I got off the bus and walked slowly up the sleepy street to the diner. I wasn’t acclimated to the thin mountain air yet, so I took things slowly.
A puff of wind caressed my cheek and stirred my hair. I turned my face into it and closed my eyes as another puff slid across my face. My heart unfolded and spread its wings.
I opened my eyes. The richness of the patchwork of greens and tans on the mountainside surprised me. It wasn’t the altitude, it was the attitude.
As I approached my place of employment, the diner, I saw a familiar car parked out front.
Jay, my husband, was leaning against his light blue Malibu.
“Surprised to see me?” he said.
“Did you think you could hide from me?”
“I wasn’t hiding. I’m surprised you wasted the money on private detective.”
“You’re my wife. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Why are you here?”
“Why…? You have lost it. I told Barb she was wrong.”
“Barb is always wrong.”
“You haven’t asked about the kids. Being separated from them would break most mother’s hearts,” he said.
“You’ve kept them from me for five years. My heart was broken long ago.”
“You’re their mother. You gave birth to them. Don’t you love them?”
“I did. It’s hard to build on that when their father has decided you shouldn’t care for them,” I said.
“That’s not what I said.”
“You said nothing. It’s what you did. They don’t love me and I have a half-remembered love for them.”
“Do you love me?”
“Not the way you want me to.”
“I was worried it might be this. I can get you help and fix your anhedonia.”
“Since you’ve diagnosed me in my absence, you can cure me in my absence.”
“What does that even mean?”
“I don’t need fixing. I can love. I know joy.”
“How is this enjoyable?”
“Here’s my diagnosis. Narcissism with a heavy dose of ignorance.”
“I’m the narcissist? I’m not the one that left my children.”
“That can be called many things. Narcissism isn’t one.”
“Get in the car.”
“I swear to God, Ruth…”
“Swear to whomever you choose, but keep me out of it. I’m young enough that I still have a chance of making a loving family filled with joy. Go back to your enjoyable life.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” he called after me as I walked into the diner and let the door swing shut on that part of my life.