But Now You're Leaving
by The Inimitable Pooh Bah
Date: August 31, 2000
Summary: "We should have ended long ago." (Companion to "Don't Tell Me Not To Go.")
Spoilers: 'Inga Fossa', 'Manus Domini'
Disclaimer: 'Harsh Realm' and its characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013, and/or FOX.
Archive: List archives and by submission. Do not archive or repost without permission.
You're leaving, are you? Because I neglected you, and never cared? Because I'm cold and manipulative? Because I cheated on you? I can't say I'm sorry to see you go, Inga. We should have ended long ago. I think it's amazing that we lasted for fifteen years. . . .
We were in college. We met at a party, you took me back to your dorm room, and I got you pregnant. You've gotta give me some credit here, Inga--I married you when I found out. It was the right thing to do, and I did it. We went to a church and made our empty promises about having and holding, sickness and health, richer and poorer, and till-death-do-us-part. I know you didn't mean them any more than I did.
I dropped out of classes and got a job. We got a crummy little apartment. I worked, you kept going to school. I didn't ask you to get a job and help me make ends meet; I felt guilty about what I'd done to you, and you were going to quit school after that semester anyway, because the baby would be coming.
We could have split after you miscarried and the circumstance that forced us together was gone. But you needed me. You needed my shoulder to cry on. You needed arms around you. I think that was when the love I pretended to have became real.
You grieved during the summer, then went back to school in the fall, and finished your education over the next six years. You got a master's degree. A dual major--computer science because you loved it, business because everybody said you should have something practical. I was proud of you, of what you'd achieved. We were happy then. And I loved you.
With your degree in hand, you went out and landed yourself a job. A beautiful, well-paying, important job with the Pentagon. You were making enough money that we could move to our own house in the suburbs, and replace the battered little car I had bought well-used when I was sixteen. I could have gone back to college and finished my degree, but I'd enlisted in the Army after the grocery store laid me off, and I had to stay in for another three and a half years.
By the time my four years were up, I'd decided that I liked the Army better than I liked school. I reenlisted.
I don't know when we started drifting apart, but I first noticed it when I was in Kuwait. You said you were going to take a job in New Jersey, even if I would be coming home to California. I lived alone for a year after I got back from the Middle East, until I was restationed, and moved to Fort Dix. There were other, better options, but I picked Fort Dix, because you were there. I wanted to see you. I wanted to hold you, and make love to you.
Too bad that you'd fallen out of love with me. You were at work, trying to fix a bug in a war simulation you were programming, and nobody was there to answer my knock on your apartment door. I had to get the manager to let me in. I figured everybody has to work late sometimes, and didn't hold your absence against you.
I had the lights turned down low, candles lit, dinner cooked, and champagne chilled. It was almost eleven when you finally came in the door. I took you in my arms and kissed you. You barely mumbled "Hello, Michael" to me before you pulled away and moved down the hall to the bedroom, shedding your pumps with the first two steps and unbuttoning the front of your blouse the rest of the way. I followed, and watched you strip off your blouse and skirt, your pantyhose, your bra . . . only to put on that dowdy old nightgown you love for its comfort, and flop tiredly into the bed. I lifted the covers and slipped in beside you, running my hand from your flannel-covered shoulder to your flannel-covered waist. You rolled away from my touch, and pulled the covers over your head. I don't think you were even glad to see me.
It bothered me for awhile that you'd stopped caring, but I found another woman. Florence and I were made for each other. I had a cold wife, she had an alcoholic husband. I knew it was wrong, but I saw her anyway. You figured us out three years later, and found us in the motel room after I didn't come home that night.
I stopped seeing Florence. It hurt me to watch the pain in your face as you looked at us, my arm wrapped around her bare shoulder as we lay side-by-side in the bed. Even if I tried to hide it from myself, I still loved you, somewhere deep inside.
I told you that it was a one-night stand, but that wasn't quite true. It was the first time she and I had sex, and I told her after you'd left that it was over. It wasn't a half-truth that I was sorry.
That was a year ago, Inga. I haven't slept with Florence or anyone else since. I want to start over with you; I know there's something left between us. There's always been something, and I think there always will be . . .
. . . But now you're leaving.
I need you now, Inga. I've lost a leg, half my face isn't a face any more. I'm not a soldier any longer. I'm half a man. I don't know who I am--everything that defined me is gone.
I need you. I need a shoulder where I'm allowed to cry. I need a pair of arms around me to tell me that I'll be okay and I'll make it through this, even if that's a lie. I need you to at least pretend that you care. Even if it's all a lie, I need you to be here for me.
I may not have been the perfect husband, and I might have made some mistakes, and maybe my love was pretend sometimes . . . but I've done a lot for you, Inga, and I think I deserve some support from you now.
But now you're leaving.
[ END ]
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