The Burning


I sit staring into the flickering flames.

The sparks from the burning logs drift lazily upwards. The crackling sounds like the popping of the little plastic bubbles that products come wrapped in.

The single sheet of ivory-colored paper is clutched tightly in my hand.

The words, in her elegant handwriting, seem to swim across the page.

Dear Allan: There’s no easy way for me to say what I have to say. I have tried and tried to forgive you. I just can’t. What you did was a betrayal of everything that I thought we had. There’s no way to ease the hurt I feel. Don’t try to call or write. This is the end of everything. I won’t tell you where I’m going, just that it is somewhere far away from you and the memory of you. Anything that I’ve left behind you can do with as you please. It would be best if you erased all memory of me, as I plan to erase all memory of you.

Deborah

That was it. She’d destroyed five years of marriage with those few, simple words.

I tried to feel anger, but all I could feel was sadness. She was right; I’d been a pig. I’d strayed; following the copulation imperative, I’d spread myself far and wide. One-night stands when I traveled for the law firm I worked for; the occasional late night working and a frantic groping on one of the office couches. It had all seemed so insignificant at the time. No more than momentary release of pent up sexual tension.

I always had Deborah to come home to. I gave her all the physical things; with my six-figure salary, we never wanted for anything. At least, I never wanted for anything. I didn’t see the signs; her moodiness and the occasional periods of uncommunicativeness; the strange looks she gave me when I came home late, too tired to do more than peck her on the cheek before I went to sleep.

I don’t know when the breaking point occurred. I came home, late again. The house was silent and empty. There was a fire going in the fireplace in the living room, and a pitcher of martinis on the coffee table. An ivory envelope lay near the pitcher. I assumed she was off visiting a friend – fool that I was – and threw my jacket over the arm of the sofa, my briefcase on the floor, and poured myself a glass. I took a sip; aah, perfect!

Deborah always made martinis just the way I liked them. I congratulated myself; the perfect life; a home that was a haven away from the hustle and bustle of trying to get more billable hours than my colleagues; no shortage of willing partners when I needed release.

After a second sip, I picked up the envelope and shook the single sheet out. Probably a note telling me that there was food in the fridge in case I came home hungry. Such a thoughtful wife, my Deborah; my world was to be envied.

Then, as the words on the page came into focus, my world came to a crashing end. I read and re-read them. At first, my mind refused to accept what I was reading, but as it sank in, I just gripped the paper tightly and stared into the flickering flames.

I watched the little embers drift lazily upwards to disappear into the darkness at the top of the fireplace.