How to Begin Right Where You Left Off

Wait until your husband goes to bed
and you’re alone.  He knows—
about her—
but he doesn’t know the details.

Give it a minute
to resolve.
Maybe it’s spam.

Look close at her name.
Thousands of people have it.

Convince yourself
that a random stranger
has reason to write you.
(Try not to be too disappointed.)


Let your heart race.
Be confused.
Be polite.
Say thank you.
Say you’re sorry.
(Whatever you do,
don’t say please.)

(Ask her how she is.)
“Have you quit smoking?
Are you still together?”

(Marvel at the ease
with which her lover
is dismissed.)

Don’t get your hopes up.
Don’t shake.
Don’t cry.

For the next six months,
when she replies,
don’t act surprised.
Plan to meet when you’re in town.

And as you cross the parking lot,
even as you pull open
the café door,
wonder if
you’ll really show up.

Force yourself to look at her.
Force yourself
to look anywhere else.
Talk.  Catch up.  Sip.
Brag about your kids.  Smile.

(Don’t bring up her byline in USA Today.)
“It was about bullies, wasn’t it?”
(Don’t ask if she thinks it’s ironic.)
It is ironic.
Be proud of her anyway.

When she says that you were living in a
self-made hell,
let her words slide off your teeth.

Think about snow;
how you can’t wait
to get home.

Wear her words
for the next four weeks,
like you wore the bruises, the burns.
Wear the scars like her steel-toed boots.

(Remember the mop water, the bottles, the broken tent?
Remember the money you spent?
And that time her hands turned to concrete around your throat?)
— supernaturally, by no means of their own? —
(Remember you wanted for better or worse.)

When she stops writing,
wait another 20 years.
And the next time, like this time, like last time,
do it again.

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