"I'm going to take the car to the service today." Those were his exact words that morning. And she remembers them precisely. In fact, they keep ringing loud and clear in her head as her coworker drives right past her husband's car, parked in front of the hotel.
"Stop here," she says. "I forgot I was supposed to meet my sister in the park."
"Are you sure?" he asks, pulling the car to the side of the road.
"Yes," she answers as she quickly grabs her coat and handbag. "I'll take a cab and meet you at the company's gate in 20 minutes tops," she says rushing through the door and not looking back.
Her walk is rushed and tensed, her steps pushing down into the ground as if punishing the very earth she is treading on. The words have turned into a buzz that makes her dizzy.
It is a cold autumn day and she is carrying her coat on her arm, repeatedly fixing her bag on the shoulder. She can no longer feel the cold. She is trying to think of something to say when she sees him. "Think about your child. Our child." That would be a low blow she never wanted to use. But past events come rushing back at her under the shape of fever and numbness. At this moment she only wants to see him. To see him and look him in the eye as her fears were confirmed.
There he is. Yes, it must be him. Those are the clothes he was wearing in the morning. And there she is. Whoever she is. They are heading into the park. They are holding hands, his fingers often slipping towards her naked thighs exposed to the cold wind by the very short dress. He never had much class, but that is no news.
A quick turn to the left and then one to the right. The park is small and they are strolling, taking their time. And she is quick. As she reaches the end of the main alley, she reduces her pace and awaits the encounter. She can see them from distance. He's looking at the woman with a smirk on his face. The kind of smirk he would often give when he wanted something and didn't care about how the other person feels about it. He hasn't seen his wife coming. As he looks up ahead, he stops. His hand drops off his companion's left butt cheek and his face turns into an expressionless mask.
She comes closer. The companion seems rather lost in this encounter. All the time she was holding his left hand in hers, she never realized there was a ring on the finger all along.
Silence. They stare at each other in silence for a few solid seconds. She no longer thinks about his past mistakes. Not about the beatings. Not about the stalking, or the threats or fake promises he had made in order to marry her. She doesn't even think about the child anymore. About how she hoped he would change. About how, somewhere inside, she still and forever will be hoping for that. She thinks of nothing. She feels nothing.
In one quick move, he turns around and leaves in a quick pace, leaving the two newly acquainted women to watch him walk away.
"He was always weak," she says. "He was weak in front of his sinful impulses, in front of his frustration-fed necessities, but mostly in front of me. And like most weak people, he would walk away or use violence to impose himself as the leader. Only the weak do that. Remember that," my grandma said, ending yet another story about her and my grandfather.
He would often tell her that before he dies he will make sure he kills her so that she never has anyone else. A few years later he would die of cancer, after refusing to receive any treatment unless it was given by my grandmother.
"In his own way, he loved me," she said. "Or I think he did. It was the closest thing to love he could feel. He needed me. He needed to have me." I think she is right. The others were, I believe, addictions. Like alcohol and cigarettes. They were entertainment. But in his own way, in his own broken soul, he loved her. And she loved him too. Hated him for what he was. But loved him for what he could be.
I watched her telling the story. There was a pain in her eyes. An old and well tucked-in pain. Dusty and putrid. A regret. It was the disappointment of never having managed to change him into the man she thought she fell in love with. I can see her watching him walk away down that leaves-covered park alley, bimbo next to her.
She never fully understood him. Never reached down into his mind. That day stayed within her memories the same as his cold, empty, blue eyes.