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He has a hickey on his neck and I didn't put it there.  He makes almost imperceptible twitching movements in his presleep vulnerability, with a hickey on his neck.  Whoever put that mark on his pink and white freckled neck must know we are preparing to separate and she is getting nervy.  "Oh what the hell," she must think, "they're breaking up.  Why should I have to be careful about leaving marks on him?"  and ZOMP, she lands on his neck like a vampire coming off of half rations of weak RH negative.

         I roll over in bed and wish I hadn't quit smoking just to please him.  I could smoke a cigar right now and blow the blue-green billows into his sleeping face, polluting his dreams of sucking the necks of faceless, nameless women who want to irritate me, and who succeed.

         I know how I am going to handle this.  I'm not going to say anything.  I've set the tone of this separation as being very adult: no crying, no fighting, no breaking the sentimental objects of the other party.  I won't mention the hickey, unless he does.  I will be so cool.  He will try to hide it or come up with some unbelievable story about having some one night stand.  When I know this affair with this perfumed vampire has been going on for months.  But I have been very cool.

         I've just been working harder, saving all my money, and looking for another place for my boys and me to live.  I'm going to be so nice, all the way up to the time when he carries my boxes into my new place.

         "I'm glad you are taking this separation so well. " he said yesterday morning, while I puttered about the kitchen, cooking his favorite meal.

         "Oh?" I said, practicing my oriental inscrutability, "I wanted to respect the love we did share."

         What a load of crap!  I'm 5'3" and he is 6'1" and I don't go around picking fights with someone who could easily break my neck.  Short people learn to be diplomatic and big people learn to stoop to hear all the diplomacy tossed up at them.

         He jumps in his sleep.  I roll over and he opens his eyes slightly "Wranga mumngba frssts?" he smiles slightly as I gently close his eyelids with my fingertips, like they do to dead men in old cowboy movies.  "Yes dear," I say with perfunctory sweetness, knowing it is like throwing strawberries to pigs.

         Should I roll him over and plant a huge hickey in some terribly strategic position on his southern hemisphere?  Somewhere she will be likely to see the mark of Zorro?  "Well gal, this white boy isn't big enough for the both of us.  I'll match you hickey for hickey."  This poor over marked man will be the first fatality due to a hickey duel between two women, who have not been properly introduced, except for the sharing of a case of non-specific vaginitus, due to his wandering between our beds.

         No.  This type of response would be degrading myself, gracing her hickey with a reply.  I could tell him to tell her that she is working at the wrong end.  Yes, tell him while he is sipping on a cuppa tea and watch him do a Danny Thomas show-Uncle Batooch, spraying the tea all over his Sunday morning breakfast.  I would be happy to give her some pointers if she needs any guidance.  My own strategic guidance system to plant her properly on top of the pink and white freckled landing pad.  Let's hang her from the ceiling in a complicated harness of old suspenders and dog collars, and aim her right over the correct sucking station, plop her down on top of him to effect the correct connection, as all the technocrats at Mission Control Center cheer and clap and slap each other on their white shirted backs after completing a successful link-up in space, another Apollo/Soyuze connection in the Richmond District.

         I look at this man sleeping with the grace of a beached whale.  Why, it's Moby Dick in my bed, or should I say the Mobile Dick.  "That ain't no whale, that's a Great White God!"  and I think how easy it would be to harpoon him through that little red badge of courage.  How easy it would be to murder any man in his post-coital afterglow.  How many men come close to buying their ticket to paradise following "le petit mort" as the French call it.  How sleep must be like death, except there are no dreams to remind us of impulse and desire.  How I do get morbid when I stay up too late.

         I look at this once handsome lover as he blows snot bubbles in a dreamland filled with God knows what and I find myself forgiving him, and even feeling sorry for the faceless, nameless woman who felt she had to make a statement on my lover's neck.  For in the quiet of the AM darkness it is still I who have his warmth, for the time being.  What should I fear from usurpers, when I plan to abdicate the throne?  Why should I feel jealous about her time with him when I can't stand him in my space all the time?  Why should I spite her the once a week roll in the hay, when I get him in the coolness of my sheets whenever I call his name in the right way?  It must be sad to be the other woman.  It must be a blow to the ego to have him get up out of bed, get dressed, and say "See ya later."  No wonder she is planting spite hickeys on his neck.

         She may even be a woman worth knowing.  It only stands to reason that if he cares for her enough to split his love life between two homes, and he cares for me enough to try to be discreet most of the time, there must be some redeeming value in the  both of us women. We are similar enough to care for good old Mobile Dick here.  So then, if she is hip and I am hip, then it must be he who is culpable for not being able to decide which of us to make a commitment to.  Because doesn't also it stand to reason that there is some other fellow out there with absolutely no one to keep his back from cold.  While our shared lover is so greedy there must be some really swell guy out there  just dying for his own hickey maker.

         Now I look at my lover with renewed feelings of disgust.  What a cad!  Not only does he trifle with the affections of two very hip women, he also robs some fine brother of his share of love, how cruel, how inhumane.

         Actually, I am secretly thankful for her planting hickeys where I can see them.  Since I have been trying to be so cool about this separation I forget sometimes why I am working so hard.  Why I am dragging my boys around after school to look at other apartments.  Why I am living in a constant state of crankiness for having to get friends to lie for me so I can put forward a great picture to paranoid landlords, who if they knew I was a single mother, a student and a seamstress, wouldn't even let me look at their raggedy apartments.  So when he comes in smelling of the same perfume week after week, or sporting some new love mark or another I say, "Ah, yes, that's why I'm moving out of Dodge City, that's why I'm going down that lonesome trail in search of that other loveless man, who dreams of my hot biscuits in the morning, that's why..." It is she who keeps me rolling on like the wandering tumbleweed.

         I know no matter how sweet I keep this break up, the effort is only a stop gap measure.  Until I move I have to stand on my tongue with both feet and stop and count to ten before I reply to his daily comments over the breakfast table.  Because if I don't move soon I will just loose my mind and chop him up into little bitty pieces and mail him to four different locations in America, in jumbo zip lock storage bags.  If I don't get my own place how can I get on with the process of grieving a loss and mourning for something I never had, a real exclusive monogamous relationship with my now insignificant other over there snoring peacefully as I brood in the dark.  If I don't get my own place how can I fall in love on the rebound to cheer myself up or come to realize that being alone isn't so bad after all.

         I should look at that hickey and thank my lucky stars that she isn't as perceptive as I am.  If I were the other woman I wouldn't like to hasten the break-up of the triangle.  She does have the coziest part of this long distant manage-a-trios.  She doesn't have to produce daily meals, taking time out of her creative life to do the shopping, cooking and cleaning they entail.  There is no extra laundry, no Sunday football with the newspapers strewn about the bedroom.  There is no seeing him unshaven and beery eyed in the morning.  No going to the hardware store and waiting for him to decide on what gizmo he needs for his tinkering, but having to pass up the fabric store because he doesn't feel like waiting for someone else.  She gets him sweetly scented, fed, his clothes cleaned and pressed.  She gets the movies, gets laid a few times a week and is still able to turn out her bed side light when she is good and ready.  If I were her I would do all I could to keep the triangle going, because when I am gone there is going to be such a vacuum made by my departure, that he will materialize in her space as if Scotty beamed him there as soon as my coordinates vanished off of the triquarter.  Then she will have space Captain Mobile Dick of Dodge City in her space full time.  Then she can live with the gnawing fear that her time will soon come when she is the wife/figure instead of the more exciting mistress/figure.  When he gets to see her clip her toe nails with night cream on her face.  When her home isn't the little refuge away from domesticity it had been, she will then know her time is near.  Then she must know the Other Woman will be called in from stage left, bringing in the adventure and thrills for him.  The midnight hickey maker across town doesn't realize she hastens her own departure by trying to stir up hurt feelings by planting spiteful hickeys on his thick neck.

         I just figured out how to get revenge!  I'll trade places with her.  I'll become the other woman in their relationship.  I will be so sweet during the evolution of this weird relationship with him, that he will still want to come over to see how the kids and I are doing.  Since I won't be seeing him but once in awhile I will look marvelous, simple marvelous.  I will demand that he be cleaned, washed, pressed, shaved and fed, and then he can take me out to the movies, then I will lay up with him, for old time's sake, listening with compassionate understanding to his tales of how it is difficult with her now that they are living together...or maybe not.

         No, that is stupid.  There is no profit in that.  I should just try to stay on course and get myself a place, get my children settled in the new school, to go school my own self, do my work and get on with what ever it is I'm supposed to do between now and the time I am supposed to die.  Getting on with the improvisational guerrilla street theater in the bay area.  I don't know.

         I know there are some women out there who would say "If he don't do no drugs, don't beat you, don't take your money, and if the only thing he does do is have this white woman on the side, then what is your problem, girl!  Keep him warts and all."  I know there are some people out there loveless and thinking a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing.  But I don't know that for sure.  What if having this guy around my pad is keeping that loveless brother, who is looking for his own hickey maker, from ever coming on to me?  I'll have settled for half a loaf when I could have had the whole Orowheat franchise of the greater west coast.

         I have the hope that easing my way out of this relationship will spare all of us the unnecessary Peyton Place melodrama most break-ups think they need to have to justify the failure of the love affair.  It might have been more easy to have copped a fit, located her, blackened her blue eyes, been a witch and exercised a nasty exit, making the both of them spit on my departing shadow shouting, "Good riddance!"  but I won't make it easy, peace isn't necessarily easy.  I may be cool, but it doesn't mean I don't care.  I care too much to burn the bridges I might have to commute over weekly.  I care too much to seek any real revenge.  I care too much even about her, because all she wants is to be loved.  The only problem is that she wants the very same man I wanted to be loved by.  I can't really cop an attitude about that.

         Since I care for him, care about the quality of my relationships with my "sisters" (whether they realize they are involved in a struggle or not,) care for myself and the example I show my boys - I can't stay with him and I can't indulge in an ugly exit.

         It's hard to explain even to myself.  I love him too much to play into his inability to commit himself to a serious relationship.  I won't make it easy for him to be ambivalent.  It would be like contributing to adult delinquency or something.  I care too much about the women in my life to feel as if I have to compete with this nameless, faceless sister across town, who wants to survive on the bits and pieces of left-over love.  I care too much about myself to compromise the love I had for this man, the empathy I feel for my sister, above and beyond our little triangle.

         The boys ask me, "Mommy, will he still come with us to the playground sometimes, even when he lives in another place?"  and I can say without hesitation, "Of course, dear." knowing it is true.

         Having come to this state of mind I can sleep.  It is sad and I can't help but cry a little about all of the might-have-beens, and all, but none of that counts now, does it?  Rabbi Rabkin said "Would a, could a, should a, doesn't count.  It is what might have been--maybe if---pah! It's fiction."

         I lean over to kiss his stubbled cheek, taking in the warmth and the smell of him, knowing that time is running out for the two of us.  I indulge in enjoying him as he sleeps.  I gently brush the stray hairs from his forehead and I suddenly remember why I fell in love with him in the first place.  He wakes slightly and smiles, "Interested in hanking some pank?" he sighs sleepily.  "No, but thanks for asking." I whisper to his stubble, "but I'll settle for a cuddly." I say as I burrow my way under his arm.

         "love ya." he says as he falls back to sleep.

         "I know." I reply as he rolls over to get comfortable, exposing that hickey I didn't put there

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