Tuesday, July 28, 2015


“You’re sure you don’t know my husband?” Francis Browning asks again.

“Yes, I’m sure,” I reply. “You made it very clear on the phone that your husband is a psychologist in town and I definitely wouldn’t have agreed to see you if I knew him in any way.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just so hard to trust anyone anymore. I can’t even believe I’m willing to see a psychologist myself, but I have to talk to someone or I’ll go crazy. Sometimes I can’t stop crying. Other times I walk around the house screaming. I can’t believe he’d do this. Why drag me all the way here only to dump me?” Francis digs her fingernails into her hands, her face contorted with rage.

I remain silent.

“I’m from Kansas,” she says. “A Kansas farm girl. People in south Florida laugh at me. They don’t think anyone lives in Kansas. And they don’t believe anyone works a farm. I don’t know where they think their meat and produce come from. Just magically appear in the grocery store I suppose. I hate it here. People are incredibly rude, unfriendly. I never wanted to come here. But Richard loved it when we vacationed here, the sun, the manicured lawns, year-round golf. He kept saying as soon as the girls went off to college we’d move. I thought he was just talking. I went on with my life. It wasn’t a very exciting life, but it was my life. I kept busy with my friends and volunteer work. I never finished college. I thought I was so lucky that someone like Richard would want me. Ha! Guess that’s a joke.”

As Francis talks, I think about how painful my move from Ann Arbor, Michigan to south Florida was, how gut-wrenching it felt to leave my friends, my practice and my home, how alien south Florida seemed. I, too, left because of my husband, but we had a warm, loving relationship and although I sometimes felt angry, I knew the move was necessary. Francis’ story obviously has a different trajectory.

“So the girls went off to college,” Francis continues, “and Richard started making plans to move. I kept asking him if he was sure he wanted to start over again in his fifties, but I

guess I never gave him much of an argument.”

“Did you tell him you didn’t want to move?”

“He knew. But I always did what he wanted. He didn’t expect much opposition from me. So we moved and I hated it as much as I thought I would. Moving into a country club community was my idea of a nightmare. I don’t play golf or tennis. I don’t play cards, which kind of eliminates everything women do in those places. Richard was happy as a clam – working hard, I have to give him that – involved in all kinds of stuff at the club. He started watching his weight, coloring his hair. Wanted me to do all that too. Said I looked dowdy. I should have known. I should have realized he’d start looking elsewhere. I should have tried harder, done what he said.”

“You seem to go from being really angry with your husband to blaming yourself.”

“Yeah. Maybe if I’d done the things he’d asked we’d still be together. But too late now. Moved in with another woman. In the same club of course. Talk about being laughed at. I keep asking myself why I don’t move back to Kansas.”

“That’s a good question. Why don’t you?”

“Partly it’s shame. Not too many people back home know what’s happened. The girls of course, but I haven’t wanted to tell my friends. And I don’t know. I guess it’s silly, but I like Richard to know I’m still around, still watching what he’s doing, like I’m here and you can’t get rid of me so easily.”

“You know, Francis, I’m left wondering what you want for your life. What you’ve ever wanted for your life. You’ve spent your life wrapped around your husband and what he wants. What about you?”

Francis glares at me. “Typical career woman! You sit there talking down to me and telling me about my choices.”

I’m taken aback by Francis’ venom. Am I a stand-in for her husband? For the other woman? 

“I’m sorry,” she says. “I just don’t know what to do with my rage.”

“You never have to apologize for your feelings here, Francis.”

“I never wanted to be a career woman. I wanted to be a wife and mother and look where that got me. I’m being punished for getting what I wanted. You’re not supposed to want. You’re just supposed to accept whatever God gives you.”

“It’s hard not to want, Francis.”

“Maybe. But wanting and getting burned is no better.”

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