Release and Hold Harmless
by Lucy Wilde
Release and Hold Harmless
This Mutual Release and Hold Harmless Agreement (“the Agreement”) is effective as of this date, July 24, 2013, between the first and second party. Both parties enter the Agreement at Vancouver General Hospital Intensive Care Unit, Vancouver, B.C.
Between: Lucy Wilde (the first party)
And: Robert Wilde (the second party)
We, the signatories, acknowledge that taking part in common-law cohabitation (“the Activity”) involves certain risks and that misunderstanding, betrayal, heartbreak, property damage, physical injuries, and death could potentially occur in the duration of, or as a result of, participation in the said Activity.
The first party hereby undertakes to release and hold harmless the second party from any guilt, remorse or self-loathing, as a result of the second party’s actions or inactions while taking part in the said Activity, including any and all behaviors described as volatile, critical, contemptuous, disrespectful, discomforting, and disarming, and causing the first party to experience feelings including, but not limited to, lack of self-esteem and self-respect, anger, remorse, trepidation, betrayal, heartbreak, and grief.
In particular, this Agreement absolves the second party of any liability or blame with regard to the following behaviour:
a. When first dating, used his wit to disarm her. Also, to beguile her former roommate and his female colleagues, for the purpose of reminding the first party that he was desirable.
b. On their second date, insisted he did not want to be the first party’s therapist. Spent the next seventeen years analyzing her every move and utterance. One day he would praise her, the next day find fault, feel it was his duty to show her the truth.
c. In celebration of one month of dating, decorated his living room like a campsite in the woods, complete with cedar boughs, a Coleman lantern, hot dogs, and marshmallows. The purpose, to romance his way out of having to leave the apartment. Buying time until he could tell the first party that darkness and wide-open spaces made him anything but calm. Each venture outdoors turned his heart murmur to a cacophony.
d. After three months of dating, asked the first party to move in. When she hesitated, gave her an ultimatum: agree to move in with him or he would move back to Ontario to start a new life.
e. Starting a year into co-habitation, like a snake charmer, sang made-up songs to the first party mostly between the hours of 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., making her laugh until she was too giddy to refuse him anything, including driving to 7-11 for more Camels and Cornettos. Even while knowing that his inertia and indulgence would prey slowly on his weakened heart.
f. After seventeen years of co-habitation, when his heart was exhausted, resented the first party for treating him like one of her patients. All she could do was feed him, help him dress and undress, and get on and off the toilet. Give him a sponge bath every morning at 5:30, before she went to work to care for other sick people. Every day asked her to stop fussing and doing and sit down and just be with him, something he knew she was incapable of doing.
g. Always brutally honest, told the first party that if the tables were turned, he would never be able to take care of her in the same way.
h. A few days prior to this Agreement, threw a glass of cold water in the first party’s face to stop her from taking the last bit of control he had over his life, from finishing the sentence, “You have to go to the hospital.”
i. Waited until the mounting pressure turned the fault line in his heart into a rupture, before agreeing to go to the hospital.
j. From the stretcher, on the way to the ambulance, touched everything in his path: the wooden table they restored, his steel guitar, the leather coat he had given her on their 15th anniversary, the dogs’ soft, upturned faces.
The second party hereby undertakes to release and hold harmless the first party from the necessity of guilt, remorse or self-loathing, as a result of the first party’s actions or inactions, including any and all behaviours described as manipulative, indecisive, distrustful, timorous, martyrish, and dishonest, and causing the second party to experience feelings including, but not limited to, shame, guilt, lack of self-respect, depression, resentment, anger, betrayal, and heartbreak.
In particular, this Agreement absolves first party of any liability or blame with regard to the following behavior:
a. In the first two months of dating, made petulant inquiries after any mutually enjoyable exchange or conversation the second party had with another woman.
b. On the second date, stated adamantly to the second party that she wanted a partner not a therapist. Then proceeded to spit out all the splinters that had been lodged in her heart from past relationships, as she watched him absorb them into his own heart.
c. Agreed to move in with the second party after three months, when she knew she wasn’t ready. Had a night-terror-inducing fear of being trapped in a relationship (and an equal fear of being alone).
d. Always told the second party that everything was okay (as she had since learning to speak). Agreed she didn’t like going out either, was happy to stay home and watch movies too. But after months of never going anywhere, suffered recurring dreams of someone putting a pillow over her face. Lied about it when she woke screaming and he wrapped her in his arms, repeating, “It’s okay, you’re safe. You’re safe.”
e. Knew that the second party’s health was deteriorating, but still gave him second helpings of pasta. Hoped that filling his never-ending emptiness would fill her own.
f. Pretended she wasn’t bothered by the second party’s resentment of her being his caregiver, adopted the overly cheerful, efficient persona she used at work taking care of other sick people.
g. Resented the second party for being the honest man of her dreams. Screamed at him to shut up when he spoke the “truth.”
h. Mid-sponge bath, after the second party had thrown cold water in her face to stop her from cry-yelling “You have to go to the hospital, or you’re going to die,” hit him over the head with the open, half-empty container of Monkey Butt talcum powder. They silently watched it float down, covering him and his computer in a fine snow. They laughed until they could hardly breathe.
i. In the Intensive Care Unit, watched mutely as doctors put the second party’s body through endless mutilations and indignities.
j. Was relieved when they finally stopped.
*Amendment: Signature of designated representative required, as second party is on a life-support system which will be switched off on this day, July 24, 2013. Second party witnessed by the representative to have agreed to the terms of the contract and amendment before experiencing a decreased LOC (level of consciousness).
Life support ends for second party at 2100 hours. Herewith both parties are released from all liability or blame.
Lucy Wilde is an emerging writer who recently moved from Vancouver to a cottage in the forest on Salt Spring Island, B.C., Canada. She divides her time between writing and communing with her erudite horse, Magic, who lives on a nearby farm. Her writing has appeared in several publications including Barren Magazine, The Citron Review, and Atticus Review.