This is a possible ending to DG Hear's story "Zoea: My wife." It is written with his approval. Please read DG's story first! This will not make any sense unless you do. This begins before he posted his ending with Zoea committing suicide.
DG and I share the same editors: techsan and Lady Cibelle and we have the same high regard for them. They have really great editing skills and are both first rate authors in their own right!
A tip of the hat for the inspiration over the years from the great music of Hank Williams Sr. His is a sometimes sad telling of stories but his songs are just that: a telling of the life and loves of our great country. People might hear his songs or read the lyrics and think them not plausible but they are stories/songs from the heart of a people that tell more of a reality than many of us want to know. This story is not based on that great but painfully sad song, "Alone and Forsaken" but it owes a lot in the way of mood, the mood that I felt that Eric and Zoea would have in deciding how to go on with their lives.
DG HEAR'S ENDING
Now I had to decide: Would I be happier with Zoea in my life or better off to never see her again. I now had to make that choice.
Well, readers, If you were Eric, what would you do?
THE DARKNESS IS FALLING
"The darkness is falling, the sky has turned gray.
A hound in the distance has started to bay."
- Alone and Forsaken, Hank Williams, Sr.
During the dinner with Zoea, we didn't talk much. She certainly looked upset and her makeup was stained with what I could believe were real tears. Random thoughts kept coming to me; bits and pieces of remembered thoughts and conversations, remembered now with the bitter clarity of my too good memory:
When I met Zoea it was love at first sight — I had never truly felt that about any woman before.
I thought back to the night I explained these feelings to Zoea, telling her she was my life and that I had total faith and trust in her. Her so definite response: "I feel the same about you, Eric. I don't want any man but you!"
One night after some great sex, I asked her teasingly if she ever thought about sleeping with another man. Her forceful reply, "No, Eric! My body belongs only to you. I never want to lose you; the love we have could never be replaced by another guy having sex with me."
On the cruise ship after one of our most satisfying love sessions: "Eric, I love you so much. There will never be anyone else for me but you." I remembered thinking at the time that she was my woman. I would just as soon die if I couldn't be with her. She was everything to me.
Then, as we finished eating, Zoea broke into my train of thought, "Eric, do you want me to undress and we can start over and make love, or do you want me to leave and never see me again?"
A painful flash of the bodies of Zoea and those two jerks on the shining white beach came to me — making me stagger a little as I rose from the chair. I could hear the gentle sound of the surf; feel the pain bursting in my chest with each stride as I ran to the sweaty bodies in their grotesque embrace. My body felt clammy with a sudden coldness gripping me. I knew that we were both too wrought up in the intense emotions to deal with it tonight.
"Zoea, I do believe you love me. Can you understand I have had too much happen too fast? I need a day or two to slow my life down a little. I feel like a train running out of control and knowing the bridge is out. You don't know how close I came to just ending it. You can't know the pain I felt. What those two assholes did to me on the beach was nothing compared to the damage to my heart. Something did die in me at that instant and I'm not sure if it will be back.
"I'm trying to be honest with you, Zoea. Please don't pressure me now or you might not like what I say. Meet me at the Veranda Bar in two days as the sun goes down. Can you do that, Zoea? Please?"
She looked upset, incredibly even a little hurt! With a tentative smile she replied, "Okay, Eric, I understand. I'll stay out of your way. Please believe me when I say I love you. Please choose to stay with me!"
As she walked out the door, I filled my glass with the now warming wine and looked at myself in the large mirror on the wall of the largish dining room and held up my glass in a toast, a toast to a lying son-of-a bitch! With a sardonic smile to my reflected self, I considered that the key to a good lie was a straight face and lots of details. I'd even told Zoea what kind of cocktails we would have.
I was totally surprised... and caught out by Zoea showing up so fast. I guess I wasn't nearly as smart as I thought I had been. Looking in the mirror again I promised myself to plan a little better. I knew there was no way I would ever be able to get over the incredible betrayal of her lust for others. I had trusted her, given her that inner core that defines a person. If only her actions had matched her words!
I did still love her — she had been my life. Love isn't like a switch that could be turned on and off. But I remembered reading from a book years ago by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, "I know a love may be revived which absence, inconstancy, or even infidelity has extinguished, but there is no returning from a dégoût given by satiety." And that's what I kept coming back to: the excess of men and women that my presumably faithful love had consumed left me with such a disgust and weariness that I couldn't possibly overcome it. Whenever I would close my eyes I saw such a perverseness of sexual transgression that my heart had turned to an icy stone.
I thought about revenge - more than those two assholes — revenge on Zoea, Brad and Amy but my heart wasn't in it. I just wanted to escape. I had read a story not too long ago by a surprisingly erudite writer, Joesephus, called "The Best Revenge Is A Life Lived Well." Thinking about it now I had to decide which way to go, whether to succumb to the forces of darkness and night or to live a life of pride, a live of love and giving.
Saluting that sad faced guy in the mirror once again I committed to move forward and not be shackled by the shallowness of others. I thought about the free spending, freewheeling life we had been leading. The grey-faced man in the mirror had the grace to look embarrassed.
"Do you think that I count the days? There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk."
- Jean-Paul Sartre
I went to bed late - the bottle of dark rum my bedtime companion - and woke early to the brilliant sunlight streaming in the forgotten-to-close shutters. Staggering to the bottle of aspirin I grabbed a handful and got a cold one from the fridge and washed them down. With a sudden resolve I pulled on my swim trunks and blinking at the intense rosy light shuffled through the sand to the empty beach. There was a cool breeze with a faint hint of the heat to come as I dove into the softly breaking waves and swam out a quarter mile or so. Taking a right turn I swam parallel to the hotel grounds for about twenty minutes and then back to the brush covered dunes that offered such a contrast to the manicured grounds that the four hundred a night paid for.
Lurching out of the water feeling nauseous for a moment, I cursed the demon rum. Steeling myself and offended by the soft bulge around my waist, I jogged in the firm wet sand at the edge of the surf feeling an aliveness that felt somehow alien. The thought surprised me but it wasn't something I wanted to analyze yet. I slowed to a walk and rejoiced in the sheer beauty of the scene. I kept a sharp lookout for Zoea, hoping she was keeping her word about giving me some space.
Getting back to the room I called for a light breakfast. I started thinking about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go. I liked the Bahamas a lot and remembered with a stab of pain the shared dream Zoea and I had about moving here. I know I wanted to go to an island somewhere - a remote island - but nowhere near here. After breakfast I took a taxi into Nassau to the library on Shirley Street. I grabbed a couple of large atlas and sat with a pen and paper making notes.
I wasn't exactly trying to hide; I was the only one in this farce with a 'pure' heart. I didn't want the hassle of my past life intruding on a hoped for peaceful new life. I finally decided on the Azores, or Açores as it showed on the map. I stopped by a travel agency and made a reservation only for the first leg, a redeye leaving at 9:30 that night for London on British Airways. I went back to the resort and after a nice lunch packed my bags and took a long nap. When I awoke I wrote a letter to Zoea. On the way out, I left it with the bartender. She had flirted enough with him I was sure he would remember her!
I've never done that before: start a letter to you without the dear or dearest at the beginning. I think that's a hint of my feelings towards you at this time.
At odd times, a flash of real or imagined 'encounters' of yours flash into my heart, my very soul. Picture a pastoral scene: springtime, lambs frolicking on the intensely green grass, dawn's pale light filtering through the soft pink and white buds on the trees surrounding the meadow.
Two lovers are caught in an embrace of love and commitment — the rising sun tinting their bare skin with a rosy hue. A fawn, soft with its proud new brownish coat — speckled with large brown spots, as if they were gigantic freckles. The fawn peeks from between the protection of his mother's legs; enamored with the amour that is taking place in splendor on the grass.
This vision, floating so gently there, is of us before the heavens were rent asunder with your lies, your cheating, your infidelities... your abuse of my trust.
Now... now I can only see the half remembered scenes of hell from the never understood Book of Revelations force-fed me in my youth.
"... but as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for fornicators and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur... they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."
Rabid jackals have invaded my pastoral scene: eviscerating the lambs, the fawns. The sky has turned dark as if the sun were occulted; the buds falling from the trees as ash from a volcano, the grass turned into a brown morass. Brute demons have crushed the skull of the man; the woman lies wanton before them — eagerly waiting... eagerly lying in wait.
Can my heart be mended? I've lain awake and cried the night through and all I feel is hopeless. Perhaps the Rolling Stones put it best:
"I look inside myself and see my heart is black...
Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts
It's not easy facin' up when your whole world is black...
I could not foresee this thing happening to you."
You can contact me through my lawyer.
TO BEGIN AGAIN
For things that don't exist; I mean beginnings.
Ends and beginnings there are no such things.
There are only middles."
- Robert Frost
I got to the airport early and had a better than expected dinner before getting on the plane for the long overnight flight. I got through customs around eleven the next morning and went back to the ticket counter and brought a ticket on TAP for Funchal on the island of Madeira for that afternoon.
I'd never been to Madeira before — it seemed in retrospect that we were always too busy printing money to travel and enjoy life. The island is about fifteen miles north to south and double that east to west. There is a large mountain in the center - over five thousand feet - that dominates the landscape. It was a lovely place: large enough to have a large variety of restaurants and small enough to get to know it in a few days. I stayed there a couple of weeks enjoying the great food and wine. Finally I got on the plane and took off for the Azores. The take-off was exciting - the runway actually extended out over the ocean.
We arrived at the airport at Ponta Delgada on the mid-size island of Saò Miguel — it was about ten miles wide by forty miles long. I settled in to a nice place, Hotel Camões in the town of Ponta Delgada. It was an older building — formerly a school and it had the most beautiful hardwood floors. It was early evening by this time so I walked around the town looking for a nice place for dinner. I had a very nice fish stew (caldeiradas de peixe). For dessert I had several glasses of tawny port and some of the local cheese. The port was old and nicely complemented the queijo da ilha, made from cow's milk and with a piquant flavor.
The next morning after breakfast, I had a taxi drive me around the island so I could get a feel for it. The driver was a retired bricklayer who had emigrated to San Jose, California as a kid and wanted to return to his homeland. He told me all about the island, its history, the weather, more than I possibly needed.
I set up a banking arrangement with the bank in the town. I deposited some of the funds I'd carried around with me and set up arrangements for transfers from my offshore bank in the Bahamas. I was planning on staying here for a year or so, enough time to decompress. Some would say I was running. I viewed it as running to not running from. I had thought I was happy with our materialistic, exhibitionistic life. Now I wasn't so sure. A simple life sounded good.
I decided to let Zoea decide whether or not she wanted a divorce. I saw no chance of reconciliation or forgiveness; her adventures were too many, too extreme and for too long a time. I didn't give a shit about my partner and his wife. Let life take care of them!
My taxi driver, Tex (his last name was Texeira) knew a real estate agent. I wasn't surprised when it was his wife's second cousin. I told her what I was looking for: quiet, near the ocean and with someone near enough to clean the place once a week and sometimes cook for me.
I liked best a place outside of the small town of Caloura, which seemed to be the upscale housing area on the island. It was moderate sized and clean with three bedrooms and two baths. The kitchen was modern and well equipped. The place belonged to a doctor who was doing a year with a hospital in Boston doing an advanced residency. There were about nine months left before he would return; and that seemed fine with me.
It came with a cook/housekeeper that lived in a small studio in back of the place. Ana was a widow in her sixties and turned out to be both a great housekeeper and an even better cook.
I settled in, gradually finding out what there was to do on the island. I would go into Ponta Delgado for fishing or snorkeling in the mornings with lunch or dinner afterwards. There was a golf course nearby and I decided to take up the game. I learned fast enough to have fun but Tiger sure didn't have anything to worry about. I did enjoy walking around the course — it was very pretty with a great view of the ocean.
I was about a mile from the ocean and liked to take walks down to the small port and have coffee at the hotel there. The entire area was stunningly beautiful and I gradually felt more and more relaxed, even a sense of peace. I still hated what Zoea had done to me - to us. It was becoming more and more distant, like it had happened in another lifetime. I guess in a way it had. I didn't feel any forgiveness and had no desire to see her again. After eight months or so I got a letter from her through my lawyer, Dan.
I can finally accept that I have destroyed our love. I won't ask forgiveness; the sin is mine and I'll atone for it. Not to place blame or anything but I think part of the problem was the way we were getting more and more into the whole exhibition thing.
It turns out that you were the driving force behind the partnership. After you left, Brad made some bad investments and things spiraled out of control. He started with drugs and gambling and everything came crashing down last month when he was arrested for dealing. His trial won't be for another six months or so. Amy dumped him and moved to the west coast — I don't even know where.
I'm doing all right. I said I wouldn't take the money, but in the end I knew you weren't coming back. I was smart enough not to let Brad have anything. So I guess I'm doing okay.
You haven't said anything about divorce and when I talked to your lawyer he said it was up to me. I don't expect any miracles but on the other hand I don't have the energy to start divorce proceedings.
Do you remember how you used to like to listen to old country songs? I got lonely last night — I haven't been with a man since you found me on that beach - and tuned in to a classic country station. I had finished off a half bottle of wine and was feeling sorry for myself when they started playing a song by Hank Williams, "Alone and Forsaken." God, that really hit home! I can't get that damned refrain out of my mind:
"Alone and forsaken by fate and by man
Oh, Lord, if You hear me please hold to my hand
Oh, please understand."
I guess I finished the wine knowing that that song might be my epitaph. I'm not blaming anything on you. I guess it's true what they say, "you reap what you sow!"
I'm actually doing okay. I've cleaned up my act and have been by myself. I started work last month for a non-profit. It doesn't pay much but I don't really need the money.
If you want the divorce, I won't contest it. Just let Dan know.
I was surprised to hear from her since I hadn't heard anything since I left. She sounded sad but I had to agree with her on the sowing and reaping bit. What she said about working for a non-profit tickled something in my psyche. After some thought, I talked to the local parish priest and asked what I could do to anonymously help out. It turns out he was a Jesuit from Spain and had been in the Azores as a priest for over thirty years. He knew some English and I had more than passable Spanish so we were able to communicate.
The first thing we did was redo the playing field the school used and put in a nice soccer setup. On his advice, I took sponsorship for a local boys team. I think he wanted to get me involved in the community. It turned out I had a lot of fun with it and met most of the local community. I wasn't Catholic but I did start going to the church. I guess I wasn't even religious! I did feel a sense of quietude when I attended even though I couldn't understand the language.
Father Palencia - his name was Juan but he asked me to call him John - found a woman to teach me Portuguese. She had retired from San Jose State where she taught the language for thirty years. She was a jolly person, always laughing. The grammar was pretty close to Spanish but I found the pronunciation very hard, especially the local dialect.
After another six months I got one more got letter from Zoea. She had fallen in love with the director of the non-profit and wanted to get married. She was pregnant and was excited about having kids. She had already started the divorce proceedings. That was fine with me. I guess I had gotten over everything and saw no reason I couldn't celebrate her happiness... as long as it wasn't with me!
Things coasted along for a while: I dated a couple of women, two widows and a single girl about thirty that lived in Ponta Delgada. It was clear that nothing was going to happen though.
Everything changed with a sudden ferocity one day when I was out for a long walk. There was a path that went from the paved road to a low grassy knoll looking out over the ocean. On the way to the knoll, about a mile in from the road there were a couple of small farmhouses. A boy that played for the soccer team, Marcos, lived in one of them. I'd see him or his mom occasionally but I never stopped. I knew her -her name, I was later to find out, was Morela (meaning brunette) — but not more than to just wave as I walked by. I knew that she was a widow. Her husband had been on a fishing boat that was caught offshore in a winter storm a couple of years ago.
I was mildly interested; she was in her early thirties, attractive but not a model or anything and supported herself my making lace tablecloths for the tourists. It turned out later that one of her tablecloths was on the table in the house I was renting.
So I waved and went on down to what I felt was my knoll. I call it a knoll but it was really just a short bluff about ten or twelve feet over the surf. I sat there staring at the ocean and finally got around to opening up my picnic lunch. I found it satisfying to sit in the fresh air and partake of a simple sandwich, some cheese and a bottle of wine. I had just finished the sandwich and my first glass of wine when there was a sudden loud rumbling and the ground gave away underneath me. I found myself in three feet or so of water with the dirt from the hill continuing to slide down, continuing to disturb the water. The shaking had lasted about fifteen seconds or so but was quite strong.
I had a couple of nasty bruises from hitting my arms on the rocks and as I scrambled up the slope I could see how lucky I was that it was high tide. At low tide I probably would have broken both of my legs.
I collected myself and started slowly back up the path. When I got within eyesight of Marcos place I could see smoke and some flickering flames. Feeling a weary soreness seeping into my muscles I made it up to a slow lope, no more. It was like one of these nightmares where your legs feel leaden and you can barely take a step to escape the horrors clutching at you.
I got to the house and Morela was standing in the yard crying hysterically. It was clear her right arm was broken. When I got up to her she pointed at the house and cried, "Marcos!"
The house had collapsed on the kitchen side, the chimney bricks collapsed in a messy heap. The fire was burning fiercely on that side. The front door was jammed so I went around to the side and found a window. Breaking it with a rock I knocked the broken glass out quickly and scrambled in. I found Marcos in the hallway — a beam had trapped him and he wasn't strong enough to push it off. I grabbed the beam — the fire was approaching rapidly, the heat was intense — and with a superhuman wrench I lifted it enough to drop it to the side.
I felt something in my back pop and felt a sudden intense pain. Dragging Marcos to the window I was able to drop him through. Morela had settled down and was there to drag him away with her good arm. I leaned towards the window to try to climb out and almost fell backwards. Feeling the heat at my back I gathered myself and dived through the window, a sharp pain in my thigh telling me I had caught a broken edge of glass. A flash glimpse of a stone on the ground ended in a quick painful blackness.
I woke to a white silence. My eyes were blurry at first but quickly cleared. The ceiling and walls of the room were an almost intense white. I lay there trying to figure it out. I had an incredibly painful headache and could see a bandage at the edge of my upper vision. I tentatively put my hand up and felt an egg sized swelling at my hairline. My back was killing me and my right thigh was throbbing like the heart of a teenage girl in love for the first time.
I looked around and saw Morela sleeping in a chair in the corner, a rosary forgotten in the need for sleep in the middle on an "Our Father." Her face was lined with worry and at the same time graceful in repose. There was an attractiveness about her I'd never taken the time to notice.
I saw a motion at the door and turned my head to see Father John coming in. He smiled at me, and said, "I'm not going to lie to you and say you look great; you look... well, not very good.
I croaked something and John came over and held up a glass of water. I sipped half the glass and leaned back with a sigh. "What happened? Where is Marcos?"