“Honey, he wants me to prove my loyalty. He thinks it’s in my best interest to get an apartment close to the office so I can stay in the city during the week. Then I could be available at all hours for time-sensitive work. He doesn’t mind me coming home on weekends…”
Doug trailed off as he saw the impact of his words hitting Orianna’s heart. She didn’t speak.
“Ori, in exchange for this sacrifice, he says my name could someday go up on the door! It’s what I’ve always wanted.”
“What did you tell him,” Orianna finally asked in a measured tone.
“I fucking told him thank you! I said it would be an honour to sit under his tutelage. I said I was overwhelmed by his gracious offer. I also said I needed to discuss it with you, of course.
“Ori, you know how much I want this. Partner… in the biggest firm in Toronto! High stakes, high pay-off cases. Notoriety. Fame. I want it. I want ALL of it!”
Doug realized he’d been ranting. He stopped and took Orianna’s hand. It was trembling.
“Aw, honey. I know you’ve not been well. And honestly, if I hadn’t seen you improve so much this summer, I wouldn’t even consider this. I’d never do anything to hurt you… to cause you to… uh, regress. If this would set you back on that path, I won’t do it. I won’t sacrifice you in service of my career.
“But Ori, you’ve come so far! You seem perfectly fine now — your old self. You’re my little Orio-Cookie again!”
“And I need to do what’s best for my advancement. For both our sakes. Understand?” With his eyes, he pleaded with her to give her blessing.
Orianna faced him. “So, you’ve pretty much decided, then.”
“How the hell did you get that from what I just said?” he spouted. “Of course not! I’m asking you, not telling you… really.”
“So, if I asked you to stay, if I told you I’d lose it if you left, then you would stay… and not resent it?”
Doug fell silent.
“Doug, I need you to answer my question. Would you really give up this opportunity — which is really just a request to enslave you 24-7 to the firm’s agenda? Would you?”
“See, I knew you wouldn’t understand,” Doug screamed. “That’s the way it works out there in the real world, beyond these four walls!”
“Doug, I do understand. I understand relationships. I understand we’ll drift apart even more. I understand you’ll build your life without me in it. I’ve already noticed this happening to us with your long commute. All the time we already spend apart! Oh Doug, do you really think we’re as close as we used to be?”
“Ori, that’s not fair! I haven’t felt close to you in a long time, long before our move, and you damn well know it. And that’s NOT because of my job!” His agitation had turned to anger.
“There it is!” Orianna shouted triumphantly. “The elephant in the room! It’s MY fault because I’m a mental case, right? Because I’ve been a crazy nut. We can blame all our problems on that!”
“Ori, for heaven’s sake. No one could get close to you when you were like that. There was no way.”
“Doug there were many ways. You just didn’t try. You could’ve walked beside me in my pain… you could’ve listened to my heart… you could’ve at least held me when I cried! Instead, you ran away. I didn’t even know you. For months… probably years if I’m honest.
“You just avoid everything that’s messy and real… anything that doesn’t fit into your perfect little fantasy world. No picture-perfect wife to throw picture-perfect dinner parties to picture-perfect stuffed shirts.”
Orianna was on a roll. These were words she had never shared with Doug. These were words long overdue. She continued bravely on…
“I thought maybe loving me would roughen up your perfect edges a little. But all I keep getting from you is judgement and pity masked as appeasement. You jumped through any hoop and over any hurdle, hoping that it would make your precious ‘Orio-Cookie’ happy again. As if happiness is the answer… as if it should be who I am. And if I’m not happy, if I’m not perfect, you can’t love me.”
“Ori, for crying out loud! What are you going on about? I’ve loved you… I’ve given you my life!” Doug ran a tense hand through his thick blonde hair. “How… how did we get here? I mean a minute ago we were making love, for the first time in forever. Shit, I don’t even remember the last time we made love. And you say I don’t love you? You haven’t exactly loved me either. You’ve been an empty shell — not a wife.
“And even as I say these words, I worry I’m going to send you back there… to that vacant place. I worry about you all the time. And yes, I walk on eggshells so I don’t say anything to upset you. But I guess I’m getting tired of it.
“What was I supposed to do when you were crying all the time, hiding in this ridiculous bed? I didn’t understand it then, and I admit I’m at a loss to understand it now.
“I just do what I can. I work hard. I pay the bills, provide a comfortable home. I even moved to this hell-hole for you. What more do you want from me?!”
“Doug… I just wanted you. I just wanted time. I wanted you to accept that things sucked, to not try to fix it, but to just be with me in the middle of it. That’s what people who love each other do.”
Orianna stopped, seemingly to decide whether to continue. But, she had gotten this far with finally sharing her heart, so she plodded on.
“Hon, I don’t really know if I believe my illness was all about me. Have you ever stopped to wonder how our marriage may have contributed to my illness in the first place? Have you ever considered if you had any part in it?”
“What?!” He winced visibly.
“Doug, I’m not trying to blame you…”
“The hell you’re not!!”
“Just listen. It’s just that we got married so fast. You’re an impressive man and hard to resist. Attractive, witty, intelligent, successful… There are so many great things about you. I was whisked away. But sometimes I wish…” She stopped.
“Go on. No sense stopping now.”
“Sometimes I wish you were a little more… human.”
Doug’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “Ori, what in hell are you going on about? I don’t understand you.”
Sadly, she responded, “No, I’m guessing you wouldn’t.” She sighed.
“Look, Doug. Maybe you should move back to the city… you really are miserable here. And you can come home on weekends… if you want.”
Time skipped a beat. Though he was finally hearing what he wanted to hear, he didn’t like her tone.
“Are you fucking kidding me? It sounds like you want me to move out. That’s not what I was suggesting. I merely need to be in the city during the week for my job. Period.”
“Fine. Fine. Whatever you want. And you don’t have to worry about me — there are good people here who love me and will be here for me. Their friendship has helped make me better… I AM better. They know how to be real.”
“Really, Ori? They’re looney tunes! I mean I’m glad you think they’ve helped you, but don’t for one second insinuate that they’ve done more for you than I have!”
“Doug, don’t call them names or judge them that way. No, they’re not perfect and neither am I. There are few people on this planet as perfect as you. I mean, you are like a machine… a computer.
“It’s like there’s a little drill sergeant in your brain shouting out marching orders every minute of every day. You’ve become a human doing instead of a human being.
“I swear there’s something about you that’s not right. And because I was sick for so long, I couldn’t see it. I thought it was all my fault. You were perfect and shiny, and I was damaged goods. But now, I’m not so sure it’s that simple. There are things I need that you don’t seem capable of giving me.”
“Ori,… are you saying it’s over?”
“No. Not at all, Doug. I love you. I do. This is me trying to finally work on things. We need to do that. I need to share more… to speak my truth. And you need to learn to support me and love me in a way I can truly feel it and receive it. I don’t know how we can do that if we never see each other.
“I’m angry, Doug. Angry that you don’t care enough about our marriage to put me first. You left me in a myriad of ways when I was sick. Now that I’m better, you’re leaving me again.
“I need you, Doug. All of you. I need a lover, a companion, a best friend… someone to do life with. Can you give me that?”
Doug sighed. He got out of the bed, rearranging the bed cloths before he answered her.
“I’ve already tried to be all that for you, Ori. It’s all I’ve got. I’m done.
“Look, we want the same thing here — I want to put energy into my career, and you want to focus on making a life here. I don’t need to stay here and bring you down again. If I’m really the cause of all your problems, then I’ll leave. I’m done. You can get well on your own. This is not my struggle. Ori, I’m done,” he said with emphasis.
Doug went to the closet to pack his things. Ori had been dismissed.
She tried one more time. “Doug, I was just trying to fix us.”
“You did a hell of a bang-up job of it too, didn’t you?” he yelled as he grabbed his bag, walked out of the door, down the stairs and out the front door, cursing the red awning one more time on his way to the car.