"So you're going to do it, tell him," he said.
"I have to, Jerry; he deserves that much, and it's little enough; we both know that," she said.
"Hollie, it's going to kill him. More, it's going to kill our relationship with him in all its forms. He will never speak to either of us again—ever," he said.
"You don't give him enough credit, Jerry. He'll understand. If the tables were reversed—" she started.
"You're kiddin' yourself, Hollie. He loves you more than his life, same as I do. Breaking up with him after so many years together—it's going to kill him," he said.
"I have to risk it. I have to. I will be a gentle as I possibly can. I will let him know that both of us love him to death, but that..." she started to tear up. He reached over the table and took her hand in his.
"But that we have been cheating on him for almost a year? Hollie, I doubt you could even imagine a way to be gentle enough in breaking something like that to him. I guess you've got to try, but it's still going to be really bad for him.
"Hollie, are you sure you don't want me to go with you. You need me there, my love. I feel it. I do," he said.
"No Jerry, this is between my husband and me. I have o own up to my sins and be as straight—and gentle—as I possibly can. That's the best I can do. I'm just hoping that in time—well—in time he will understand and we will all be able to get by it. Jesus, Jerry, this is going to be hard," she said.
"Yeah, I know," he said.
I sat across from her and stared. Fourteen years. Fourteen years we'd been married and now it was over. All through medical school, all through residency careers well underway. We'd come up together. Come up together, she and I. We'd made it: she a top gynecologist, me a respected cardio specialist. Thirty-eight years old and now it was over. Helluva thing.
"I'm sorry, Charles. It just happened. Jerry and I—we fell in love. I wish there was something I could say, something I could do..." she said. I just shook my head slowly from side to side.
"Hollie, I can't believe this. You're killin' me, us. I mean my best friend! My ex best friend now I guess. You've thought this over? You've thought this out?" I said. "Fourteen years Hollie! Fourteen fucking years!"
"He's still your best friend, Charlie. He's as sick about this as I am. He wanted to be here with me, but I talked him out of it. It's just something that neither he nor I could help—it—it—just happened," she said. "And yes, I have thought it over; I've agonized over it. I still love you, Charlie; we both do—but..."
"Just not enough. Is that it!" I said.
"Forget it Holliie. I guess we're done; we're done. You won't be seein' me again after today, not ever," I said.
Okay I was fucking bitter, bitter as hell.
I got up and walked out; the cafeteria walls were stifling. She didn't follow me or say anymore. There was nothing left to say.
I left the building and just walked. I walked for a long time. In the end I was back to where I had started walking, back at Mercy General. I'd thought it out—sort of—walking was good for thinking, always had been. There were a few things I needed to collect before I left, and I was leaving. I headed for my office. I heard a voice from behind me call my name as I strode down the corridor.
"Doctor Conroy? Doctor Conroy, sir," she said. I turned toward the nurse and just looked at her waiting for her to say something meaningful. "Sir, doctor Jerry, I mean doctor Weston asked me to have you call him, sir," she said. I just turned away and continued toward my office. I had to get out of there, but I needed my papers, my passport. There were a few other things too, stuff tucked away in what had been my inner sanctum for so long, stuff I needed.
Hollie and I—done. I couldn't bring myself to think it, but the reality was there regardless; it was what it was. I packed everything of importance in my gym bag; it was kind of amazing how little there was that could be considered important when one's purpose in life had gone the way of all flesh—non sequiturs had their place I mused.
I changed out of the scrubs, that I was still in, and into my jeans and bomber jacket. Wherever I landed, I would buy what I needed. The major constant was the fact that I couldn't stay around Lincoln anymore. A place where every little thing would remind me of her—of us. I had to get out.
No plans, no trunks of clothes and possessions. She could have it all. She could give it all to Jerry, my used to be best friend. Best friend? Not anymore. Now—my worst enemy. My hatred for good 'ole Jerry would never die; that was gonna be another constant, the eternal constant. I took one last look around. I turned to close the door behind me. As I turned back to head out, I bumped into him.
"Charles, I just wanted to say how..." he started, but my fist in his mouth cut him off.
"Fuck you old bud," I said. He lay on the floor bleeding. Funny, but I didn't feel a bit good about it. I didn't feel bad either. I guess, when it came down to it, I didn't feel anything.
My life, my life was over in medicine, I'd decided. My life at Mercy General, was over. I was outta there for good.
I wondered how it would all play out the next day when I didn't show up for rounds. I'd call Sanders and let him know of course; he'd go nuts. Admin types always went nuts when things didn't go according to plan. I smiled in spite of myself; the scene I imagined playing out in my mind amused me. I was one of the best cardiac physicians in the state. Jerry was a fucking plastic surgeon, useless in any practical sense, I told myself.
Nurse Goodman stood still as a statue her mouth hanging wide open. She looked at the fallen asshole, and then at me. "It's okay Helen; he'll feel a lot better tomorrow whereas I won't," I said. I strode out and into the night.
I had a separate accounts from those of my wife. My ATM card would carry me until I could disappear and start over. I was still married of course, kind of a problem; but I figured, more of one for her than me. She was the one who wanted to be with someone else. I assumed she'd marry him, but to do that she'd have to divorce me. She could fucking well do the payin'.
I drove. Day and night I drove stopping only to piss, or to get gas and coffee. I hadn't slept for almost twenty-four hours. Finally, when I'd almost killed myself, just barely missing a concrete construction barrier, I pulled off the freeway and parked under an overpass; I had no idea where I was. The sun was my alarm clock. I felt stiff and sore all over. I rolled down the car windows. There was just something restorative about morning air. I took a deep breath. I didn't feel quite as bad as I had just a day earlier.
Looking around and assessing my current geography, I could see what looked like a restaurant maybe a quarter mile up the street. I pulled out an up to it. Parking, I got out, locked up, and made my way inside. It was a typical greasy spoon. But I was a hungry, and I needed coffee in the worst way.
A good looking and youngish waitress in a uniform, that I judged to be too small for her, stood looking at me waiting for me to say something.
"Coffee, black and soon," I said, "and dry toast and eggs."
"How do you want the eggs?" she said.
"Just scramble 'em," I said. She meandered her way between the tables and out of sight. I sagged back in the booth. Fuck-fuck-fuck! Now, I was feeling as bad as I was yesterday. I guess the effects of the fresh morning air had worn off.
A busboy passed and I called him over. "Where are we?" I said. "What is this town?"
"Bisbee," said the boy. "Bisbee, Arizona."
"Thanks," I said. Damn near fifteen hundred miles, I reckoned. I'd heard of Bisbee before, knew where it was on the map. Wyatt Earp and all of those guys had hung around here, or so the legends claimed; Tombstone was not too far away as I recalled. Never having been to Arizona I was intrigued. What the hell. It was better than bein' back in Lincoln.
The waitress appeared with my food. "Anyplace to sack out around here?" I said.
"Around the corner there's a motel," she said. "It's cheap enough if it matters." I nodded my thanks. I watched her as she made the rounds of the tables, a good looking wench for sure I determined.
I headed for the Round Up Motel and Bar and Grill.
She dabbed at his mouth with the dampened cloth, "I can't say as I blame him," he said. She nodded.
"Jerry, he hates us," she said, "I know it."
"Yeah, I guess he does," he said, taking the cloth from her hand.
"Doctor Weston, the officers are here, said the nurse. She'd had to push her way through the small crowd of rubbernecking medical staff to deliver her message. The group began to disperse with the arrival of the uniforms.
"Thanks, Helen," he said. "Send them in."
The interview was short. The men in blue didn't look too pleased, but the offense was too trivial for all of the paperwork it would have entailed, so maybe there was an upside to dealing with uncooperative victims.
"I'm glad you didn't press charges, Jerry," she said. "We've done enough to him. I just hope someday he'll get over it and we can all talk about it. You know—"she said, not finishing.
"And be friends? Not hardly. But, you're right about us having done enough to him.
"You still gonna try and see him tomorrow?" he said.
"Yes. He has to come in to get the rest of his stuff, and then there is all of the stuff at the house.
"I know he doesn't want to talk to me, but maybe I can think of something between now and then," she said.
.... There is more of this story ...