Of mistresses and men

Dear son,

    I know you’ll hate me for this, even though you know that this has been one of the most difficult decisions in my life. You know how much I love you, although you may have come to the opposite conclusion these past few years. I won’t ask for forgiveness, but you know that already. In fact, I’ve already told you everything I needed to say on this matter. I’m writing to tell you that I won’t be going to your wedding.  I went to the only one that counts. I love you still, and I want you to be happy, but not in this way.

Love you always,

Dad


 

I still remember the day you introduced her to us.

The first time we ever saw her.

You tried to speak, but nervousness choked you up, so you had to cough and start over again.

“Mum, dad, meet Tracy.”

    At the mention of her name she had dropped her gaze, blushing bright red with self-consciousness. I was flabbergasted that someone could blush at their own name…but that’s who she is, and that’s what makes her so lovely. She was the embodiment of gentleness and kindness – one could sense those qualities emanating from her whenever she entered the room. An angel, she was, and still is.

Your mother couldn’t suppress a knowing grin at your apprehension, remembering so well how I introduced her to my parents (I had stuttered for a solid 5 minutes just trying to pronounce her name right). Then, a single tear leapt from her eye, and I knew the floodgates could be shut no longer – the happiness had proved to be too overwhelming for her. She had to lean against me, shuddering with spasms of joy, lips fluttering between the widest smile and a frown. Such is the bittersweet flavor of love – our love for you, that is.


 

“What gives you the right to judge me?”

    It had been a month since we had found out about your affair. Well, your mum was the one who found out, and it took her a week to finally decide to call me with the news. It had been her first call in a year.

“What gives you the right to judge me?!”

    I had driven two hours to your place; I had no idea what to say when your mother called, I had no idea what to say when I drove to your place to confront you, and I clearly had no idea what to say when she had opened the door. In my mind, somehow, I had expected Tracy to open the door with her twinkling eyes and head tilted slightly with fondness.

“See? You’ve got no right. You know you’ve got no right!”

    I was more than aware of the shift in your countenance when you saw me: surprise, then concern, then realization, then…anger. I recognized the train of thought well – it had been you on the observing end when I had been discovered.

“So why did you come here? Where’s the lecture? Or did you lose it all when you remembered that you had been here before, you hypocrite?”

    I had no answers to your barrage of questions, no response to your accusations. I still don’t. I had asked myself the same things, to no avail. You had shoved me halfheartedly, unsure of yourself. Then you had realized that it felt good – I knew it would feel good, and that it would feel even better before it got worst. So I let you continue. You yelled some obscenities, pointed your finger at my face, called me every name in the book, shoved me harder, shoved me even harder, shoved me one more time before I fell to the ground.

You paused then. I saw the mercy in your eyes, then the guilt. The sweat. The tears. The snot. I saw your desire to lay it all out on me, to hurt me: for the things I’ve done to you, for the things I’ve done to your mother, for the things you’ve done to Tracy, for the things you’ve done to yourself. There was no end to the hurt in your eyes, and I felt hot tears brimming in my own – I wanted you to hurt me just as bad, for it meant possible atonement.

If only you had destroyed me that night…then perhaps we may still have been salvageable.


 

I never hit you as a child.

The occasional slap on the wrist, sure, but never with an intention to hurt. I guess you never needed much persuasion to be a good boy. Your mother knew you even better than I did, so she didn’t even need to raise her voice with you. You were such a good boy. You still are. She was such a good mother and wife. She still is.

But that night…

that night.

I regret everything about that night.

You wouldn’t know how much that night broke me.

I don’t know how you found the motel. I don’t know how you found out any of it, but you did. I can still see your face, frozen in shock, framed in the open door. I swear I felt like I wading through water as I walked to you, the guilt was so tangible. I could barely breathe. I swear I had reached out to hold your face so that you could read the guilt in my eyes, in my words, but everything turned to shit when you started crying. I saw myself in you then; the sniveling, spineless, wimpy weakling that I was, destroying my perfect family with my selfish desires. I wanted to end myself, but was too weak even to do so.

So I slapped you.

So hard that your face whipped to the side and you lost balance and fell to the floor. So hard that that side of your face was completely white. So hard that you laid motionless on the floor. So hard that my hand hurt. So hard that it almost felt like penance. And I just stood there with your tears on my palm, my tears on my cheek.

I closed the door that night; on you, on your mother, but most of all, on my past and my future. I doubt I can ever reopen that door.


 

“He’s in room 405.”

“Thank you.”

The man, along with his wife and young daughter, made their way to the room; him carrying the child on his arm, the other around his wife’s waist. The very picture of a happy family, if not for the collective look of concern written on their faces.

In the room laid an elderly man, eyes closed, forehead wrinkled in a perpetual frown. The air in the room was doleful, as if in grieving with the patient.

“Dad!”

The old man’s eyes fluttered open, widened in disbelief. His lips parted – to breathe in the rejuvenating air the visitors brought in, to utter a final plea for absolution. But his effort was cut short when the son in a fluid motion put down his daughter, threw his arms around the father, and kissed his forehead with astonishing zeal. The wife – with just as much ardor – pushed her husband away and planted yet another kiss, on the old man’s cheek this time. And as she drew back with a smile, the familiar twinkling in her eyes was reflected in the old man’s eyes, as if the stars of heaven had fallen onto the earth, and its inhabitants were rejoicing.

And at that moment, the old man realized that the impossible door had been reopened – not by his efforts, but by love.

 

 

© David Lui, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Lui and Shore of Sanity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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