Films tell the truth 24 times a second.

- Jean Luc Godard

It was not as if Ann was unable to deal with separation: Her mother had been married and divorced three times, and only recently called in the middle of the night from her new Mill Valley home to ask what she should wear for an evening's frolic in a young Arab's hot tub.

Ann could understand these vagaries of human sentiment: the nibble on the ear one night; the cold stare over the grapefruit the next morning. At 29, she already had lived with several men. One left to return to his wife, another to find his soul in the Yucatan, a third because he claimed her two macaw birds got more attention than he did.

But John had been different. He had grown up in the Bronx and strutted around the city singing old Dion songs as if he owned the streets.

In a way he did, because John was a cop. Ann had moved to New York two-and-a-half years ago to become a very hip journalist, driving there in her 1969 Mustang convertible - the one remnant of her Midwestern sorority days. She had met John a few weeks after her arrival, while writing a piece on the unmacho side of New York's finest.

John was actually quite macho - a big leap from the club-tie guys Ann used to meet while working on Capitol Hill. Or so she said. And added that she'd love her mother to think that she was having a blue-collar romance.

This particular fling turned passionate, and within six months Ann and John were ensconced together in her charming little garden apartment in Greenwich Village. He merely called it small, but admitted that he was happy to live small as long as small meant too small for the macaws. He said he liked her goofy humor and her slinky sense of style and her fire-red nail polish. She said she liked his swagger, his New York manner of speech and his brutish air of certainty. She loved to watch him put his Dan Wesson .38 Special in the dresser drawer every day when he came in off the beat.

In two years together, the couple (whose names have been changed here) had become a model of stability, saved from being a habit only by their eternal bouts of wit.

Last week they went to see Woody Allen's latest film, "Manhattan." They laughed through the movie and held hands when John didn't have his right arm casually draped around Ann's shoulder.

They almost made it through the film uneventufully when, in the last few minutes, both and John became stiff in their seats. Woody Allen had been running crosstown when slowly, around a corner, came Ann's Mustang: John unmistakably in the driver's seat, his arm tightly around another woman.

John slouched deep.

Ann tried to be rational, breathing deeply and thinking about the times John had used the car last summer, when the movie was being shot.

"You said you were going to officer's training camp," she exploded, loud enough to obliterate the film's dialogue.

With that she slapped him, and he ran out of the theater.

And Ann went home and threw every one of John's possessions two stories down to the sidewalk of 8th Street. CAPTION: Illustration, no caption, By Gaal Shepherd for The Washington Post