Sa’afia hesitated. “We were together for two years. Paul and I. He’s a really good man. He went back to Samoa to help people. I know you don’t think much of … churches. Nor do I, I guess, but it’s what you have to belong to if you want to help people in Samoa. Well, I didn’t go with him. I didn’t want to, not back to Samoa. I’ve got my degree to finish. But I can do that as a distance student. Sorry, anyway, he … asked me to come back. And I’ve thought about it. And.”
I knew what she was going to say, and that she was going to be unable to say it because she’d go back to sobbing. I reached for her to comfort her before she started, and held her shaking body in my arms. Her grief was real. Although she was hurting me, my sympathy for her was real too. But I felt, in the back of my mind, that we were performing.
Eventually she said, “I’ve said yes.” Though I knew it was coming it still felt like being hit by a hammer.
I once – in a good cause – kicked open a door that an angry landlord was trying to nail shut. Weirdly, I hadn’t expected him to use the hammer on me. My point is that I know what being hit with a hammer is like. It’s like a woman you love telling you she’s going off to live with another man.
I said, “Ump.” She looked at my face, worried at whatever she saw. Then I said, “But I love you. I’m in love with you. I need you.”
“No, you don’t.”
“What? I love you.”
“Oh, Jaime, I’m sorry. But I meant, you don’t need me.”
“Of course I need you!”
“No, you don’t, Jaime. You love me, I know that. But you’re in love with Ana. And she’s in love with you.”
“No! That’s just not true. Anyway I’m her parole officer.”
“But that’s nearly finished. Not in three months, you won’t be.”