Filed under: my partner
You suffer. And you suffer. And you suffer.
You leave the house thinking the locks are secured, the oven is off, someone will feed the cat. You return to find the whole thing in ashes. That’s how it feels when someone you love cheats on you.
It was enough to send me careening across the dry ribbon of Interstate 10, from my hometown of San Antonio, to the new town I’d start life fresh in: Las Cruces, New Mexico. A place aptly named for crucifixion. A dustbowl of a town – 80,000 people. A few stripmalls, a university teeming with Ag majors and frat boys. No place for a writer; no place for love.
I left the ashes of my old life for graduate school. I’d made a decision to do something good for myself. I’d get a Masters degree in what I loved, and I’d earn it working with people I’d admired in NMSU’s tiny oasis of an English department.
You suffer and you suffer.
The first year was hard. The ex was a sidewinder of sorts – would slither his way back into my life, long-distance, only to leave abruptly again. I was the fool repeatedly; the “doh!” and the hand to the forehead every time.
I can’t tell you how lonely I was, but those who knew me knew. They endured my sudden, too-early exits from parties – the result of anti-depressants that made me want to sleep and sleep. On days off from class, I’d write, and smoke, for hours on end, then find myself wandering the aisles of the Mesilla Wal-Mart at 3am, just to see other humans. Other nights found me at the bar with fellow students, downing too many cocktails – my glib laughter dismissing my fear of the empty apartment that waited for me.
Oh, it’s not bad, being single. What’s bad is being haunted.
You suffer and suffer.
And then one day it stops. Like the curandera busted in with her smudge stick and chased all the spirits away. Like an exorcism. A hell of a spring cleaning. I found him in spring.
I was the Managing Editor at Puerto del Sol, the literary magazine at NMSU. It was April – the season of wild duststorms – my second year in New Mexico.
My future didn’t blow in with the dust. Rather, he applied. Pressed, shaved and scrubbed.
We needed a work-study, and he needed money. He was a fresh-faced undergrad – only twenty-two (seven years my junior) and finishing up his English degree. He arrived for the interview in a crisp blue shirt and immaculate suede sneakers. My co-editor and I interviewed him. Afterwards, she said, with all her wholesome Midwestern cheer, “Cute one, eh?” (He got the job.)
This would not happen easily. I was wary of giving my heart to anyone again.
I was wary of his age. When I went to prom, he was ten. When I got my driver’s license, he was eating Play-Doh.
Fresh from the dissolution of a seven-year relationship with his high-school sweetheart – he was wary of everything.
We’d both known the sting of infidelity, and it led to a sweet commiseration of sorts over micro-brewed pints at High Desert Cafe, or in the fragrant night-cool of my porch on Armijo Street, under a gauze of New Mexico stars.
We spent that spring and summer warming to each other slowly – alone together in a town emptied suddenly of its student population, as if it were a great bowl turned over. We broke up, we found each other again. We cried, and kissed, and fretted. We worked out the kinks, and by that winter, we knew.
We’re four years into marriage now. Loving him is easy. Living with him—not always so easy. But this is what we applied for.
The work is hard, and it’s good.
Jacquie Fuller is the founder of How I Found You. A native Texan, she works as a fundraiser for Minnesota Public Radio and a part-time host on 89.3 The Current. She lives with her husband, Philip, in Minneapolis.
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