Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay
And the next day was Sunday. I think I'd been benefiting from going to church almost as much as I'd been gaining from the sessions with Tyrone. I had dropped out of church when my depression crushed me, and it was good to be back. I had missed hearing the Scriptures, I had missed hearing sermons, I had missed being around the people of God, though I hadn't realized any of it at the time. Perhaps part of my depression had come from not being in church. It was possible that there'd been a vicious circle feeding itself – I got depressed and dropped out of church, which made me more depressed, which made me more reluctant to get out of the house even for church, and so on until I thought the only way out was death. If I remembered next week, I might ask Tyrone about that.
For now I was determined to do something I hadn't done in a long while. I'd done some planning the night before, and indeed earlier in the week, and now I was putting it into action. I had a sleeveless white dress that I hadn't worn in a long while, one that nipped in at the waist and then fell to the floor in straight lines of fabric. I'd tried it on a couple of days before and realized that I had gained enough weight back over the past month that it wouldn't hang on me as though I were made of sticks. I was getting my figure back – I was beginning to look less like a victim of starvation and more like a woman – and the dress fit. It was, perhaps a little looser than it had been, but it wasn't a sack.
At the waist I tied the gold and green scarf that Frank had gotten me for my birthday three years before, and let the ends hang down on my left side. I put a necklace on – it wasn't real diamonds, just the ubiquitous cubic zirconia, but it sparkled in the light anyway. The stones were small, set in a silver-plated chain, with a slightly larger stone hanging in the hollow of my throat. I hadn't yet decided how to do my hair, and realized as I looked into the bathroom mirror that over my months of seclusion that it had grown long – and now that I was well again, or closer to well, it was lustrous and bulky with its curls. I left it as is, falling over my shoulders and down my back. I knew from past experience how sunlight glinted off its coppery red, and knew then that leaving my hair unbound and free was the right thing that morning.
I selected a pair of emerald earrings – real emeralds, stones which I knew Frank couldn't have afforded but which he'd bought me anyway for our second anniversary. He had always refused to tell me where he'd found them or how he'd paid for them, and as I fit them into my ears – working with holes which had begun to close, and which I'd have to remember to keep open if I wanted to keep wearing earrings – I felt something of the love for him which had filled the early years of our marriage. And I determined that as best as I could, I would love my husband no matter what he did. Perhaps if I'd made and held to that determination earlier we wouldn't have gone as far down the road to dissolution as we had. That was something else, perhaps, to ask Tyrone about.
All that was left was shoes and a check on the weather. I'd selected the shoes the night before – a pair of white heels to match the dress. They weren't quite the stilettos that pinch the toes and put the calves into unnatural positions, but they would give me a few inches of height, and give my walk that "prance" that Frank had loved in the good days of our marriage. I left them for later; they were fine for looking good, but uncomfortable for around-the-house wear.
The weather, I saw as I looked out the living room window, was wonderful. The leaves on the trees along the street weren't moving at all, a rarity in an Albuquerque spring, where the wind blows with monotonous regularity. The sun was out, and I knew it would be warm. I'd learned that MJT's building had a healthy air conditioning system, so I went back into the bedroom and found a white sweater which, if necessary, I could drape over my shoulders during the service. Otherwise, I'd go as I was, bare-armed. I hadn't done such a thing in a long time, not since my confession, and I felt almost like a young teen in her first "big girl dress." I knew that my appearance was thoroughly modest – between my hair and the neckline nothing improper showed, and my legs were entirely under the skirt of the dress – but I felt almost as though I were exposing myself.
And yet there was nothing filthy about it. I thought about that. I had never shied from the intimacies of my marriage. Frank and I had thoroughly enjoyed the physical aspects of our marriage, and had been without shame before each other, but neither of us had ever cared to show off our bodies in public. It wasn't merely that we lived according to Christian principles of modesty, but that we simply didn't want to display ourselves in the least clothing that was legal. I couldn't speak for Frank in detail, but I suspected his attitude paralleled mine: My body was my husband's and no one else's, and I wasn't going to give what belonged to him to all and sundry. I knew, as I thought of if, that my adultery had been to a degree a contradiction of that conviction, but I had come far enough that I also knew that I should cling with new strength to the conviction, and not let my lapse destroy my morals utterly.
No, I concluded, this was more like the feeling I'd experienced in the back yard the week before. I was experiencing a rebirth of sorts – a new understanding of myself as a person and as a woman. And the fact was that, while women's bodies are indeed not for public consumption, God has designed beauty into our form. I can't see myself or any other woman as a man does, but I knew that my shape, my hair, my face, were pleasing to men – certainly they had been to Frank! – and that I was again enjoying the fact that I was attractive. I was a sort of Eve, new to this new life I was coming into, and delighting in my rediscoveries.
I turned from the window and found Frank standing beside the sofa. And on his face was a look I hadn't seen in a very long time – appreciation of my appearance. "I must say, Genesis," he said, the warmth in his voice belying the diction, "that you look positively delicious this morning."
I knew I was blushing – I'm naturally light complected, and I had hardly been in the sun for a year. "Thank you, Frank," I said. "I have to confess that I dressed this way because I wished to please you."
"You have pleased me, Gen. I don't know when you've looked so appealing."
I very nearly said that I couldn't remember when he'd cared what I looked like, but remembered, just in time to bite it off, that this was Sunday, and we were trying to fix our marriage rather than ruin it. Frank must have seen my hesitation, for he started to turn away. "Frank," I said hurriedly.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to brush you off – I was biting my tongue in order to keep harsh words behind my teeth. What I truly wish to say is ... thank you."
I could see the old ire, now so easy to rouse, fighting in his expression with remorse. And remorse won. "I'm sorry too, Gen. I didn't mean to become angry with you. Our habits have become ill-favored, it seems, and they're difficult to retrain." He walked toward me, and put his hands on my upper arms. I felt his fingers squeezing gently, and then his hands moved to my shoulders and he pulled me close. It wasn't the tight passionate embrace we'd shared before my adultery, but it was more than I'd expected or hoped for. "Whatever stupid things I may do or say, Genesis," he whispered into my ear, "I do love you. I might have forgotten that in my pain, but I love you."
I nodded, too moved to speak. And though I couldn't see his face, and didn't look, for I didn't wish to disturb him if I was right, I thought that perhaps Frank was moved as well. And if he needed me to close my eyes and lean on his chest in order for him to admit that to himself, I was glad to comply.
The sermon text that morning was Deuteronomy 29:29. I turned to it, and found it was a verse which I had certainly read, but which I didn't remember at all: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." I wondered what it meant, and what Tyrone would have to say about it.
It turned out that Tyrone's point was that it's not our job to figure out exactly what God has in mind for us, but to do what we already know we ought to do. "We don't know," he said in his slow heavy voice, "everything that God has designed for our lives. He may call us to do this or that, to go here or there, to rejoice over something or grieve over a thing. He may call us to move, to remain where we are, to suffer, to have joy, to be single or get married, to gain a child or lose a parent. We don't know any of this, until it happens.
"But what we do know is what He has revealed to us. We don't know whether we'll live till tomorrow, but we do know that while we live, He has called us to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with Him. We don't know whether we'll see the Lord's return, or die and go to be with Him, but we do know that He has called us to follow Him. We don't know whether He'll call us to a foreign land as missionaries, or to live here in Albuquerque and witness to those we know, but we do know that He desires us to serve Him every day and do everything as if to the Lord."
I had never thought of things quite that way before. I hadn't been a theological expert, nor had I ever had a particularly theological mind, but I had sometimes wished to know more than I did – usually on points that weren't very relevant to my life as a Christian.