Bill’s always first


Oct. 17, 1984


I spent most of the weekend wandering around with Fran.

Sunday, we visited the Delaware Water Gap even though I felt exhausted from an oncoming cold.

I needed rest and feared I would collapse. I was also so thirsty, we got off the highway in Blairstown to find water.

I’m giving up caffeine again, which explain why I feel so weak lately. I seem to need the drug in order to function.

Fran talked about her friend, Bill, a sore subject with me lately – an outgrowth of that time he showed up to visit Fran in the hospital bearing  a green house worth of flowers and a very large stuffed bear. My small offering of flowers seemed incredibly inadequate.

Since then even brief mentions of the man make me feel angry and hurt.  Most of the time I manage to hide these feelings, but not this weekend. The old green eyed monster has resurfaced in me, which is odd since I’ve spent the better part of the last two years pushing Fran away.

The climax came when we stopped at a small bar on Route 95 which served Mexican food. I remembered passing it some time ago and mentioning to Fran that I would like to take her there. She’s a Mexican food freak as a result of her time living in Austin, and she is always on the hunt for authentic variations she seldom finds in this part of the country.

Mexican food seems to inspire her to talk about Bill, and this occasion was no exception. Bill has the talent to ferret out some of the better places in New Jersey and New York. So naturally, I felt some pride in the fact that I had discovered this place, only to discover shortly after our arrival that Bill had already brought her there --- more than once. I only found out about this because the waitress recognized Fran from a previous visit.

 This stung since I wanted to be the one who brought her here first.

I barely managed to keep my composure, asking Fran directly just how many times Bill had brought her here. She replied, “Oh, quite often.”

After that, the anger boiled up in me. The old hurt from the hospital became a new hurt.

Still I succeeded in keeping quiet about it.

 If only things had ended like that.

But every thing Fran said after this seemed to mention Bill. By the time dinner ended, I was too angry to speak. And even the normally clueless Fran began to suspect something was wrong.

This was part of an on going game between us. I wanted her to figure it out without my having to tell her. I wanted her to understand that there were limits as to what I would put up with. At the same time, I felt foolish about feeling the way I felt, as if I had no right to these feelings or that somehow these feelings were cheap.

My silence continued on the way home until she suddenly blurted out: “Tell me this! Did something happen in that place or am I mistaken?”

Now she was angry, too – perhaps justifiably.

I swallowed and nodded and told her that if I had known she and Bill had gone there so often, I couldn’t have gone.

This wasn’t exactly truth.

I would have gone, just as I did all those other places Bill had been with her before me. But I would have been better prepared for what had occurred. I would not have felt so betrayed when the waitress recognized Fran.

By this time, however, Fran felt hurt. I said I was sorry for ruining the evening.

But by the time we got home, the cold took full hold of me and the most I could do is crawl into bed and suffer – alone – knowing Fran was going off to see Bill and have him cheer her up again.



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