That morning, when I woke up, I didn’t know that by afternoon I will break my heart.
After my shower, I toasted myself half a bagel, spread cream cheese, and poured my coffee down the drain because there was no milk.
At half past eight I got to my office and began my meetings. They were all exactly the same. How much did the borrowers wanted to borrow, how much the bank was willing to give, how much would they pay back every month.
At half past ten I went out for coffee with the girls, and customers who didn’t get the chance to explain to me why I should give them money, waited outside my door on the ugly orange chairs the bank’s VP of environment bought us seven years ago. I wasn’t sure what I hated more; the chairs, or to sell mortgages to the people who sat in them.
In the afternoon, when I got home, there was still no milk. By now I was annoyed. Why didn’t Shira buy milk? She was home all day.
“Tell me something,” I asked her. “Didn’t you see we’re out of milk?”
My dear partner gave me her famous smile and said, “Tell me something, how was your day?”
I didn’t expect anything else, actually. With Shira there were never answers, only more questions. Shira, Ms. Question World. I tried to ignore the smile that usually melted me, and held on to my bank face.
“Tell me something,” I started again, “Did you go to the store today?”
“Tell me something,” she said, “Is it my fault that you didn’t leave me a note asking that I go to the store?”
At this point, annoyance started to climb up my neck, threatening to break out on my face. I have enough nagging clients at the bank, my manager sucks on my jugular vein, and now Shira is trying to weasel her way out of the fact that didn’t give a second’s thought to me and to our home.
“Tell me something,” I say quietly from between my beautiful teeth that cost me a fortune, annoyed with myself that I’m easily dragged into this stupid questions competition. “Can you at least admit that you were wrong? What did I ask of you? That you buy milk? Especially since you’re the one who drink it, with the truckloads of cereal I buy for you.”
I look at Shira’s face change from pink to white faster than the traffic light at the end of our street, and I know I hit the mark. At least she’s a little embarrassed about living at the expense of others..
“Why do you always bring it up?” She shouts now, her famous smile gone from her pretty face, and her eyes flashing darkly. Soon she will be offended, her doomsday weapon. “Why did you have to bring up the money issue? And she spits the word ‘money’ at me, as if it’s dirty. As if I’m dirty, for going to work every day, for giving her the money that buys her everything she wants.
I remain silent, afraid of what might come out of my mouth if let it open.
“Tel me something,” she starts again. “Is it my fault that the company downsized? Am I not trying, for months now, to find another job? What if it was you who was fired? Wouldn’t I’ve supported you?” Then her voice breaks, and she begins to cry. Bitterly offended.
Again she manages to make me feel guilty. I’m petty. I’m mean.
My sister’s words jump into my mind. Women are all snakes. It’s all manipulations and power games. You can’t trust a woman. You’re better off with a man.
I hold on to my silence. Suddenly, I feel the terrible anger leave my body, pushed out by a terrible sadness. Big and black. In a fraction of a second I realize that I don’t believe her words that she would have supported me if it was me who got fired.
“Twenty thousand times I told you to open a savings account. But no, you’re too busy spending.” And then my mouth grows its own brain, and blurt, “And too busy with your Pilates.”
Two days after we agreed to take a break, two months and eleven days ago, Shira had a fling with her Pilates instructor. And it broke my heart that she didn’t fight for us. That she moved on faster that it takes to buy milk. What was I to her? A mortgage bank, only without the monthly payment?
A week later, when she came begging me to take her back, saying that it was the instructor that made a pass when she was so vulnerable, I broke down. I agreed to give her another chance. I yearned to believe that she would invest in us, in me.
“Weren’t we talking about milk?” Shira asks between sobs. “Why did you have to bring up the Pilates thing?” She stands in front of me, next to the fridge, and her tears drip to the floor, washing the stain from the tomato soup that I made for her yesterday, the soup that sat in its pot, waiting for her to lick the spoon and tell me it’s the most delicious soup in the whole world.
And all of a sudden, her crying doesn’t rip me to shreds anymore. I stand in front of Shira, I look her in the eye, and say, simply, “No Shira, we’re not talking about milk.”
Bitter grief surfs inside me, burns me, I’m flooded with grief. I want to join her crying, but the option of crying together, of hugging and forgiving, is thrown, beat up and bleeding, on the Pilates mat. And now, at the grocery store, too, and in the fridge, where the milk carton usually stands.
Her sobs increase. “Will you stop mentioning the Pilates thing every time we argue about milk? True, I had a fling, but I remind you that it was you, not me, who asked for a break.”
And I finally agree to accept the truth that with Shira, it’s always going to be the milk. Something that has happened, something that was not her fault, something that someone else had to fix. I look at Shira and she looks at me through her tears. I am all out of milk and hope.
“You’re not guilty of anything, you’re not responsible for anything, you haven’t done anything wrong. You’re an angel,” I tell her, and pause. I know what I have to do. I listen to the space between us creak a little, then grow silent. Two glaciers come apart, and drift away from each other.
“Don’t talk like that,” Shira says quietly, no longer crying. “You’re scaring me.”
But I’ve finally drifted away, leaving behind the milk, the Pilates, the rivers of money that I spilled. And now I have peace. Quiet and the cold, open sea. I know that I have no choice. That it’s time to surrender.
And I look at the woman who’s been my lover for so long, and the tears run down my face, finally, when I tell her, “Take a couple of weeks to move your things out of my apartment.”