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My End of the Line
By Lisa Buscani

She comes to me inconveniently, shrill two A.M. phone calls and wan dinner interruptions. She asks me about my life, politely lingers over the details. But she longs for me to ask her How She Is, and I will, because she is my friend and that is what friends do.

She begins strongly, clutching the tangible moments of her day that she used to prop herself up. For a while, she almost sounds like anyone else. But then her voice thins and pitches ever higher; I could cut myself on the ends of her sentences. She begins to speak of him and her. And she becomes no one that I know.

The litany begins, the long tick of lies and deception that she began to tally after she found out, after he slipped and failed to account for his time and looked at the ground and opened his hands. From the beginning he lied to her; whether it's true or not, that's what she thinks now. She details the late arrival times, the boys' nights, the tired inconsiderate love, the questionable female "friends," the neglect that mounts and mounts the more she thinks about it. And, lately it's all she thinks about.

These calls are hard for me. She is my Go-to Girl. She negotiated my mortgage and consoled my buyers' remorse. She knows the best spas and would join me for a facial at the drop of a hat, credit card debt be damned. She can hold her tequila and can always find the Phillips screwdriver in her extensive and well-used toolbox. And now here she is, my girl, desperately trying to grope her way out of the fog. I can only stand outside and watch as she stumbles through it. I can only listen and commiserate.

We speculate about her, The Other Woman. We don't know her, which is a curse and a blessing. Sometimes, we think she's one of those women on the Soaps, guiltless and manicured, beyond wrinkles or stains, lovers conveniently shirtless. She's a Woman of Tribute. She rightfully receives the jewelry, the money, the clothing worn only at night. She can never have enough while we can never rise above our sense of debt.

We think she looks like the girls in the skin mags, the obvious theatrical beauty, the militant breasts, the pubic hair shaved down to a Hitler mustache so she's always bikini-ready. She contorts her spine in those ridiculous picture-pandering poses, tending her ecstasy like other women raise violets.

Hell, we think she's Mata Hari, profiting on men's secrets, draped over a marble mantle, smoke wafting from a jeweled holder. We think she transforms desire into international incident. We think she looks at our men like lunch.

On the other hand, she could be our friend, someone we'd dish with. She could be smart, hardworking, dedicated to her commitments, and completely mistaken in thinking that she's finally found something good. That woman scares us the most.

I think of him. She met him when we were young and inseparable. I stepped back because he became her direction and no one should mess with that. Ever. I think of the way he outlined her elbow with his hand as she stepped ahead of him into a room; the way he cupped her chin in those moments they took away from us, feeding his fingers through her hair. He was hope. The way he looked at her gave the rest of us something to dream on.

But now that was gone, the hope for her, for us, all of that was gone; given to some parasite who latched herself onto him and her and everything they'd built together. It makes me so angry that I hang up from my friend only to upbraid her husband in my mirror. I have thunderous, imaginary conversations that stop him short, close his throat and bring him to JESUS.

My anger replaces my eloquence as I hit him with the hardest body shot I've got: you fucking piece of shit. You dog, you humping, slobbering, barbed-cock canine. You couldn't just keep walking, could you? The path was wide, it was smooth; she worked to make it that way. Asshole, moron, useless drooling cretin. All you had to do was breathe and remember, and now a good woman dies a little because you keep your honor in your jock.

And then I remember that he was not my decision. This battle is not mine. And one side does not make a story. I lay it down.

And when she calls again I'm calm enough to give her what she's looking for. I sit softly on my end of the line and I listen. I interject when appropriate. We joke about the weight she's lost in mourning; how grief can be so cruel, yet so kind. It's all I can offer. I hope it's all she wants.

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