She stood across from me and the smile slipped from her face just long enough for me to see her wince from the question. She looked up and must have realized I was on to her and so she did what she was good at. She changed the topic. But I wasn't going to let her get away with it. Not this time. I was hanging out with my ex-girlfriend after years of patchy communication. We'd dated just after high school and for a few months she had been the centre of my world. She describes it as a point in time when Cosmo & Wanda were our best friends.(If you don't watch cartoons then google the reference.) Then I had left the country for a year and by the time I came back our relationship was no more.
"He's my hubby." she said evasively.
"So you're married?" I asked.
"Is that a yes?"
This was the first time we were hanging out in years and the friendship came back rather naturally. Despite that there was an air of resistance on her end. Her words were measured. Her smile a bit too quick. But I prodded. The story finally tumbled out in a few brief sentences. She had gotten married to someone she was madly in love with a year before. So much so that she had dropped her aeronautical engineering degree in the United States to be here with him. My jaw dropped. But the story went on.
Marriage hadn't exactly been a bed of roses for her. While he had been a stellar boyfriend, he was a strong armed husband. He was obsessive and wanted her to himself all the time. He questioned her conversations with her friends (Including a rather odd conversation I had with him on the phone) and even the visits to her mum were reduced to a minimum because he didn't trust her. In at least one incidence he had flung a projectile at her. A plate. I was mortified.
She had finally walked away from him due to the mistreatment. I have a feeling she only told me a fraction of the story. I stood there staring at her. Wondering where the version of her I remembered had disappeared to. She had been strong, defiant even when I had known her. Now, as she told me she didn't believe in divorce and that she was giving him a chance to change, I was filled with a deep sense of sadness. It was all very black and white to me. Here was a vibrant 26 year old carrying the burdens of someone much older. And I felt helpless.
As I get older this is the one thing that I struggle with the most. The fact that that childhood innocence leaves and we are left to make decisions that inflict such heavy wounds. She had grown up a Christian and she had made a commitment to the guy and to God. Divorce would have been her taking the easy way out. So she was sticking in until the guy changed. She admitted to not expecting him to change much but that she had a bare minimum in mind.
While she saw the whole thing in various shades of grey I saw it in black and white. She didn't deserve to be treated like this. Even more so when you put how young she is. Perspective. That's the word. The idea that absolutes disappear as we grow older. Right and wrong disappear. Good and bad become nothing more than words in a dictionary. We are robbed of a universal approach to life which makes it both a beautiful experience and a tragically lonely journey. As I said goodbye to her that afternoon I ached to turn back the clock. To a simpler time. To a time when Cosmo and Wanda could wave a wand and erase all those shades of grey.