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This is a work of fiction based on a true story....
Mark worked a lot of graveyards that week, and we didn't see each other much.
One day while Mark worked and the kids were busy doing homework, I called my cousin. "Gina, I'm worried about Mark because he's so young," she said.
"He's not that young. Only three years younger than me. He's awfully responsible. You know he bought his first house when he was twenty-two?" I asked, trying to make a point, any point that would make him sound super old and mature.
"That's not what I mean." She paused. "It's just that he's never had kids. He's never been married, or in a long relationship for that matter. You're in two different places in life."
"But he seems willing to take on the family life. With time he could be ready…."
"Does he want kids of his own...and has he had enough time to think this through? You seem like you're getting pretty serious about him already."
"We haven't been dating that long," I admitted. "Doesn't it seem kind of early to talk about all of this anyway?"
"Not if you're getting attached. You're in your thirties now. You need to ask these things. If your goals don't line up, it's easier to end things now rather than later."
"I know." Damn it! She was right. And what if he did want a biological kid, my baby was four. I didn't want to do that to my body, or to my kids. Maybe they'd worry that I loved the new baby more. What if Mark didn't love them as much as the baby? What if I got really sick and my body finally gave out from too many pregnancies? What if... "Rachel, this is way too far into the future. We just started dating. It's silly thinking about this now."
"Well, maybe it seems silly, but if things keep progressing like I think they will, you need to ask him. Even if it's just subtly, you've got to ask."
So since I was never great at being subtle, when we got off the phone, I sent Mark a text while he was at work:
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully with you.
Lol. You always know the right thing to say.
Anything else? In five years?
What about kids…you want kids?
Ummm. One kid would be nice.
To see what they'd be like.
If they'd be like me at all.
My heart dropped. I'd already decided, having another kid would not be the right choice for my health or my kids.
I can see that.
Any kid of yours would be darling.
Well, gotta go. Have a good night.
Okay? You too.
You all right, babe?
Yep. I'm fine. G'night.
I texted the lie, then I cried. See, things were so wonderful with Mark, except for two things: We couldn't be together in the long run because it wouldn't be fair to either one of us—compromising on such a big issue. And secondly, I hadn't told him how even though I'd blocked The Schmuck's number again, the guy would still text me from random phones, just to send messages about how he'd never leave me alone because he still "loved" me.
The Schmuck was a thorn in my side. And I somehow thought that if I told Mark about the texts, I would lose him. I'd told my cousin. She insisted that I change my number, but I felt that was extreme. Why wouldn't The Schmuck just leave me alone and be happy with his wife?!
I put on my pajamas and rested in bed, really sad that night. I felt like I'd met the one person who I'd want to spend the rest of eternity with. He hadn't texted me again after my final lying message, so I'd tried reconciling myself to the fact that he was pulling away.
That's when I got another message from The Schmuck. It was from Tony's phone (our mutual friend)…again.
You know who this is….
Please unblock my number.
I just want some closure.
We need to say goodby.
I groaned and threw my phone at the fluffy, king-size pillow on the bed next to me. "What an asshole! Why can't life be easy—for two seconds? I always find creeps. And the one good guy who I actually fall for…it turns out I'm not good for 'cause I shouldn't have another baby!" Luckily the kids didn't hear my rant. I decided to go to sleep and not press my luck further.
But I didn't sleep well at all, waking up constantly, until it was nearly one in the morning. I finally got up, made some coffee, and sat at my computer in the crisp night air. I knew I should end things with Mark.
My computer slowly booted up as I thought of how I couldn't go through another pregnancy.
Forget my friendship with Mark, all those early-morning and late-night talks, the avalanche, how when he held me I felt so at home, how much he'd come to mean to me AND how much my kids were starting to care about him. It all needed to end.
I'd decided to write him an email, resolved myself to it really, when I noticed a new message in my inbox.
The email began. It was from Mark.
I didn't know how else to tell you what's inside my heart, my words fall short.
How I feel plays out like a famous composition of notes, played by the greatest musicians who've lived or will live, but I'm not a musician. I can't paint you a painting describing how much being with you makes my days brighter than they ever could be, or sculpt something that shows so solidly how everything melts away with the moments we spend together, till there is just the space between us shared. No serenading you outside your window, expressing how much your inner beauty intensifies your outer beauty, because my voice cannot do it justice.
The moment I felt my heart again was the moment I felt you. I play the moments together in my head throughout the day, every day I'm not with you. These are in the past though, and though it's a lovely story, that's what the past is...a story we tell ourselves. What matters is the present moment, even though what brought us here are all the moments that have happened before it, it's where I want to be with you, in the present.
I want to share the present with you, every moment of it, writing the greatest story of my life. From the exciting chapters, how being together makes the ice melt and crash to the earth, or how everyone who sees us together feels the happiness that emanates from us, or how the flowers bloom along the path we walk down together. To the everyday entries like you telling me how your day was, which I want to hear every day, or what adventure you think we should go on next, which we should.
You make me smile more than I ever have, and I love spending time with you. Seeing life through you feels like my life has more purpose now. Loving you excites me more and gives me more of a rush than falling all the way from the moon to the earth would, unrealistic, raw excitement.
“The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”
-Eden Ahbez, 'Nature Boy'
All my heart,
Tears filled my eyes when I read it—especially the end. It reminded me of an old-fashioned love letter, the kind women would pray would come across the continents, words of love; something to hang onto forever.
And I couldn't help but respond to his words as I sat there, sobbing into my coffee.
Some music played quietly on my computer, just loud enough I could hear the notes without waking up my kids.
What Makes A Man?
I typed, and then the words just flowed from me.
When you were having a hard time with the puppies, you called, saying maybe I'd cheer you up. Tears edged your voice and my heart dropped when I heard what you were upset about. That's when I knew you had compassion.
Months later, we stood at the edge of some icy waters. I took off my socks and shoes, jumped into the stream and looked back, wondering if you'd do the same. You followed without any hesitation. That's when I knew you could be spontaneous.
I remember huddling together in that avalanche. You cradled me against the rock, trying to protect me, leaving your own body vulnerable to the onslaught of ice and snow. That's when I knew you could be courageous in adversity.
When you answered my cousin's questions in Southern Utah, every reply was about the bigger picture, not even just me and you, but the kids as well. I knew you were thoughtful.
And as I sit here thinking "what makes a man," all I can suddenly think about is you. The love you've shown me and my children. The joy you've given me throughout our time together. The peace that inevitably has followed. The gentle kindness and goodness I've seen from you day-in and day-out. And I think, "This man…Mark, is the epitome of a good man."
Mark, I love you so much, not only for who you've become to me—someone irreplaceable who makes my heart flutter and makes me want to be yours and yours alone, always—but I love you for the man you are. I'm proud to be with you. Proud to be your girl. Grateful to be experiencing life with you, seeing things through your eyes and enjoying the beginnings of our relationship because getting to know you, is one of the most amazing adventures I've been on in my entire life.
As I typed the final line, a lump formed in my throat because I was still so worried that we wouldn't make it in the long run.
And I can hardly wait to see what our future will hold.
And in that moment, I knew what I'd been running from, that I would love him forever. No matter if we were together or not, he'd branded my heart.
I sent the email, then clicked on the letter he'd sent me just so I could revel in the words one more time before going back to bed. I wouldn't break up with him, couldn't yet. But I knew we wouldn't make it in the long run. He needed to have a child, and that was one blessing I wasn't meant to give him.
A few more tears slipped into my coffee before I set my cup down and turned out the lights.
No matter how hard I tried to quiet my mind, I just couldn't fall asleep, instead daydreaming about a perfect world where pain and suffering weren't rampant and each woman could have the man she'd always hoped for.
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