When I was taking courses for my MFA, I had to write weekly exercises that went up for critique. I came across this one that I hadn’t shared. It’s a really short one. We had to “get in and get out” quickly so readers could “feel and understand the situation” in under 400 words. Here’s how it went. . .
I Can’t Make Him Love Me
There, by the lake, she was watching the two figures, bobbing in the water, clothes strewn on the shore where the sand meets the grass, nude, hair soaking wet, arms grasped tightly around each other, lost in each other’s eyes and lips.
Her heart sunk as she stood there; she had followed him out the door after their fight when he said, “You don’t understand me or what I want! You smother me!” It was then he grabbed his keys, made his way to the Jeep, and screeched out of the driveway. I can’t make him love me, she thought, hearing her own words she had spoken just days before during counseling.
Despite this knowledge, though, she couldn’t let it happen without a fight, and so she had grabbed her own keys and headed down the road, hoping to find his Jeep on his way, she suspected, to her, to the one she knew he loved, to the one who made him feel good and made him forget his wife, his kids, and his responsibility. She pictured him running in the wind to his lover, running away from her like she had suspected he’d been doing for the last six months.
No counseling can help that, she thought.
I can’t make him love me, she knew.
He pulled his Jeep onto the dirt road, and down the dirt road she had lagged behind. She first saw them embrace as she stood atop of the hill. The lake was calm, though a stiff breeze rustled the summer leaves of the trees. She had stood, frozen, and watched her husband strip off his clothes, strip off his lover’s clothes, and witnessed his infidelity for the first time; there she understood once and for all what she had longed to understand, seeing with her own eyes the finality of it all as it unfolded in front of her.
She knew there was a point when one should let go; she realized it at that moment of pure heartbreak and disillusionment and revelation. I can’t make him love me, she thought, she knew, and she acquiesced and vowed to hold on to that moment of surrender forever.