Her eyes were what drew me in. Long, slender lashes encircling light brown irises – the depth behind them halting my thoughts. She knew the power of her eyes, and she used it to her advantage daily. She could bat those eyes and make you forget who you were, which I constantly found myself doing.

She had a malleable personality and was a sort of social chameleon. I fell in love with her long before I kissed her, but the kiss was my own personal Faustian deal with her – for better or for worse. Our lips touched and my soul no longer belonged to me, but had been bargained away.

We crossed paths several different times in our lives before we became entangled in each other’s existences and so it seemed to be providence when we got along so well and we spent nights under a streetlight on the outskirts of Portland, hearts hard at work but minds dallying into the small hours.

She was not the first woman I’d married, though I’d hoped she’d be my last and we’d grow to old age together. I held a certain trust with her – one that doesn’t come automatically with marriage vows but is learned and given gradually through time and experience. It was not given lightly or without pause, and even though that trust was broken in the chaotic storm her lies wrought – one whose eye had never appeared to give me a sense of calm – I was proud of myself for having extended myself so readily, offering up my chest to the dull blade of her disingenuity.

Of course, I initially didn’t take that blade well nor cleanly, and the wound had become infected until I had moved away from her eyes, her mannequin smile, and her lies. My very spirit was aching within my body through over 4,800 miles of train tracks, asphalt, and sleepless nights. Only with distance, and with exploration of the self, did the wound begin to close up. Had I stayed, it would have festered and turned gangrenous.

From Maine, to Vermont, to NYC, to Mississippi, to Alabama, to Louisiana, to Florida – as far south down as Key West. I cried, I drank in excess, I slept, I ate my feelings. Memories of sweet words, warm embraces, and soft kisses flooded back to me daily, striking me with the force of a fighter, bruises left unseen but there nonetheless.

In Vermont, I covered myself in an old comforter against the winds of Lake Champlain. In New York City, I walked through the ghosts – our ghosts – of our time in Manhattan. On the train to the south, I woke hearing the whip of rail station poles cutting through my dreams of her. In Alabama, friends tried to heal with kindness the holes she’d punched into my psyche. Then, as I sat at the end of a stone wharf on the sea in Key West, water inches below my shoes and sea foam spraying up into my lap – I looked out at the raging sea and finally understood that she – with her mannequin smile and chameleon personality – never really loved me. I suppose I should have seen it sooner, but I’ll allow myself the misstep because even the greats have all been fooled by love once or twice in their lives. I’m certainly no great, but I’m also no better, either, in my naivete.

I held love for her – real love – and that was no small measure. Chameleons are predators, and in that sense I can’t blame her for following her natural instinct. I only fault her for the lies and in her knowing that I would let her devour me.