Coura Devka

June 15, 2012

Coming home from a meeting at the airport I decide on a whim I will take the scenic route and stop at the farm in Varina. I drive with little else on my mind but wonder of this spectacular June day. Though usually gated and locked, I see the farmer who leases the land is there and the gate is open so I drive slowly down the long flat lane, taking in the large expansive fields flanking it, towards the cottage my husband and I once lived in.

A powerful memory is unlocked and I am suddenly driving down this same lane on an identical day one Saturday in June, all those years ago.

We had been seeing each other for four years at the time. I lived in a cottage on a farm at the battlefields a few miles east. We had decided since my lease was ending I would move in with him. This particular Saturday we’d spoken in the morning and I was to come midday to finalize the move plans. Like today, I drive the familiar road, turning into the farm, continuing down the lane. I park. I enter the small cottage and walk through the kitchen and living room. When I get to the small hall with the bedroom on my right, he is standing inside the bedroom door, and she is there. I have no way of knowing as I attempt to enter that the woman in his bed will spend the rest of our relationship with us.

I begin to cry. He moves towards me and gently pushes me back and out of the room. The scene is clear. His look, a slight upturning of his lips when he first saw me, as though he is about to smile. I become hysterical, crying and screaming how could you, you knew I was coming. Pushing against his bare chest. His look turns to disdain. He grabs my shoulders and says ‘you are making a scene, pull yourself together, it’s unbecoming of you’, pushing me backwards into the living room. I refuse to leave, insisting she must. Pushing back as I try to move around him to confront her, pull her from his bed, our bed. Finally defeated, broken, I back down. I get in my car and drive back to my place, leaving them together.

What I don’t recall is how it came to be that I continued to move in with him later that month, only that I did. Whether he renounced her or apologized (unlikely as he never did), I proceeded and in doing so I defined that there was no limit to what I was willing to endure. The rest, as they say, is history. My history.

Newly single after breaking off an engagement to the man I had moved to Richmond with, someone I’d been seeing only a few months before saying yes, my epic story of love, lust and betrayal began with an older, sophisticated man’s focused pursuit of me; naïve and headstrong, all of 21. I have always loved the idea of being in love, but in truth it is not a state I have found myself in many times. He was the first to profess love and seemed determined to make me his solely. Despite his arduous attempts I was not easily convinced. Though flattered, I held out a considerable length of time. I found the impracticality of our romance off putting and preferred the autonomy of keeping my options open. Immediately pulled to him in an almost drug like obsession, it was years before I finally fell madly, hopelessly, haplessly in love. I fell hard and solidly. Starry eyed, I came to believe my prince had been there all along, I had only just noticed it was him. The tables turned and I became the relentless pursuer of the man of my dreams, as I am apt to do when something or someone has garnered my attention.

Today as I sit on the grass between the main house and cottage, both long abandoned, I feel the continuous rhythm of hay baling, one after the other and the images flash back before me. Her name, Coura Devka, was to become a familiar name in our household. She was the interloper in our relationship and marriage, though I felt it was me who was the interloper; the invited yet unwelcomed observer. The third. The outsider.

I guess I need to get Coura over here to teach you how to cook. If you can’t help me I’ll just get Coura to. You better watch your step. I’ll leave you for Coura. If you don’t do your ‘homework’, Coura will do it for you. If I’d married Coura she would have taken care of me….thrown in my face over twenty plus years, all compressed into this one painful paragraph.

Of course, Coura Devka is not her name. I have allowed myself the latent luxury of overt passive aggression in the choice of the Czech pseudo name for my pitted rival, my nemesis. Waves of nausea come as I say her real name aloud. The wind moves across the field and the distant baling machine drowns it out to even me. Tears well and almost in slow motion fall, one at a time, onto my black linen dress, weirdly synchronized to the baling rhythm. I am overwhelmed by the sudden realization this new layer has been peeled back revealing yet another stuffed back, down, numbed glimpse of a life changing event. One in which my veil of naïveté was forever chinked. I try to see it as a breakthrough that will help me in a future relationship, at once understanding intimacy, lost, is likely impossible to reclaim. I don’t mean physical intimacy, rather the betrayal of emotional intimacy.

The winter after he died, going through his things I found some pictures. They were not recent. They were not old. The place she occupied in our life was the place I had occupied in another woman’s life, a lifetime prior. All of us, and many other casual encounters spanning throughout all our tenure; we were all part of the feeding and care of an insatiable ego housed in a package that looked so perfect and proper on the outside.

I feel a huge sense of relief when I write some posts. This, however, leaves me tearful. The ultimate not measuring up, not being enough, not being the one. I know it was his, not mine. But I would not write my love story’s ending in this way. I would write it as my life partner, my soul mate, found. The missing piece of my heart matched and completed. My childlike innocent view of love and marriage, to just be deliriously and securely in love, is in my story forever shrouded and marred by my experiences. We carry the dirt from the path we’ve walked into the next place we go, our past creating our present. This is a bitter truth for me, this day in particular.

I can’t help but be left with an unshakeable melancholy. I memorialize this event, this day, in a picture and post it on my Facebook page.

‘Cause you can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable and life’s like an hourglass glued to the table. No one can find the rewind button now, so cradle your head in your hands. A. Nalick

About Lisette d. Johnson

Murder-Suicide Survivor, Mom, Writer, Speaker, Serial Volunteer in the Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Assault Arena, Entrepreneur, &amp Friend. I survived, my kids survived, and I am here to tell the story.
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