"She loved him—
She don't want to leave this way."
Gillian was standing in the middle of her laundry room surrounded by pale blues and turquoises when she finally reached her breaking point. She was folding laundry—their laundry—when she came to a pair of Alec's pants. She folded them over, and she heard a soft noise as something fell out of the pocket.
Curious, Gillian set the folded pants on the dryer and then bent down to see what had fallen. She held it up in front of her face and she recognized the white powder in the translucent bag. She saw the neutral polish on her nails in stark contrast with the illicit substance in the bag, and at once she was horrified, furious and sad.
Her mind wandered back to the first time she and Alec had made love. Her roommate had gone home for the weekend and Alec had come over to her room to watch a movie and discuss literature. They'd been together for three and a half months and they hadn't really discussed sex. During the movie they'd been watching, some awkward bumbling comedy, Gillian had begun to watch him out of the corner of her eye. She'd seen him nervously push up his glasses—she saw his palms flat against his jean clad thighs, and she smiled to herself.
Five minutes later, she'd begun to kiss him—and he was awkward and sweet as they took things further and further until they'd made love on her bed. Alec had been only her second lover—and although she knew it was awkward and nowhere near the best sex in the world, she had cried afterward. She hadn't learned to read faces back then, of course, but she could tell by the look on Alec's face—he loved her. And so she cried.
She tried to hide the tears at first, but he reached out his unsteady arm and his fingertips lightly brushed her shoulder. She smiled at him, even through her tears and assured him that she wasn't sad—I'm just overwhelmed—she'd said, sniffling. He laughed, then, and pulled her into his chest, wrapping his pale arms around her fragile body.
No one had ever held her with such tenderness, and she sighed into his chest and wrapped her arms back around him in an embrace. He'd placed a kiss to her temple and tightened his grip—"I love you, Gillian." He'd said, not for the first time in their relationship. His voice was quivering, and she didn't want to look in his eyes to see the emotion welling there.
She tucked her head deeper into his chest, and she felt him shiver when she spoke against his chest as she brought a hand around to play with the light hair that grew there. "I love you too, Alec—" She said it for the very first time.
Alec had smiled and adjusted his glasses again before leaning down to kiss her on the lips—and they'd made love again. She'd suggested he take his glasses off—sometimes they would get fogged up, sometimes they'd be off kilter on his face and she had to bite her lip from keep laughing—
She never forgot the way her furrowed his brow and looked at her tenderly before shaking his head saying, "I want to see you, Gill."
And so she had loved the boy who wanted to share everything with her.
18 years later, standing in her laundry room holding a bag of cocaine between her thumb and index finger, she began to shake. Opening the bag, she poured the content onto Alec's pants and went upstairs.
She grabbed the stepladder, pulled her suitcase down from the hall closet, and set it unceremoniously onto the bed she and her husband shared. She felt rage overtake her and she began ripping her clothes off the hangers and throwing them onto the bed, one by one—then she stalked over to the hall closet and grabbed another suitcase and picked up her most important pairs of shoes and set them into the suitcase. Finally, she grabbed an overnight bag, huffed into the bathroom and swept every toiletry she had into the bag, zipping it closed furiously.
As she surveyed her clothing strewn about the bed, she felt the anger dissipate at the same time she felt a wave of indescribable sadness pass over her. Sighing, she fought back the tears that pricked at the back of her eyes as she walked back over to the bed and began picking up her clothing, folding it one by one and setting it gently in the suitcase.
Her hands fumbled with the zipper, quaking with the weight of her decision, but she finally managed to pull it slowly shut. She carried each of the bags downstairs and into her car before she walked back into the living room.
She sat there for an hour just thinking—her mind wandering back and forth between Alec then and Alec now and wondering if anything could have saved their marriage.
Gillian thought that he should have been the one to leave—but, in truth, she didn't really care about the house, about the material things surrounding her. She never really had.
In the quiet of the afternoon, she sat with herself, listening softly to her thoughts—As she finally rose to retrieve a yellow post-it note and a ballpoint pin from the junk drawer in the kitchen, she heard a thought speak up, you owe him more than this, Gillian, it said.
On any other day it would have given her pause. You're right, she would have said—but that day was different—she laughed bitterly and the thought passed through her head what about what he owes me. Putting pen to paper, she effectively left her husband by placing a yellow post-it note on the hallway mirror—the antique one he had bought her for their eleventh anniversary and which he had helped her hang six months later one peaceful Saturday as a blanket of snow covered the ground outside.
She didn't stay to see his reaction—she didn't stay to watch him shatter the mirror with his fist and then dig furiously through all of his belongings looking for the coke she had scattered on his freshly washed and folded pants.
Instead, she just wrote in harsh black ink against soft yellow in elegant script:
"I loved the Pilgrim soul in you—
Knowing he would understand the reference, she smoothed her fingers over the note against the mirror, walked out of the house they'd bought together across the threshold he'd carried her over into the afternoon sun.