Whatever you put up with in one relationship is the baggage you bring to the next.  You make a deal with yourself not to put up with whatever it is hurt you in the past, and you stand your ground on some memory and all the things that remind you of it.  It’s how you heal, how you deal.  How you help yourself get back on your feet, thinking maybe God’s got your back.  But you won’t find it in the bible—the saying that started this chapter, this story of how David and Bethany met.  A saying that stems from the idea that your world was set in motion long before you arrived on the scene and it’s up to you now to find your way in it.  Grace is not a factor in this world view, and maybe it was grace that brought David Threnody into Bethany’s life, what brought her into his.  Though they didn’t call it that in finding each other.  They didn’t call it fate.  Maybe because after memories of taking their respective rides, they didn’t believe in fate anymore—they couldn’t if they were to believe the ride was over—that they were in charge of their own lives now.

It’s hard to believe someone really wants to help you after you’ve been burned.  After Denny, the memories of that deception, that secret of her love affair with him she kept to herself in giving her vows to Pete Southhouse, Bethany knew she had a private world she shared with no one, not even her husband.  She learned that hard lesson that it’s not easy find someone you can open up to and truly be yourself, where you can say anything and their answer is simply, “Yes”, and there’s no judgment—you don’t feel judged.  You don’t have to defend your self-esteem, or feel blame for your weaknesses, and you’re comfortable in being vulnerable.  Few people find that, and most people never find it all.  That love that makes you feel that.  Feel safe.  What usually happens is you feel tricked into having a false sense of security.  That’s how Bethany felt after she saw Denny drive away.  It’s what David felt after that ride in Mississippi that left him stealing out a window alone before a sunrise.  And once this happens to you it’s natural to protect yourself from it happening again, even if it’s not fair to your future lovers.  In a way they’ve already let you down before they’ve ever failed you.  Your guard is up to even the smallest of indiscretions, and even if you’ve had many friends, many lovers, you live in a world where you’re alone.  You’re alone waiting on someone to lie to you and tell you you’re not, but deep down you never believe them.

And so Bethany went through the motions.  She went through the motions of love being Pete Southhouse’s wife.  She attended to his needs for attention because she saw it as her duty, already learning from Jeremy Bloodwood how to minister to a man’s self-absorption, and she supported his morphine habit because she knew he had some unseen wounds from the war.  And he said nothing of her smoking marijuana.  That was her unseen world.  She had a room with a radio in it where she closed the door and listened to the Blues on WWOZ, an ashtray and the smoke her only companions as she listened to the music.  A place she escaped to with her own private memories.  Sometimes Bridgette losing her temper, cursing when she thought the music was too loud after she awakened from her stupors, the pills and cough syrup wore off.  And she took walks through the streets of New Orleans.  While her husband was at work.  When the company of her grandmother and Uncle William was too much for her—their frantic hustling when the pills were running out, and their docility when they had plenty.  She would go out in order to go in, finding her songs, finding that peace in being alone with the outside world, the strangers she passed in her walks through the French Quarter assuring her that any loneliness she felt was only a matter of a restless mind wanting something it wasn’t even sure existed.  One of these walks leading her to Pirates Alley one night, to hear a man she heard on the radio, and maybe we have that old woman with a cane to thank, for sparking that question, that question between David and Bethany, perhaps lulled by the intoxication of the absinthe, that question all new lovers ask themselves already knowing the answer—should I try again, should I believe that this time I won’t be alone, that it actually exists, that I can let this person into my secret world, and even if they hurt me—it’s worth it…

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