Bearing False Witness
The phone rings.
“I have decided that you shall accompany my best friend tonight on a social expedition”
“Oh, you’ve determined this, have you?”
“Yes. I have spoken, and it will be so. Here, talk to him, so you can get to know each other.”
“Hi, there. Who are you?”
“I’m Liam. Reese wants me to take her to the club tonight, and she says you should come along.”
“Of course she does! I suppose we can’t really say no to her, can we?”
“Well, we could… we’d just never hear the end of it.”
Reese had this relentless persistence to her, the kind that made “Can we have a pool, dad?” tuck its tail between its legs and scuttle under something big in the humiliation of being outdone. She’d probably have been drop-kicked ages ago, if she weren’t so damn cute. Most people in her life had learned to resign themselves to knowing that she’d pretty much always get her way. Of course, ever the consummate extrovert, "her way" usually involved whatever got her out of the house and socializing in an environment where she could dance.
Tonight, as usual, that place was the club. A favorite family hangout, it was the type of atmosphere where people in the community could relax and just be comfortable being themselves, not having to worry about being gawked at, or crudely propositioned by wannabes. The kind where straight couples coming to “pick up a third” for an NSA rendezvous to “satisfy their curiosity” would find themselves embraced by a strong arm around their waists, with an admonition of, “This is really not your kind of place,” whispered smoothly in their ear as they were subtly escorted out.
Reese, Liam, his wife, Marien, and I all arrived together in Liam’s giant mystery machine-like van-mobile. Liam and Marien had been having marital problems, I understood, and we could cut the tension between them with a butterknife. We met a few other friends there. It was my first excursion to that location, and my first encounter with most of the people I was with, but Reese was comfortable enough with everyone to assure us all we’d all get along. In her mind, there’s never any reason for anyone not to get along.
Liam and his wife went their separate ways as soon as we got to the club, and Reese bounded immediately to the dance floor. Marien found the company of the woman who’d been causing most of the trouble in her relationship with her husband. That is, I wouldn’t really call her a woman, so much as a lumberjack with breasts, which she worked hard to disguise as lumberjack muscle. Liam and I were left alone to entertain each other, him all the while trying not to watch in seething jealous rage the mockery of his marriage taking place just a few feet in front of him.
He was surprisingly gracious, considering – enough to enchant me with his mischievous wit and personable charm. If I’d known him better then, I’d have read more directly what was going on with him, but since I didn’t, at one point, he turned to me, gently rested a hand on my knee, and with glistening eyes, proclaimed softly,
“You are so beautiful, and so bright, and so sweet, that I would really love to be able to sit here and give more attention to spending time with you and getting to know you better, and you’ve no idea how much I really hate that I don’t have the focus for that right at the moment, but, if you’ll excuse me for just a bit, I need to go make an asshole of myself now.”
I didn’t hear what transpired between him and his wife in that conversation, but it wasn’t the first scene like that they’d had. Twenty years of erosion was eating them away faster than he had fingers to dam the holes in the dykes. Whatever was left of what they’d had was dissolving more rapidly now than ever, and there wasn’t anything he could do to stop it.
I don’t remember how I spent the rest of our outing until we all mustered back in Liam’s van-mobile on the way to our respective abodes, but by closing time, there was some discrepancy over where Marien was going to bed for the night. She didn’t want to go home with her husband. Reese wanted me to go home with her. I just wanted to be dropped off at my place so I could sleep. But, I wasn’t driving, and, Reese always gets her way, so…
“You listen to Mick,” she said from behind me to Marien in the back seat.
I was in the navigator’s spot, which is not normally the place I’d think I’d find myself, next to someone else’s husband, but, all things taken into account, it wasn’t a huge surprise.
Keep your mouth shut, keep your mouth shut, keep your mouth shut, I told myself repeatedly, shutting my eyes tightly to try and squeeze out the chaos.
“Mick knows everything,” Reese continued. “Any problem you have, she can fix it.” She held my intuitive knowledge of the human condition in obscenely high esteem, obviously.
“Reese, please,” I scoffed at her. “I am not a therapist, and, I do NOT want to get involved in the drama of two people I just met tonight.”
Reese picked up the Dear Abby banner on her own then, and tried herself to smooth out the situation by using her best “drunk dial” pop culture prescriptions to counsel Marien, who spent most of the time bitching alternately about and to Liam. I couldn’t have been more caught in the middle, quite literally, sitting in the crossfire between these two domestic partners spatting at each other over my shoulder.
The next barb he threw at her was enough. Most of his comments had obviously been lashed over his neck out of desperation. You could feel the despair. In her case, there was an inherent underlying bitterness that slithered off her tongue, and it made your spine squirm. Knowing at least he had some semblance of rationality, out of sheer self-preservation, to dissipate the stifling stench of poison between them, I turned to him.
“Liam, I know you’re both hurting,” I acknowledged. “I don’t know either of you, and I won’t profess to understand the pain you’re going through right now, but I do know this... The words you say to her now are going to be the ones that echo the most in her ears over the next few months, whether you work this out or not.”
He got quiet and listened. You could see he was anxious to latch onto anything that might offer a glimmer of hope that there could be any help for them. Reese was still chattering chaotically in the backseat. Marien shushed her.
“Shut up, I wanna hear what she’s saying to him,” she barked.
“How could she just throw everything away like it hasn’t mattered?” he plead. “I just still love her so much, you know?”
“I believe you,” I told him. “But if you want your wife to still believe that’s true, then you need to think very carefully about what you say to her right now. Because, as angry as you feel, as heated as this moment may be, if what you truly want most to convey to her is how much you still love her, then you need to fight against every instinct you have, and make her feel only that.
“I know it sucks, I know it feels awkward, but, whatever else you may have to work out between you, the fact is, there’s only two ways this can end up… either she’s going to come back to you, or she’s not. And, if she ever gets to a point where she realizes this whole ongoing battle has been a colossal blunder and she wants to be with you, then you need to make her feel like she can come back, and, that can’t be done if you’re burning the only bridges you have left between you right now.”
I ended up at Reese’s place, spending the night with both her and Marien, talking late into the dawn, because no amount of my pronounced protesting and stalwart petitioning to remain
And she was fed up.
She wanted me to tell her what to do. I refused.
She wanted me to agree with whatever she would do. I wouldn’t.
Hours later, exhausted, I acquiesced to the only summary I could give of the situation.
“People are imperfect, Marien,” I declared carelessly, as if it was news. “Liam’s faults can’t really be any better or worse than anyone else’s. We’re all human, and we all fail. At life, at making ourselves happy, at understanding who we are, and at satisfying the people we love. We’re all just going through the motions of pretending we know what we’re doing while we’re here.
“If you think you can ever be in a relationship where you won’t have to deal with these faults, you might be right, because you might be able to avoid these faults again, now that you know them so well. But you’ll just end up jumping out of the frying pan, and into the fire of a whole new nest of faults you haven’t been prepared to know how to deal with. And maybe that’s better, maybe it’s not, I can’t say. Maybe you just need something different for a change.
“But, this, too, I know… it doesn’t matter. Really, none of the faults matter at all. Not yours, not his, not anyone’s. Because, whatever the faults are, they aren’t the problem.
“The only question you need to be asking yourself right now, that will give you some sense of direction, is, ‘Do I love my husband?’ I mean, ‘Do I really LOVE him?’ Because, if you do, then let LOVE guide you. LOVE is all that matters. LOVE will find a way, despite all other obstacles. Because LOVE NEVER fails.
“And, if you are truly honest with yourself, and you strike deep into the furthest caverns of your heart and soul, and you find you don't love the man, that you can't bring yourself to feel that strong bond for him anymore… then what are you still doing with him?”
I got to know Liam a lot better after that. He and Marien had a volatile blowout that culminated in her moving in with the lumberjack. He leaned on me a great deal during that time. We sort of accidentally fell into each other.
Over the course of the next several years, I realized something.
Marien had been right.
None of the things she’d told me about Liam had been bearing false witness against the man. I came to know she’d strung together a fairly accurate manifest of most of his shortcomings, and even learned about a few extras she’d neglected to mention. She hadn’t been lying. He was all of those things, and more.
He was a mess.
But, everyday, I remembered what I told her. And, everyday, I asked myself,
“Do I really LOVE this man?” And, everyday, I did.
So I stayed, and I strived everyday to work it out, whatever “IT” was at the time.
Because LOVE is all that matters. LOVE doesn’t give up. LOVE never fails.
I guess I’m just an idiot that way.
LJ Idol | Season 6 • Week 5 - Topic: BEARING FALSE WITNESS
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