We went inside. There was a stamper and a pad of green ink by the door for returning visitors to stamp their hands.
“Do you want to stamp your hand?” he said tentatively, “Even though we’re not coming back in, it’s kind of a memento…”
We stamped our hands with green ink. My hand was beginning to shake. The numbness was wearing off, and so many feelings and emotions were crowding in that I could hardly get a breath. We were walking through the lobby now, and I excused myself to the bathroom.
I had to stand in line, but it was inside the door. As it swung shut behind me, I gave an involuntary shudder as everything inside me relaxed, finally out of his sight. I could let at least some of my guard down. The shudder would pass as any cold-weather shiver, and outside I had a pleasant almost-smile. It only had to last until I reached privacy.
Finally I had nobody looking at me, the refuge of a closed door, and I could let everything surge free. I was prepared for hurt and anger and disappointment. I was not prepared for tears; especially these kind of tears, jerked up from way down, wrenching and painful.
I hardly bothered to identify all the emotions. I know some of them in retrospect – betrayal; loss; grief; that eternal “Why?”
I laughed at myself a little sardonically for crying in the bathroom. It’s such a cliché. I pulled out several wads of toilet paper for my purse in lieu of tissues. There was that whole line of other women waiting for the bathroom, so I forced back what could have been an hour’s worth of tears, looked at my makeup in my compact, and emerged congratulating myself on the fact that my eyes were not even perceptibly red. I washed my hands, holding my pleasant look as firmly as possible, took a deep breath, and went out to rejoin my man.
He was standing across a hall swarming with people, and our eyes found each other at the same moment. His eyes looked so alone and sad and lost, he might have been crying himself. I walked over to him, and I couldn’t bring myself to meet his eyes this close. I kept my pleasant face on like armour, and we walked out through all the busy parking lots and walkways. We didn’t talk, except for remarking on how cold it was, perhaps, or where his car was parked. Rather inane small talk. I think we deal with extreme negative emotions in a very similar way.
He came around to open the car door for me. He said,
“Don’t think there’s something wrong with you or that this is because of you – it’s my problem. You are beautiful and wonderful woman, it’s not because you’re lacking in anything.”
I nodded. “I don’t,” I said, holding in tears. I hadn’t even gotten that far in my thinking yet. But it was true, I didn’t think that.
I got in, thankful for the darkness to hide my face, and wiped my eyes with a scrap of my hoarded toilet paper before he came around to his door and got in. We had a drive of an hour and a half ahead of us.