You know before you know, of course. You are bending over the dryer, pulling out the still-warm sheets, and the knowledge walks up your backbone. You stare at the man you love and you are staring at nothing: he is gone before he is gone.
The last time I tried to talk to David was a couple of weeks ago. We were in the family room--David in his leather recliner, me stretched out on the sofa. Travis was asleep--he'd had his eleventh birthday party that afternoon, the usual free-for-all, and had fallen into bed exhausted. The television was on, but neither of us was watching it--David was reading the newspaper and I was rehearsing.
Finally, "David?" I said.
He looked up.
I said, "You know, you're right in saying we have some serious problems. But there are so many reasons to try to work things out." I hoped my voice was pleasant and light. I hoped my hair wasn't sticking up or that my nose didn't look too big and that I didn't look fat when I sat up a bit to adjust the pillow.
"I was wondering," I said, "if you would be willing to go to see someone with me, just once. A marriage counselor. I really think--"
" Samantha," he said.
And I said, "Okay."
He returned to the paper, and I returned to lying on the sofa, to falling down an elevator shaft. There were certain things I could not think about but kept thinking about anyway: how to tell the people I'd have to tell. How lonely the nights would be (that was a very long elevator shaft). How I believed so hard and for so long that we would be able to overcome everything, and now I would have to admit that we could not. How wrenching it is when the question you want to ask is "Why don't you want me?" but you cannot ask it and yet you do not ask--or talk about--anything else.
"David?" I said again, but this time he did not look up.
Excerpted from OPEN HOUSE by Elizabeth Berg Copyright (c) 2000 by Elizabeth Berg. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.