Friday, February 24, 2006

Last Rights

I walked into the River Rock restaurant last night, pink coat buttoned up against the chilly wind, alone.

Billy was working late, as usual, and Nancy and Alex invited me to join them for a drink. So, with freshly painted nails, I drove to the restaurant to join them in a Thirsty Thursday bar outing.

Vicki, a friend of ours, stood in the front yard in the cold, talking on her cell phone. Her tone was that of frustration mixed with compassion. She's a realtor, and it's her job to stress out over the purchase of someone's home, while simultaneously reassuring them that everything will be fine and it will all work out in the end.

I waved to her and mouthed Hello, so as not to disturb her conversation. She waved and rolled her eyes at her phone, to indicate how fed up she was with working well past eight o'clock at night. I smiled and gave her a sympathetic nod to say "I know," and opened the heavy wooden door of the restaurant. Inside, at the cozy bar, sat Alex and Nancy, Vicki's boyfriend Jim and a friend of the group, Bill. I went around the room, giving kisses to the friends I so rarely see anymore, then plopped my overloaded purse on the floor and took a seat next to Nancy.

"Is Vicki still outside?" Nancy asked, setting her Vodka and Tonic on the bronze bar.

"Yeah, she's talking on her cell phone." I shimmied out of my coat and relaxed into the cushioned chair.

"She's working," Nancy said sadly, feeling sorry for Vicki that she'd have to work when she was supposed to be having fun.

I ordered my drink, and the conversation moved quickly to plans for the weekend, town gossip, light hearted jabs at one another. A third of my drink was gone when Vicki walked through the door with a gush of cold air.

"God, this sale is going to drive me crazy," she announced, kissing each one of us on her way to her seat. Her face was cold from the night air.

"You shouldn't work so late," her boyfriend said, helping her out of her leather jacket.

"I know! But I was talking to your ex," she said, pointing at me.

Vicki's been in the process of selling Tom's house for a while now. Unfortunately for both my ex and my friend, the sale just isn't going through.

"It still hasn't sold?" I said. "I saw him at the Turkey Hill before Christmas and he said he'd be gone in a few weeks."

"Shitty buyer," Vicki said, taking her first sip of the evening. "She's jerking us all around."

"That's too bad," I said earnestly. "He really wants to go."

She nodded as she swallowed her martini and set the glass on the bar. "He's been ready to go since December."

"No, he's been ready to go for four years," I corrected her.

"Yeah, but you kept him here, you bitch," Vicki said, following her accusation with a loud burst of laughter.

"Yeah. I guess I did."

She went on and on about the sale. The buyer, the buyer's boyfriend. The problems. The frustrations. I sat and stirred my drink, wondering why people assume I'm interested in knowing every detail of what goes on in my ex's life now.

But I thought about what Vicki said. How I'd been the reason he stayed so much longer than he'd wanted to. And it had to have been the truth. There really was no other reason to stay: Sure, some of his family lives here, but he'd lived away from them for ages. Distance is nothing to him.

And it made me think for a second. For all of the blame I toss around, for all of the hurt I still hold him responsible for, I forgot that there were sacrifices made on his part, too. He stayed around for me. We may not have ultimately wanted the same things, and we may not have ultimately wanted each other, but I wasn't the only one giving up what I wanted. I wasn't really the martyr I made myself out to be. He cared enough to stay here when he could've left a long time ago.

And I thought, sitting there, listening to Vicki talk about where my ex wants to live next, how happy he is to have the chance to just travel, I thought that maybe that very moment was one of my last steps in moving on. The bitterness had faded. I was genuinely sorry that his house hadn't sold, genuinely happy that he'd be doing what he wanted. I honestly, truly hope he's happy.

I feel like I finally put that ghost to rest.


Leah said...

Good for you!

Popeye said...

Shrug. Roll your shoulders. One less burden.

Spirophita said...

That's the true test of being over someone, definitely. My ex drama is similar. I know I'm over him now, because I can really want the best for him.

And it's hard when you feel like the martyr. I think it often ends up being the woman, but we also make ourselves the martyr, you know?