“Man to Man” by Phil Giunta

         How do you walk up to a guy and confess that you’re in love with his wife? That’s exactly what I was about to do.   To say that I was anxious would’ve been an understatement.  It wasn’t as if I ever had a conversation like this before.  I suspected that he already knew about Ally and me, yet I felt compelled to offer an explanation.  After all this time, it seemed the honorable thing to do.

         It started raining lightly just as I sat down to speak to him.  I didn’t mind at all.  The cooler temperatures were a welcome respite from the mid-July heat wave.

         I rubbed my hands on my cargo shorts as I began talking. I’d rehearsed most of my speech on the way there, but that didn’t make it any less awkward.  “Hey, Jared, I hope it’s OK that we meet like this.  I just ask that you hear me out.  I realize you never knew me, never knew the kind of guy I really am, but I think you do now.  At least, I hope so.  I feel I owe you an account of how all of this started between Ally and me.

         “Three years ago, when she and I worked together, we had a little misunderstanding.  It was completely my fault, but it triggered feelings for her that I didn’t expect.   She started flirting with me at a happy hour after work one day, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed.   At the time, I dismissed it.  I thought it was just the booze talking, but in the months that followed, she continued to make little comments here and there.

         “I became so confused and distracted that I finally had to take her aside and talk about it. To be honest, part of me hoped there was something behind her words.  She was mortified that I took her remarks as anything more than innocent fun.

         “Believe me, Jared, the idea of stealing your wife was the furthest thing from my mind.  I just had to know the truth.   Did I want to believe that Ally had feelings for me?  I won’t lie.  The heart wants what it wants, but I was wrong.   In the end, I was just a sympathetic ear in a stressful work environment.   Ally would never have left you.”

         I took a deep breath, feeling the moisture on my shoulders as the rain soaked through my polo shirt.  I didn’t care.  All that mattered was this weight on my chest and the only way to release it was to see this through to the end.  “It took me two months, but I finally left the company and once I was gone, I never saw or contacted Ally again.  But I missed her.

         “Then, last summer, we ran into each other on the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach.   We talked for about twenty minutes, just catching up.  I was genuinely sorry to hear what happened, Jared.  Honestly, I was.   You think some couples will be together forever.   As it turns out, Ally missed me, too.  The longer we talked, the more we realized how much we enjoyed each other’s company.   As I’m sure you know, we’ve been together ever since.

         “Look, Jared, I came here because I respect what you and Ally had together and maybe I have a bit of guilt, too, I don’t know.  What I do know is that I love her.  When she’s with me, nothing else matters.  Ally has my heart.  This past year with her has been wonderful.”

         My vision clouded as tears welled up.  Not sure why.  I thought I’d talked through all the hard stuff.  “Look, Jared, if it’s not asking too much, I came here to get your blessing.  I’m going to propose to Ally tonight.”

         I leaned forward and put a gentle hand on the gravestone.  For a moment, I stared in silence at the inscription.  Jared Henriksen, 1970-2012.

         “Cancer took you far too young.  I realize I can never replace you, but I promise I’ll love Ally for the rest of her life.”


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