It always makes me feel good to talk to him, because I can tell that he cares about me, and he tells me that he loves to hear my voice. Sometimes I wonder what if....
What if I hadn't gotten laid off from my job in October. If I hadn't turned to him that afternoon, in tears and in fear, and found comfort in his arms.
What if I hadn't remained strangely tied to him, even though I wasn't allowed to tell anyone about us, wasn't able to question him about anything, but just let him come in and out of my life over the next four months... What if I hadn't needed him to be there.
But I did need him. And I knew deep down that he needed me too. That he needed to know that he could trust someone, that I wasn't his ex-wife, that I wouldn't betray him.
Leaving Atlanta was the hardest thing I've ever done, because I was going into the unknown, alone. And I was leaving him behind. It's funny how things turn out.
Because I know that I'm a stronger person for having left him, that it was self-destructive to be with him, but that I'm also a stronger person because of him.
Because I'm closer to him now than I ever was when he spent nearly every weekend at my apartment. I know things about him that no one else in the world knows, things he's too proud to share, things his "friends" are too ignorant or too self-absorbed to notice.
Things he doesn't even realize he's told me.
Piecing together the scraps of information he's fed me, that he has let slip during bouts of exhaustion, that he has finally divulged out of trust, I know now why he is so bitter, and so angry, and so afraid.
He knows that I know he is sick.... that he has a rare degenerative disease that will slowly eat away at his body, but that most importantly will eat away at his mind.
What he does not know is that I have not followed his rules. That I did not sit idly by, just accepting that he's "sick", not caring enough to try to help.
"I don't want anyone to know," he would say. "No one will look at me the same."
So his choice is to tell no one, to suffer through this alone. To go through life alone so that he does not pass the disease on, and so that no one will have to care for him when he can no longer care for himself.
Now that I do know, now that months of research have revealed what he would not, I understand his need for privacy. His fear that people will pity him. Because it breaks my heart to think of what he will eventually go through, what he has been mentally going through every day since his diagnosis. Just waiting.
Waiting to fall apart.
Occasionally I will call him just to ask how his tests went, or how he's feeling. And even though he keeps his answers vague, and speaks in general terms, I know that it's a relief for him to be able to talk about it, even if just a little. I can hear it in his voice.
Maybe some day he will choose to tell me, but for now he doesn't need to know that I already know. If my not knowing makes him more comfortable, then that's how it needs to be.
Sometimes I wonder what if....