PQ 9.2 — Am I being asked to consent to something in a way that I can’t later withdraw my consent?

a sculpture of a man sitting with his arms covering his face as though he is crying but ashamed of it
Image by Alessandro Bonvini / CC BY

PQ 9.2 — Am I being asked to consent to something in a way that I can’t later withdraw my consent?

*

2004

It’s really something to watch a man cry. It pulls at me like little else.

On the other side of the bed, Seth is sobbing so hard he’s having trouble breathing.

And I’m gutted.

“I’m worthless,” he says. “I feel worthless.”

I’m stunned. It seems to have come out of nowhere. We’ve had a great couple of months. It’s been a great week. We’ve just gotten engaged. I’m not used to the way the ring presses on my finger yet. And I’m afraid I’m going to drop it down the sink while I’m washing dishes.

“You’re not worthless,” I say. “You mean everything to me.”

He sighs. “You have to say that.”

I shake my head. “I don’t.”

He wipes his face. “I just feel like you could do so much better than me.”

I sigh. “Seth, all I was saying is that I wished we could talk more. About deep things. You’re always telling me that I bore you.”

“Well you talk about such stupid things,” he says. “Who cares what other people are up to? You call it psychology or sociology or whatever, people watching.”

Social math,” I say.

“Whatever,” he says. “It’s really just gossip.”

I sit there quietly, not sure what to say. Feeling heartbroken. Both from his pain and because the way I am seems to disappoint him.

“What you don’t get, Page,” he says, “is when you talk to me like that, when you say that you wish we could talk about things like that…. what you’re telling me is that you don’t like me the way I am. And that means what you really want is someone different.”

“No!” I say. “I love you. I just want you to talk to me about people. Emotions. Stuff that’s important to me.”

“Well, fuck you, too,” he says.

And now I’m crying, too.

“Oh hey,” Seth says. “There’s no reason to cry.”

I lie down next to him, put my arm around him.

“I just have to ask one thing,” Seth says.

“What’s that?” I ask, wiping my face on his shirt.

“Can you promise me you’ll never leave me?” he says.

I squeeze him tighter. “Of course,” I say. “That’s easy. I promise I’ll never leave you. Ever.”

In the darkness, we breathe like one person. Listening to the train whistle as it passes right by our apartment.

*

I think of this night often, 7 years later. When I file for divorce. Sit in sessions with a counselor processing my betrayal. The promise I’d made to Seth that I now have broken. Because I’ve left him.

My therapist listens to it all patiently: the crying, the self-flagellation, the shame.

“What kills me is I broke my promise,” I say. “Good people don’t break their promises.”

She shakes her head. “It’s not a fair promise to hold you to.”

“It doesn’t matter. I made it,” I say.

“Did he keep all the promises he made to you?”

We both know the answer to that question.

She smiles. She knows she has me there.

*

This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.

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