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" I'm not sure why, but a few months into our dating, I felt compelled to tell David every terrible thing I'd ever done or thought. I'd call him at work or when I was driving home or I'd wait until he came over, but I thought of something new every day...."

the one thing
fiction by amy corbin


On my third date with David, he told me about his first wife, and mother of his two children, Karen. She was the sadness that he couldn't wipe from his face. In a time when post-partum was a woman being selfish, not accepting responsibility for her lot in life, the doctors told Karen she needed to snap out of it and get on with her life.

We were at Pour Quoi, sharing Crème Brule, having the most wonderful date, when he just blurted out, “I knew things were bad. I just thought it would get better. I didn't tell anyone about it. I was embarrassed, ashamed really.”

“It's not your fault,” I said.

“No, it is. I mean I know I didn't make her that way and I didn't make her do what she did, but I didn't help. I knew she was talking crazy talk. And I knew wearing your pajamas all day and not bathing wasn't right, but I just looked the other way.”

“You couldn't know.”

There was nothing I could say or do to convince him. All I really wanted was to make his sad eyes sparkle and sometimes not think about Karen and the kids. I'm not sure why, but a few months into our dating, I felt compelled to tell David every terrible thing I'd ever done or thought. I'd call him at work or when I was driving home or I'd wait until he came over, but I thought of something new every day.

“I lied on my resume. I said I'd finished my degree and never did.”

“Everyone lies on their resume,” he said.

Then he'd kiss me or squeeze my hand, and tell me I was perfect or wonderful, and I felt like, when he said it, it was true. My terrible deeds seemed to keep flooding into my consciousness, and were getting worse each day. David never flinched or changed his expression from complete concern and acceptance.

“Is there anything I could say that could make you stop loving me?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

“When I was eighteen, I had an abortion,” I blurted out.

“Too young to have a baby. You were just a baby yourself. That must have been a tough choice. Don't think about it anymore.”

I'm not sure why, but David seemed to want to hear about my sins. One day I didn't report on any of my poor conduct and he called me at the end of the night and said, “No transgressions?”

And just like that another entered my head. “I secretly wish for that girl, Alison at work, to get fat. She goes on and on about how she just can't seem to gain any weight. She makes me sick.”

“You're just right,” he said.

As time went on, David was laughing more and acting silly. He had a spring to his step, but when no one was looking, I would see the gloom creep in and I knew he was thinking about Karen and his kids. As for me, I had what I'd always dreamed of: unconditional love. David loved me despite my flaws or if it's possible he loved me more because of them. One day I came home and David had his head in his hands and tears were dripping down his face. He looked up at me and said, “Tell me something terrible you thought today.”

“Um...I'm not sure. Oh, I know, I was glad when Judy was not on time because I know that Al favors her and I'm certain he thinks she hung the moon. When she walked in late, I was actually pleased. Aren't I a terrible person?”

And then David started really bawling; the kind of crying that's quiet and snivelling and somehow terribly out of control. I just held him, rubbed his back, and told him I loved him.

“Well, you shouldn't. It was my fault that Karen set the fire. It was my fault that she burned herself and the children alive. I should've known when she wanted to invite everyone over. She never wanted to have anyone over. And she was so perfect that night. She was the ideal host, greeting everyone at the door and taking their coats. I don't know why I didn't see it. I just thought that somehow she was going to be normal from then on, and everything was going to be okay. I went to work the next day hoping she wouldn't be in her pajamas when I got home. Little did I know...”

“You couldn't have known.”

“I could've thought.”

“It's not your fault,” I said.

“It's not my fault, but I didn't help. There were many things I could've done and didn't.”

While David confessed and wept, I held him and felt so fortunate to know such a caring man. It was then, in this grateful moment, that the most dreadful thought came into my head about his wife and kids. And I knew it was the one thing I could never divulge to David.

(illustrations: dee rimbaud)


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©2009 Amy Corbin • Smokebox
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