spots me and his gaze wanders from my face down to the water bottle in my hand.

“Why are you carrying that?” he says. His worried expression breaks with his laugh as if he can’t believe what he’s seeing. It’s like sunlight cracking through storm clouds.

“I was thirsty.”

He shakes his head.

“That is the most random thing ever.” He takes my things and then with slow, hesitant movements, like our first date, tries to take my hand. I don’t let him, but I find myself blushing and I can’t look at him.

What the hell is wrong with me?

“Let’s go,” I say, and we head into the park.

We talk about meaningless things, staying on the surface like strangers testing the waters. He’s rented me a one bedroom apartment across from Central Park. It’s a bit of a hike up several floors of stairs.

He leaves my backpack on the couch and I peek through the wooden blinds, taking in the view outside. I can hear him moving around the apartment, inspecting the bathroom and then the bedroom. I feel odd. Detached.

I follow him into the bedroom and look at the wooden chest of drawers and then the ink Chinese character hanging on the wall beside a Van Gogh style painting of an embracing couple in the throes of passion. James sits on the edge of the bed and looks at me. I can see the sadness in his eyes – the apology and shame.

“Thanks for getting me this place. You should go,” I say. He grimaces, but moves to leave.

I grab his arm before he can pass me.

What’s wrong with me?

I kiss him. He returns the kiss with passion and desire mirroring our very first night together after we’d exchanged vows at the altar. Before I know it, we’re undressing each other, pawing and groping and fumbling like teenagers with too many hormones.

I cry as I kiss him, and find he’s crying too. A few steps and we’re on the bed, and in that moment, all I want is this.

Day 5 – 4:00AM, New York City.

I’m in the bathroom, crying, mourning the death of my marriage, bitter and chuckling at times like a maniac because even with a divorce there’s nothing to split. We’d thrown everything into his business. All the hard work, all the effort, all the pain and sacrifice, it all came to nothing because of my blind stupidity.

I imagine my family, the “I told you so,” looks on their faces, the criticism and the nagging. I wonder what my friends will think, what people who know us will say, and then I don’t care about anyone else anymore because I have nothing left anyway. Who cares about ego and self-image and reputation when the things that matter like trust and love and honesty are gone? It’s all broken now.

God, I kept trusting you…even when it was hard, I kept believing this was the right thing…and look at what happened?

God cops the brunt of it. My faith has always been the thing that always kept me going and I feel it slipping away like the rest of me.

Sitting on a bathmat in the cold darkness of this hotel toilet, I recall my mother-in-law, James’ mum, texting me bible verses about love and forgiveness and the role of wives, and not to let the devil get the upper-hand – drilling at me like it’s all my fault and her son wasn’t the one who broke the sanctity of marriage to begin with. It hit at the time like a manipulative fuck you –  just forgive because Jesus said to.

Yeah, why don’t you preach that to your adulterous son?

I’d asked her why she hadn’t told me. I’d had dinner with her before flying out to be with her son. We’d laughed and joked and talked about life. All the while she knew her son had cheated on me. How could she be so two-faced?

“I didn’t know at the time…” she’d replied.

A lie. Their family was full of liars. James had told me he had confessed to his parents that very night after it had all happened. A week before I had flown out. Days before we had dinner and she’d sent me off with her prayers. Prayers that meant shit because God…where was God now?

Round and round I go and all the while the tears overflow and empty me out. I stare at the silhouette of my hands in the darkness. They’re cold and wet with tears, and I begin to wonder if it’s better to call it a night and slit my wrists.