Diary of a Reformed Harlot: Part Six
Bishop was called away to Boston, ending my birthday weekend on Martha’s a day early. I decided not to tag along and returned home under the pretext of needing to catch up on work. Truth is, my conscience was killing me and Bishop, being his naturally adorable self, wasn’t making it any easier. Neither of us revisited his ‘baby’ comment since we left Oregon. I keep telling myself it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. But keeping up appearances is more difficult than I anticipated. Every time I look at him, I feel like shit.
I arrive late Sunday evening to find my mom and Miko settled in and a happy birthday message from PC. Even before Miko’s breakdown, she and PC had a special connection; an idioglossia which I wasn’t privy to. He was so attentive it was difficult to tell which of us he was dating. When I mentioned PC was stopping by after dinner and that I’d invited him to stay a couple of nights, Miko’s face lit up. I was jealous. She hasn’t shown me the slightest glimmer of affection in years. The group therapy sessions she attends twice a week are bringing her out of her shell and she’s losing weight. Her progress is remarkable, but why won’t she speak to me? Maybe I caused her breakdown; she blames me. Maybe she resents me for not spending more time with her. Dad says I shouldn’t take things personally. Well, it’s a hard not to when her aloofness is so blatant.
And then there’s mom. She normally upbeat, but now she looked as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. After a sufficient amount of browbeating, she agreed to leave Miko with me for a few weeks. Working from home would keep me focused and, perhaps, being responsible for someone else would take my mind off of my predicament.
Later that night after dinner, PC and I went for coffee at the café around the block. He tweeted something was bothering me and in a moment of weakness I told him everything. Immediately I felt like a hypocrite. I’ve been angry with him for years for lying and keeping secrets from me. Now, in a sense, I’m doing the same to Bishop.
It bears mentioning that I haven’t afforded PC much kindness. Cold civility isn’t kindness. Weeks after starting my job, PC popped into my office unannounced. It was the first time I’d seen him since we parted ways. Seeing him again brought back feelings I thought I’d long buried. I was still angry and hurt. I didn’t want to cause a scene so I asked him to come by the house later that evening.
I paced the living room floor, expecting him to be on his knees begging for forgiveness. Instead he sat strangely still, calm; his eyes focused on me. He knew me too well; he saw through my venomous ranting and I hated it. No matter what I said, or what I called him, he wouldn’t fight back. He just stared at me. I wouldn’t give him the benefit of seeing me cry. However, after I ran out of things to hurl at him, I faltered.
“I’m sorry I broke your heart.” He said quietly, towering over me with his piercing eyes.
“You didn’t break my heart,” I laughed unconvincingly. “I don’t have a heart.”
“You had one when we were together.”
“Well, you saw to that, didn’t you?” The lump in my throat gave way and the floodgates opened. Heaving, sobbing, snotty-nosed, ugly-face tears followed. I was done pretending. I cried in his arms until my innards ached.
He apologized repeatedly and held me. That’s his way: calm. I wish he were an asshole. I wished he’d hit on me or tried to get in my pants. Then I could’ve marked him a two timing bastard who wanted his cake and eat it too. But he didn’t; he hasn’t propositioned me since we split.
The next morning, after wiping my puffy eyes and promising to deal more honestly with one another, he returned to his wife and child. And I returned to picking up the pieces of my life which, judging by my current situation, hasn’t been the singular success I’d hoped. It would easier to hate him if I hadn’t loved him.
“It’s not easy telling someone you love that you’ve deceived them,” PC said diffidently, and brought his cup to his lips. “You have to tell him. He deserves to know the truth. And the longer you keep it from him, the more it’ll eat away at you.”
“That’s what happened with you?”
“Yeah,” He nodded. “Before I knew it, the wedding was a month away, and then a week, then…I couldn’t marry you.” he exhaled and searched for his words. Words I’d heard a thousand times before: I should’ve told you this but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to hurt you. I love you. Blah blah blah.
Then, somewhere between the second and third ‘blah’, I heard, “Tanya wasn’t certain PJ was mine or if he belonged to her fiancé. We waited as long as we could; hoping I guess. Finally, a DNA test proved he was mine—Tanya broke it off with her fiancé—and I, well, the rest is history. We married because it was the right thing to do. Neither of us was in love; we never were. She loved her ex and I love you. In the end, though, Tanya and I had something more than love: we had an understanding and a responsibility to PJ.”
My mouth dropped open. I didn’t know any of this. I thought he left me for her. Actually, I was so busy being slighted to care about his reason or anything for that matter. And last year when Tanya died of cancer, I thought he’d gotten what he deserved. Now I feel foolish. All these years he’s been in the background, tormented and quiet, watching my parade of men come and go. Swallowing his pride and silencing thoughts were punishment for what he’d done to me. I wanted him to hurt. I wanted his guts to churn with guilt every time I crossed his mind. But seated across from him and hearing the hollowness in his voice, I realize he inflicts more pain on himself than I ever could.
“I couldn’t marry you knowing I had a child with another woman.” He said. “And I wouldn’t have respected you if you had. But I’d be lying if I said it was easy—it’s not. I fucked up. I’d hurt enough people. I wasn’t going to hurt my son. He has had both of his parents, and though his mom is gone, he’s known a proper family…”
As he spoke, something inside of me shrank. PC’s courage unmasked me as a coward. Where he’s faced his demons, and taken his beatings, I have run from mine. Given the detestable way I’ve treated him, why didn’t he give up? Why subject himself to our ‘friendship’? Moreover, why was he sending me back into someone else’s arms rather than taking advantage of the situation? Maybe that’s what love is: Making our peace; sacrificing our needs for the greater good; removing our protective masks.
Removing the masks you’ve worn all your life is difficult. They’re security device, life preservers for my fragility. They keep people at a distance, away from my heart for if they never really know me, they can’t hurt me. Communicating my feelings has always been difficult. Writing this journal, pouring my feelings onto sheets of blank paper, is a calming alternative to having others judgment me. I don’t have to censor myself especially when my thoughts and my actions contradict one another. I allowed PC behind the masks; he’s seen all of my. And he abused my trust in the same way I have abused Bishop’s.
“What am I suppose to do?” I asked as we walked back to my place.
“He’ll be home in a couple of days. Tell him everything candidly. Don’t make excuses. Tell it like it is. Lay it out and let him decide what he wants.” He stopped me in stepped and looked me in the eyes. “Lena, what you’ve done is contemptible. He may not forgive you. Albeit after the fact, you’re being honest. There’s nothing else you can do. We have to live with the consequences of our decisions.”
“Yeah. Like me.” He nodded slowly with a faint smile that made me want to throw my arms around his neck and forgive him.
I can’t forgive him. Not yet. Forgiving him would mean confronting our past and I’m afraid; I’m not ready to feel that amount of darkness. I’ve always been afraid of the dark. So this darkness in my soul is terrifying. What if I don’t’ make it out? No, it’s easier to be angry with him than admit he’s hurt me, and I can’t get over it. We’ll leave the mask on for a little while longer.
Having had my fill of Miko make goo-goo eyes across the breakfast table at PC, I went to confession. The church was vacant save an older couple admiring the ornate details of the high altar. Maybe it was nerves, but the walls seemed forbidding and closing in as minutes stretched to an hour. Two curates, who had joined the older couple, obligingly double checked Bishop’s office after I asked for a private audience. Satisfied that Bishop hadn’t come home ahead of schedule, I slipped into the confessional.
We made the sign of the cross and I began. “Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been fourteen days since…since my last confession.” Why I started to cry, I don’t know. The priest sat silently waiting for me to continue. After a few minutes he asked why I was crying. I fought to compose myself, but failed miserably.
“There’s a saying,” he said resting his hand against the grilled divider. “It takes a strong person not to cry, a stronger person to cry, and the strongest person to say why they’re crying. You’re your time, and start when you’re ready.”
He’s words only made matters worse. I heaved and finally composed myself. “I accuse myself of the following sins: Arrogant rebelliousness, immoral thoughts and deeds, living a false, immoral, and licentious life. I’ve trespassed on His flock and concealed it from someone I love…who deserved to know. I’m in love with a man I can’t have.” I croaked between sobs. “I love him, Father. But I’ve lied to him—well, not lied. I didn’t lie. I didn’t tell him I was pregnant. Worse still, I didn’t tell him I had an abortion.”
“Why did you keep this from him?”
“I didn’t know what to do. I told myself that our circumstances made it impossible for me to tell him—the whole blood guilt thing, you know—but truth be told, I was scared out of my wits.” I dried my cheeks. “I’d be lost with him. He’s my best friend. Our relationship will never be more than it is, but, it’s better than nothing. I thought he’d blame me. I should’ve trusted him. But, you see, I was frightened. There was no malicious intent; I wasn’t thinking straight. And I keep trying to work up the nerve to tell him…” I couldn’t breathe. My words tumbled from my mouth. “I’ve tried a hundred times…but the words won’t come out. Now, I have to tell him what I’ve done. I won’t ask for his forgiveness; I don’t deserve it. I’ll never forgive myself not only for my sake, but for what I’ve done to him.” My nails dug into the cushioned bench. “I don’t expect forgiveness from anyone; not even God. Just…just tell me what to do, Father.”
“Leave.” the curate said then exited the confessional.
Suddenly, the air in the small confessional went thin and my heart sank from fear. “Father?” a called a few times and waited but the curate never returned. I’d obviously freaked him out. Leaving the church in a state of panic, I asked a passing nun if the bishop was in-house. She assured me he was away and invited me to stay for mass. She looked a little disappointed when I took a rain check. At the church door, I breathed a sigh of relief though I wasn’t absolved and still confused by the priest’s abrupt behavior. I felt a small measure of relief for having spoken the words aloud.
At home, Mom and I cooked while PC and Miko went for a walking. Brit stopped by with our new mock-ups and stayed for dinner. Ironically, PC and Brit get along well. The rest of us hardly got a word in edgewise. I was a little ticked! Miko, on the other hand, eyes darting back and forth between two very attractive men, seemed perfectly happy watching them chat. Maybe Bishop’s right; she’s still inside there—time will tell.
After dinner, Brit and I went into my office to sort out a few intractable details of our project, mom retired to bed. PC called PJ, who was staying with his in-laws, to say goodnight before popping in a DVD for Miko and himself.
“He wants to marry you.” Brit whispered teasingly, collecting his papers.
“You’ve been buddy-buddy all night. Now you’re jealous?” I snickered, expecting a snap response instead I met his unsmiling eyes.
“I’m not jealous of him. He’s not a bad guy. I like him, actually.”
“So what’s with your comment?” I asked.
“He loves you. But he knows you won’t marry him. He made a mistake, and lost what I have.” He sat against the edge of my desk and pulled me to him. His expression was more serious than I’ve ever seen.
Before either of us said another word, mom called for me. Saved by the bell. I left him standing there because I was afraid. There, I said it. I was afraid of what he was about to say. Sure there are times I’d like to stab him on the jugular. But more often than not, Brit is a Godsend, and loyal to a fault. We’re opposite sides of the same coin and for anyone brave enough to take us on, there’s more than meets the eye. I love him, but I’m not in love with him. There were times when either of us was wholly committed to the other; sadly these periods were brief and never simultaneous. Year after year of the same back and forth has taken its toll. Now, I can’t say I want anything beyond what we are, friends. Hell, I need to leave men alone until I sort myself out.
The house was quiet after Brit left and we went to bed. Miko climbed in with me since PC commandeered her bed. I didn’t mind. I miss snuggling with her. When we were younger she’d creep into my bed for protection from “the dark” and I’d hold her and eventually we’d fall sleep. I never told her I was terrified, too. I’m still terrified. I don’t know what the future holds but it has to be better then living this lie.