To Love and To Fall

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TEN

I leave my house at about eleven thirty that morning in search of solace. Being in the same house that I had shared with Serena for the last six years was really getting to me. My conscience constantly reminds me of her, our commitment to one another, and where I should be if I really loved her. But she had changed. I didn’t want to sacrifice any of myself for someone I didn’t know anymore. But, my conscience whispers, that someone, albeit altered, was still Serena. I hope a change of scene would still the disquiet in me. Something has to.

I drive around aimlessly for some time, only half aware of my surroundings in my sleepless state, driving on the highway, getting off, getting on again. I wind up giving the finger to a few people who cut me off, the last one being a Harley-Davidson looking guy who’d me a good run if we got into a fight. Lucky for me, all he did was give me the finger back and call me certain words that should not be said in polite company. I had to get off the road. I am aggravated and overtired. I seek the nearest refuge that I can find, which unfortunately was the lake where Serena and I spent much of our summers. I am so tired that I don’t care. Maybe I could get a good nap on the beach; the sun always made me drowsy. The idea was very appealing to me, even with the Labor Day crowd.

Serena and I spent every summer here for as long as I could remember. The first year we were together, we’d sneak here after it was closed and make crazed love in the darkness, the mad passion of new lovers. Serena was still living at home, and even though I lived on campus, Mark took over our room practically night with loud parties. Serena and I were like a married couple with kids trying to sneak in as much alone time as possible. The lake worked well for us until we got caught. We’d been so drunk that night that we didn’t even see the night watchman until he was directly above us shining a flashlight in our faces. Our night escapades became all the more exciting after that.

After college, Serena started to come here by herself. I discovered her here after a fight, one of those insanely trivial fights that are fought for reasons so important at the time but are forgotten the next day. Serena left our home, and feeling bereft, I drove around looking for her. I found her at the lake drinking beer with a guy that looked just like a model for Michelangelo. I remember feeling more betrayed at her coming to our place without me than her flirtation. The lake lost its magic for me. It just became a place to go when there was nothing else for us to do, to act like the nineties family we were trying to be, having a weekend together. I have no idea how much Serena comes here on her own now. I stopped checking.

There is a couple about the same age as Serena and me, playing with a toddler. I watch as the child gleefully scampers about in the sand, the man chasing him about in a game of tag and the woman putting the final touches on a sand castle that the child presumably made. All three are cheery and happy. They could have easily been a Norman Rockwell painting. They also could have just as easily gone to high school with me. I wonder what the hell went wrong with my life that the simple joy of taking my child to the beach with my life partner isn’t mine.

Serena and I never discussed getting married, at least not in a serious way. Once, about three years ago, Serena brought home a bridal magazine and left in on the coffee table, a vague hint that I should broach the subject, which I never did, and that was the last time a magazine like that ventured into our home. Sometimes we would discuss it like it was some kind of “what if” game: what if we had been married all these years, what if we had kids. Serena always asked this last question. I would cringe when I heard it. It was one of those morbid forays into a past that couldn’t be changed, and I never wanted to go there with her. It usually was preceded by the fatal, “Do you know Alex would have started kindergarten this year?”

I knew and didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to call “him” Alex. I didn’t want to attach a name to a ghost.

Serena had been twenty-four at the time. We were not planning a family yet, nor did we know we would have had one until it was too late. We had been at a friend’s engagement party when we got into an argument. Serena nagged me that I was drinking too much, and I yelled at her to shut up. She stormed out and left the party. On the way home, she rear-ended a truck. She would have been fine, except she hadn’t worn a seatbelt, so she slammed against the dashboard and bruised her head. She began to bleed vaginally, which was totally out of sync with her other injuries. She had such cramps that I thought she was bleeding internally. When we got to the hospital, we found out that Serena had a miscarriage. We estimated she had been about three months pregnant. With Serena never being regular with her menstruation, we never even suspected. After the miscarriage, Serena insisted on having a memorial service for it. The baby was named Alex Ciselli-Hauser. Serena always called it “he” even though we never knew if it was a boy or a girl. And “he” would have been five years old, this ghost that I created but never met.

Soon after the miscarriage, Serena was living with me officially instead of the four days a week that she was doing. It was never discussed; one day, I was living by myself, the next, Serena was there with me. I came home to find her crawled into a ball by my doorstep with a suitcase next to her. Her father had found out she had a miscarriage somehow, how he found out, I never knew, and threw her out of the house. Even I, the consummate bachelor, could not turn her way, and she has been with me, more or less, ever since then. Until now, that is.

I am alone again. I could comfort myself that I could have my freedom once again. I could chase Serena down that rivers of her new journey, but I knew that where her travels were taking her would was not where I wanted to go.

I drift off, wondering what it is that I am fighting for.

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