You have got to be kiddin me.
My mother’s rage would quietly simmer all day but sometime between the snack at the kitchen table after work and the nine o’clock news I would hear a “That Fucking Asshole!” followed by a couple choking sobs and I would have to remind her that in my world
Three days after my husband left me I awoke in my high school bedroom halfway across the country. The wallpaper, cream with country blue and blush pink flowers, enveloped me in that predawn light. The satin striped armchair, a recent acquisition, was a noble effort on my mother’s part to tie the room together, but just seemed oddly formal next to the banner that boasted my graduating class and the dried flowers from my junior year prom date placed neatly in a vase. It’s true, I thought to myself. I have entered hell.
I can’t quite remember it all, those first few days, hours, weeks. I would wake up in the middle of the night, spooning the one of my dogs. I would think that just for a moment, he was lying there next to me-it was last Christmas morning; we were on vacation. It would take moments, just enough time for my stomach to reknot after sleeping had calmed it down. I heard my parents shuffling downstairs, the crackle of turning newspaper pages, whispering to each other and catching words like “cheat” and “sonuvabitch” and “poor girl” and would realize the irony in the fact that this very bedroom, the one whose wallpaper made me ill and reminded me of how I had not lived up to my parents expectations, was my sanctuary.
My mom decided it was best if she took some time off. After all, her daughter needed a confidant and who better than her? I suppose there was some gratitude on my part for her efforts, she amazingly came to the rescue during that first week. However, I slowly realized that my divorce might end up being harder on her than me. I would walk through the door after work, and she would be curled up on the couch, her eyes red from crying. If I sat down, or wasn’t my cheery self, she would kindly place her hand on my arm and cock her head a little to the left, furrow her brows and look at me as if to say, come on say it, cry, cry, what the hell is the matter with you? Yeah, I thought. What the hell IS the matter with me?
It was only a few days later that I needed to get out of the house quick. As I sat watching my parents interact in their marriage-he comes home, she comes home, the argue about what to have for dinner (takeout) and finally deciding (she wins) and then down to the family room for an evening of television while dozing on the couch until it is time for bed-I got the sick feeling that maybe this isn’t what I wanted.
My oldest friend happened to be still living next door with her parents. We were older now, no longer the girls that would say we were going to the library, or taking a walk while we smoked Marlboro Lights and then doused ourselves with perfume from sample vials that we stashed in our pockets. When we were younger we would sneak off to the cemetery with our friends, drinking Icehouse and going to Taco Bell. She was the only reason I was ever able to get away with any of things I did. I would stick my head in the door, and just my head since my gelatinous body might give away evidence of alcohol consumption, and shout to my Dad who was dozing off watching Letterman or reruns of Nash Bridges that I was going over to her house. They knew, afterall, that she had cable. She was also allowed things like gummi bears and chocolate candies. Surely my parents didn’t expect me to be satisfied with PBS and generic unsalted pretzel rods forever.
One evening we went to the bookstore. A chain one, because this was suburbs. This was the first time I had been out of my house in weeks. I was pale, thin, hadn’t eaten in days. I had seventy five dollars to my name, since my ex had insisted on keeping separate accounts. The first thing I did was head to the self-help section. I have always been one for inner reflection, that whole self-actualization-always trying to get to the top of the triangle-enlightenment Paramahansa Yogananda stuff. As I stood there in front of the eleven books devoted to divorce (though thankfully I noticed that there were several shelves dedicated to “How to lose weight but not lose yourself!”) and looked at the titles-Why Can’t I Find Love? He Left.Again. How to tell Bobby that Daddy doesn’t live here anymore I slowly began to realize the predicament I was in-28 years old, educated and childless. Why would someone like me need help, let alone self-help? Where was the You Were an Uber-Wife. You’re Smart, Hold Several Degrees and You Forgave Your Husband Who Cheated On You and Supported Him and Cooked Him Dinner Every Night and He Left You Anyway? Oh, right, that can be found at the bottom of a tequila bottle.
I ended up buying a book that night. It was the only one I found that wasn’t filled with hatred, animosity, rage. In the days that followed I read it cover to cover-even the section that insultingly taught me how to balance a checkbook now that there wasn’t a man around to do it. And I realized the first and most important element in my road to recovery-that it turned out that nothing made one iota of a difference when it all came down to it. Because no matter how much I tried to be a good, moral, loving, faithful, loyal wife, there was the other party to contend with. Of course, being the intelligent woman I was, I figured with all of my self improvement strategies going on, surely my husband must have been affected, if not a downright participant in them. I made sure the lines of communication were always open. I made sure that I didn’t do the drama queen freak out thing when he wanted to go out with his friends. I made sure that my responses to him in strenuous situations didn’t shut him out, but welcomed him. Yes, I hear what you are saying and I feel that you deserve to have these feelings. Yes, you are right, I will try to be more understanding of you and your needs. Yes, I will own my own feelings. What do I think now? Fuck you.
My mother’s rage would quietly simmer all day but sometime between the snack at the kitchen table after work and the nine o’clock news I would hear a “That Fucking Asshole!” followed by a couple choking sobs and I would have to remind her that in my world, I didn’t call people names.And then I would silently remove myself from the mess of reality and go upstairs to my room where all I needed was the wallpaper to trigger my tears and they would come, albeit noiselessly. And they would fall for him, for me, for my dogs, for my loss of home, loss of job, loss of friends. They would fall because I had lost myself and though I would pray, would pray that this might be fixed, that I might be helped, be saved, no one answered my prayers and when I awoke in the morning the light would have fallen through the shutters onto that wallpaper once again.