I’d refused to see who he was. Instead, I’d made him up. From the first year of our marriage, David’s flat answers discouraged my questions about what he thought, felt, even how he spent his workday. We’d slipped into a reasonably comfortable collusion. I had the husband I’d invented and for fifteen years I stomped on the shoots of emotional honesty trying to reach sunlight. But this night I couldn’t sit at the table and listen to the conservative clichés passed like peas from guest to guest. I’d left the table. Two days before we’d had to put down our Springer Spaniel, and in my grief, so many threads of thought loosened and fell away. Out there on the patio, in the dark, I felt a shift and knew, with unfamiliar certainty, that I could change. I could indeed get up and walk out of the dining room, or any room, without explanation or apology. With the loss of my dog’s big love, the bond between my husband and I was exposed as the shabby thing it was, not at all worth my hard work. Why had I wanted to keep all this fiction alive? It was time to stop. The jig was up.
I went back into the house. No one asked where I’d been or why I’d left the table. David and our friends had finished eating their lasagna and were waiting for desert and coffee. They were laughing about the movie we’d seen that afternoon, which I’d hated. While slicing pie, an immensity of sadness over the loss of my dog hit the back of my knees like a breaker in heavy surf. I wanted my brave, dignified, utterly honest dog back. I wanted to be more like him. I was going to try.