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Seeing Without Wanting to See

“I was quiet, but I was not blind.” — Jane Austen

It was late by the time he rose from the table and began gathering up their plates. She joined him at the sink to rinse and dry the dishes. At first she thought he would shrug off her help, but when she began rinsing the dishes next to him, he just winked at her and smiled. The moment felt so sweet she wanted to lean in and kiss his cheek, but she quickly pushed away such a foolish desire. It was much too soon for anything like that. As they finished, she turned to study the rest of his kitchen.

Small yellow sunflowers were scattered in lazy patterns across the walls, and the cabinetry had been painted white. A small bar unit, lined with half-empty bottles of liquor and wine, sat in the corner. A tiny island hovered in the middle of the kitchen: on top lay a wooden cutting board and bowl, and a row of cutlery hung on a magnetic strip off the side. Opposite the sink, his refrigerator was covered in photographs, some inside protective plastic frames and others exposed. She moved closer, studying the pictures. She recognized his children immediately. His son favored him in particular, mirroring back his dark chocolate eyes and wide smile. There were a few group family shots and a couple of his daughter hugging a puppy, her eyes shining.

Below these pictures was a chain of photographs of him and a woman with whitish blond hair. Who. Is. THAT? She felt a spark of panic alight in the back of her mind. One picture showed him looking at the woman and laughing, another showed the two in a larger group family shot, and a third was enlarged to show the woman’s face and his, cheek to cheek, both of them grinning. Who was this woman with the white-blond hair and deep dimples? Her mind raced through her inventory of the women he had mentioned. His mother. His sister. His ex-wife. His neighbor. His co-worker. She ran through all of their conversations in her mind’s eye, searching for someone who might match the face of the woman on the fridge. No one surfaced. She felt her heart hammer in ears as the spark in her mind rapidly grew into a blaze of questions. She backed up from the fridge. The woman looked about his age. She’s probably his sister, she decided, conveniently ignoring that he mentioned that his sister was ten years his senior. Yeah, that’s it. She deliberately turned her attention away from the spark, purposefully smothering it with her decision. And if she’s not, then I don’t want to know.

Months later, as she shyly revealed her feelings for him, he kissed her and casually mentioned, “You do know I have a significant other, right? She lives about 700 miles away right now. She’ll never know.”

She stared at him. WHAT?

“What . . . who?” she stammered, glancing down at his fingers. “You . . . you’re married? But you don’t wear a ring. . . you’ve never mentioned her . . . she doesn’t live at your house.”

“No!” he exclaimed a little too strongly. “No, not married. God, no.” He laughed nervously. “A girlfriend, if you will, although I despise that word. I’ve been with her a long time.”

Something cracked inside her skull. The woman on the fridge. Oh my God, the woman on the fridge. I knew, and I turned away. I saw her, and I knew.

Life always shows us truth, and sometimes we turn away, purposefully, preferring our imagined version of reality to what is blatantly in front of us. Our intuition, always gathering information and noticing the fine details, guides us toward truth, but we have to be willing to look, to listen, to follow our gut instincts. Sometimes we see what we don’t want to see and know what we don’t want to know.


Seeing Without Wanting to See was originally published in 100 Naked Words on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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