8 Years And Nothing To Show For It

I Know Not Where the Birds have Gone

A little voice inside my head said, "don’t look back,
you can never look back."
I thought I knew what love was
What did I know?
Those days are gone forever
I should just let them go but -- I can see you --
Your brown skin shining in the sun
I see you walking real slow and you’re smiling at everyone
I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone
- Don Henley, Boys of Summer

I got an email from a man named Gus one day. He told me that he heard I was looking for stories from people who had experienced an affair and wanted to know if I would be interested in hearing about a one-sided affair. I emailed him back that I didn’t know what he meant by “a one-sided affair.” Unfortunately, he told me, and I wish now that I had never known.

Gus served our country with pride in his years of military service. After leaving the military he made some very good financial and career decisions which would garner him a degree of financial security that many would envy. Gus has made many great decisions throughout his years and has accomplished much. However, few people are strong in all facets of their life, and unfortunately, his love life hasn’t been nearly as fruitful.
Gus was married for 35 years. It was his wife’s third marriage and she brought three kids into the matrimony as well. Gus took them in and helped raise them as if they were his own. Gus said it didn’t take long to start realizing a high degree of dissatisfaction in his marriage. His wife always seemed to be complaining about something, and soon the criticisms began outnumbering the ‘I love yous.’ Towards the end of his military career, Gus served in Iraq during Desert Storm in 1990. Gus divulged to me that while other soldiers serving in Iraq received letters in perfumed envelopes full of romantic declarations of love, the letters he received were riddled with grumblings and grievances about his wife’s life and how it was all his fault.

Things only got worse when he returned home. Her badgering became a part of the daily routine of life for him. While those around him recognized his achievements and successes, she only belittled him with disparaging remarks. There was little joy in Gus’s life when he was home, which is why he readily accepted a promising opportunity in another city. It was a management position which would compensate him very well, a fact that his wife was very in favor of. It would also provide him some unique challenges that would engulf a lot of his focus and attention, giving him an excuse to be away from his abhorrent domestic environment. He was looking forward to getting lost in his work.

Upon his arrival, Gus found something even greater to get lost in, a fellow employee named Lisa. When you’re in a horrible marriage full of strife and verbal abuse, it’s easy to hide it from your neighbors, colleagues and even family if you only see them during holidays now and then. You can’t hide it from other people in similar marriages though. They easily see through the façade. When they meet you they can detect the lonesome spirit inside of you. They know what the lie looks like as they too are living it. Gus and Lisa recognized this about each other right from the start. In addition to being able to relate to her marital life, Gus found Lisa to be drop dead gorgeous. For him it was love at first sight.

Lisa’s husband was very controlling and kept her at bay through an endless bombardment of verbal abuse. It’s truly amazing how many gorgeous women there are out there who are completely insecure about themselves due to years of being put down by their husbands. Lisa, like many women in similar circumstances, appeared vivacious and effervescent on the outside, but inside she lacked confidence and self-esteem.

“I immediately felt a zeal to expose her to life much more than she was accustomed," said Gus. “We started out with some very enjoyable and lengthy lunches. We both had a lot of freedom at work. Soon our lunches led to us traveling together on business trips, sometimes of a week-long duration. We went to Tampa Bay, the California Coast, Dallas and Saint Louis just to name a few. We both loved theater and sushi and we enjoyed experiencing those things together in each new city we traveled to. It was such a wonderful time and a true escape from our decrepit home lives.”

Gus is a true gentleman and refused to disclose any of the intimate details of his affair with Lisa. He did tell me how strong he felt when she was in his arms. Her love for him gave him a sense of confidence that he had been lacking for decades, a confidence that gave him the strength to file for divorce from his wife one day. “I knew I had to leave at that point,” interjected Gus, “as I only had a couple ounces of pride left in me by then.”
Not surprisingly, his wife dragged out their divorce proceedings for as long as possible, milking the situation for as long as she legally could. Finally, three years into their affair, it was done. He was free, legally and morally, to love any woman in the world of his choosing. There was only one woman however that he had any interest in loving, and that was Lisa.
Like Gus, Lisa spoke constantly about leaving her spouse one day and running off together. She also expressed a lot of fears about leaving her husband. “My friends told me I was crazy to wait around for her,” said Gus. “They told me that there are millions of women out there in bad or even abusive marriages who continually talk of leaving one day, but never do. I knew they were right. Most of the time it’s probably due to a lack of resources to help them, financially or emotionally. I felt that with the combination of my devoted, unquestionable love for her and my financial resources that I could alleviate all of her fears and help drive her to the Promised Land where we could live happily ever after.”

For the next five years, Gus and Lisa continued their love affair. Gus never pressured her to leave her husband, neither did he foist any expectations or time table upon her. He and Lisa would giddily talk about all the things they would do one day when they could finally be together.
She also conveyed her misgivings and trepidations of leaving her husband. She told Gus that she felt certain that her husband would take the house in a divorce. ”Where will I live?” she would ask Gus. Remarkably, Gus bought her a condo in the part of town that Lisa had always dreamed of living. Lisa was overwhelmed by this gesture, but quickly asserted that her husband would get all of the furniture, and she didn’t have the money to furnish her new lovely place. So Gus financed a whirlwind of furniture shopping, buying her a house worth of furniture fit for a princess, his princess. Whatever the concern, whatever the fear or obstacle was, Gus and his bazooka would blow through it, eliminating her anxieties one by one. Finally, eight years into their relationship, five years after Gus left his wife, Lisa agreed to see an attorney, for which, yes, Gus eagerly footed the bill.

Of course we all know how this story ends and if you, the reader, would like to turn the page to the next chapter, by all means go ahead. I wish I could.

A few weeks after seeing the attorney, Lisa told Gus that she couldn’t go through with the divorce. After she told her husband about seeing an attorney, she said her husband immediately accepted a transfer to the west coast, a transfer that his boss had been offering him for some time. “He says a change of scenery will do us good,” she told Gus. “He assures me things will be different this time. My family needs me Gus. I can’t let them down.”

Gus bowed his head with a heavy heart. It wasn’t enough that he was losing his best friend and love of his life. Even worse, after all these years she was still willing to believe the lie or at least pretend to. He realized at that moment that his immense love matched with all the money in the world would never get Lisa past her insecurities and fears. She left him, promising to write once they were settled down and let him know where they would be residing.

Gus drove by her street the afternoon that she was set to move. He parked the car down the street and watched the moving truck as it pulled out of the driveway. Lisa was leaving him, leaving him with a condo full of furniture and a broken heart.

Gus said he never did get that letter and he never received a birthday or Christmas card from her. “That’s what stings the most,” admitted Gus. “I was so stupid, stupid for waiting patiently for eight years for something that I should have known was never going to happen. Deep inside, she probably knew in her gut she’d never leave. Our loving commitment to be together one day was as much a façade as her marriage. I need to stop now and get a martini.”

I asked Gus a couple more questions but he stopped me. “You know the whole story,” Gus told me. “I’ve omitted almost nothing except for the tears I shed for a long time.”

Gus is seventy years old now. He’s still single. One can understand his reluctance to get involved in another relationship considering his history. His social life is pretty much centered around the local senior center these days. “I don’t know why I keep going back there, everyone is so old,” he laughs.

He says he is OK now and at peace, although he still hates to open the mailbox during those periods surrounding his birthday or Christmas. I asked him if there’s anything besides martinis that helps get him through those times he begins to think about her.

He then told me for many years he has secretly loved a sonnet by Edna St. Vincent Mallay. He particularly likes the lines:

I stand here like a lonely tree
I know not where the birds have gone nor why,
I only see the branches more empty than before.
I cannot say what loves have come and gone
I only know that summer once sang in me.

For Gus’s sake, I hope that winter ends soon and that spring is around the corner.

This is one of a number of stories from my book, The Tangled Web We Weave, by Ryan Bradley, available on Amazon.com
ryanbradley ryanbradley
46-50, M
1 Response Jan 17, 2013

Very interesting. I have been both Lisa and Gus. I suppose that is the way of the world these days. I think the idea of walking away from the marriage is like a dream but the reality is a nightmare. When you have been in a marriage, even a loveless one, for a long time your lives become too intertwined. It's like a house of cards the more you add you can't remove just one without the whole structure falling. Cheating is a temporary fix for a major problem. Life is too short, so why not be happy?