I recalled that day, when we sat at dinner after an afternoon of bickering. I thought we had really connected after that argument. I felt our communication would truly move to the next level, create a deeper bond.
It didn’t though. I wonder some days, in retrospect, if it moved backwards.
It was a day that James had come home late, after being away at work for several days. I had been in the kitchen washing dishes when he had boldly walked out the front of the house. I bent my neck to see out the window and watched as he pulled a hunt cam from the large spruce tree out front our house.
The door opened and he re-emerged, camera and all in his hand.
“What’s that for?” I had asked, taken back that it had been in the tree facing the front door for the last several weeks.
“Watching for burglars,” he replied coy and walked out of the kitchen. I had followed, feeling unsatisfied with the response.
“The ones that you invite into our home.”
That’s when I snapped. He wasn’t talking about burglars at all, he was insinuating that I was cheating on him and the camera had been there to spy on me while he was away.
I still recalled how dry my throat had turned, how the words had failed me as James clicked through the photos. Nonchalantly watching day in, day out as I left the house or arrived back home.
How the words I had wanted to say were, “I should cheat on you, you bastard! You don’t even touch me anymore!” The thought caught in my throat and the world tipped as anxiety crushed my chest, the non-existent guilt rose from my own subconscious. A subconscious trampled on by James, it snapped in half when he clicked the camera off. He was satisfied his lonely wife remained lonely.
Gone were the days when he would touch and kiss me. Love me all day, everyday. In public, at home, morning, evening, Tuesday, Friday or even Sunday. It may have never been a show of affection in front of his friends but in front of my friends it would be an overly passionate kiss and caress that would embarrass me and my friends. Conducted to prove that I was James’ property and for a long while, I basked in it. Now it was gone, dead and forgotten. He would hardly look at me. Even in private.
Passion dies, that’s when communication is supposed to take over…right?
That’s when the ‘love yourself” is supposed to come into play but when so many shadows and doubts are placed in your mind, how are you supposed to trust even that love?
Since in the end it is only you. We are all doomed to be lonely if we cannot love ourselves.
My mother had always told me relationships are build on three things: money, communication and sex.
Cause if there was no money, there would be fighting and strain finically is hard to emotionally compensate for.
When is no communication, money cannot fix the fighting over jealousy, inattention or lack of understanding.
And when there’s no sex? There is self-doubt, low confidence, jealousy, questioning, depression, weight gain, lack of motivation and wandering eyes. It does nothing good, at all.
I had always heard once that as a teenager, that is the best sex you would have your whole life. So why do we have such restrictions on our teenage years? To end up with okay 20’s, regretful 30’s, infidel 40’s, divorcee 50’s and heart attack of regret 60’s?
When I confronted James, told him I needed more, more love, more affection, he seemed to push me away harder.
“Just touch me, kiss me. Pretend I’m beautiful, act like I turn you on. Please!” I needed it, pathetic really, but I did. I had cried, he promised to take me out for dinner.
I obliged, it wasn’t the hot passion I was looking for but food would suffice. We spoke, about nothing at all and that didn’t bother me, what bothered me was your eyes were stuck on the waitress. Yeah, she was hot but that was her job. To be good looking and collect tips for how flirtatious she could be, whilst bringing the next best thing to sex: food.
It dug at my soul, how James could say he had no interest in sex, that he was getting older and his libido was dipping but his eyes were dragging along with this woman’s legs. Half way through my first beer, the appetizers arrived. I stuffed one bite of the shrimp dynamite roll into my mouth. The rice stuck to my tongue and then I couldn’t swallow. A swig of beer helped the cement down my throat but it didn’t stop the panic attack.
As if my insides had froze and were exploding with food, no matter the fact that I knew i was hungry, nothing would go down. James had noticed when I put my fork down. I needed a minute, I knew it would pass. I was a pro at this.
“What the fuck is your problem now?” His words smacked harder than I had anticipated, “it’s always something with you, isn’t it.”
I couldn’t tell him, I picked my fork up and stuffed another shrimp in my mouth. The flavors were amazing but the cement mass solidified how ultimately lonely I was. No one understood and everyone saw my husband’s smile as he winked at the waitress.
I had sat straighter in my chair, I had attempted to maintain the air of happiness that James so desperately required. Something in his soul screamed for never a dispute, never a complaint. Well I had one, and it was eating me.
For the second time in our marriage, I attempted to explain to James about anxiety. I told him the fact that I’d had a panic attack, a few moments earlier. His face appeared blank, as if processing the information.
“It silently kills me on the inside,” I had remarked.
“Why do you let it do that?” He arrogantly retorted.
“I can’t control it.” I replied and had watched in horror as my meal was delivered. It marked the point that I would have to force feed myself a full meal, rather than minute shrimp.
“It’s not real, it’s in your head. You can control it.”
“Just like a schizophrenic can control their outbursts?” I snapped, his fork dug straight into his food and my flimsy back bone.
“Yeah, it’s in their heads too. They’re weak if they can’t control it, that’s what medication is for. The weak.”
I willed the spaghetti noodles to grow and choke him but he had slurped them back without a problem. Made a disgusting mess on his face but the waitress appeared and seemed to find it attractive. Handed him a napkin and a comment under her breath that was not meant for me.
The flush in my face grew hotter, I found it hard to keep in my seat. My hand shook when I had tried to pick up my fork and when the waitress turned and asked if it was okay, I simply replied, “no, take it back.” It was the harshest thing I had ever said at a restaurant but I could not stomach my husband’s behavior, eating habit and assumption of mental health.
“I got no sympathy for that shit, unless your arm is broken and you can’t work, you’re fine. Suck it up, get on with it.” James continued and never asked why I sent my meal back. I sat, stone faced and watched the wall as my husband finished his food.
I meditated for many moons after that night, I tried to get a handle on my anxiety. It’s a pathway in the brain, a short cut from point A to point B. Once your brain knows that pathway, there is no going back. Your brain can learn it faster than a down beat of your heart but you can never unlearn it. You can never forget it or ignore it. Every persons anxiety is different. So, even when one person pretends to understand what you’re going through, they never fully understand. They never fully get it. It is your own personal hell, inside your mind. It’s secret and hidden from everyone, no matter how much they love you. You are alone in it.
The unseen horrors of my own imagination drown me daily, invisibly.
Approximately two years and three months later, I showed James how weak I was. I walked out the door.
A little box sat in my hand, the memory had flooded in and taken me away from what I was doing. I sat on the hard fabric chair of the hotel, another money sucking escapade after the horror of the croonie packed camp site.
The box had nothing in it but a metaphor. One I recalled from my younger years when something bothered you, you would write it on paper and burn the pages. I couldn’t afford to buy and burn a book of paper and was sure my carpal tunneled wrists would not put up with the amount of writing I would have to potentially do.
So, this box was to hold all the touched up make days before James had come home. The silent cries in the washroom with the tap running, and the endless lies I told not only to myself but my daughter as well.
Next to me on the table was a rock from the parking lot out front. A pebble that I had pocketed that appeared the shape of a heart. I opened the box, exhaled and subconsciously let go of the pain I carried and dropped the rock of dependence on James into the box.
The dependence on his strength in front of others, on his love I wanted to fill my pitted soul and on breaking my worries. He ripped those things from me as if he forced me to stand alone. Since it was not him ripping me apart, it was me. The holes I wanted covered over with bits of James should have been corrected by myself. I fell so fast and hard because I depended on someone else to hold me. I don’t need James to do that. I don’t want him to understand cause I don’t want him to hold me up any longer.
The rock sat dubiously in the bottom of the box. I purchased it from the dollar store but for even just the buck I paid, it was pretty elegant. A soft velvet covered the sides and my finger continued to caress the feel of it. It was an impossible pink of the cactus flower you never thought possible. I closed the lid and set the box on the table.
The dollar store visit ended with bags of candy, a few new crafts for Sadie and I to create and a cheap coloring book. The inexpensive shopping trip still landed my bank account down to $17,410.
The first few nights I bought the fanciest hotel I could find to make up for the fear I showed Sadie. The proverbial man pumping his chest. We went clothing shopping, got our hair done and went to the movies.
I don’t like ‘buying love’ but at this point I felt Sadie needed it. She needed the materialistic things of the 21st century. She needed those pleasures, it was too ingrained in her soul.
It’s August 31st , my birthday is less than a month away and then my son’s birthday shortly after. I had spoken to my mother a few times and yes James had contacted her as well. Funny she had never passed on a message left by him, I guess he had nothing to say?
Then again, James would never show need, or weakness as he would call it. There was no chance you could get him to admit he needed someone. I was a pawn in his life, luckily one that can cook but if the pot boiled over, he was out. It didn’t matter that I kept the house clean or bought him new socks. When I gave his children unconditional love for years, principles stood for nothing cause James didn’t want to fight with his ex-girlfriends on account of my beliefs. As a pawn is meant to do, I would take the brashness head on. The back handed comments, the lies and manipulation and then be lifted off the game board and placed to the side until it was reset.
I should have known better than to receive a message through my mother from my husband that I left. That would be too compassionate for him. Especially after nearly six months of my disappearance and the days growing closer to my birthday. That would show way too much love.
I pushed the box to the back of the table, I wasn’t sure what to do with it yet. Sadie stirred in the bed next to mine. Good timing since it derailed my self sabotaging thoughts.
“Morning,” she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Her hair was the definition of bed head.
“Good morning,” I beamed at her but my smile must not have been wide enough, she scrunched her nose up at me. She saw through my fluff and could maybe even smell the emotional turmoil. I guess James had never taught me well enough how to dissipate feelings that quick. I swallowed and tried again, “what time are we meeting your dad?”
“Ten a-m,” she sat and stiffened her back, as a drill sergeant giving orders. She giggled and climbed out of the down filled blanket. Age had caused the feathers to poke out of small holes but it was still better than previous INN’s we had been at. “he wants to buy you breakfast.” She remarked as she poured the last mug of our complimentary coffee.
“Uhhh,” I mimic the vomit sound that Sadie makes when she dislikes something. The last thing I wanted to do was join my ex-boyfriend for breakfast. Maybe I could get away with just a cup of coffee? “Why? That’s so awkward!” I complained like a child but Sadie didn’t care.
“Not like you’re with James anymore.,” she loved pretending to hate the man, I knew she didn’t. He was her father figure since she had been 4 years old, they should have a stronger bond but this was James we were talking about.
“Yes, I am, Sadie. We’re still together. I’m taking a break from life. Not my husband”
“Sure mom,” she rolled her eyes, teenage sarcasm thick, “Have you talked to him?”
“Your husband!” she laughed at the rise of color in my cheeks. I had spaced out for a moment and lost the conversation, or maybe it was purposely.
“When was the last time you did?”
“Um, six months ago, before we left.”
“Then you’re single. You should just get back with my Dad.” She shrugged like it was no big thing, let’s just break up and get back together again. I laughed in response and tossed the small box at her. It hit the ground and bounced behind the coffee pot stand. A shrill of horror shot through my chest when I thought she might turn her attention to the locked little emotion box but instead she poured her coffee and sat back on her bed. I tried to pretend I didn’t care where that box landed, but I did. I cared more than I should.
Before we turned the corner to the restaurant for breakfast with her father, I insisted on a parting hug and kiss. The plan was that Sadie would visit him for another month. She was bored and I needed quiet time, my emotions were drowning my thoughts and I couldn’t dog paddle much longer. I had to learn to backstroke to really get somewhere.
“Why aren’t you coming in for breakfast?” Her face read disappointment.
“I’m not really hungry boo,” a childhood nickname that made her smile. She hugged me again before she turned into the bacon smell of the ABC Restaurant. I was starved but after the conversation we had this morning I felt it may be an awkward breakfast. I had a strange premonition about this breakfast. Maybe she wanted it as a set up, not sure but I wasn’t about to walk through that door.
I spun on my heel to leave as she entered the restaurant. Searched up the street and back down. Sandwich boards pulled out and placed on streets, lights clicked on and the small town grew awake. Laid back time was great for owners but for morning birds like myself, it meant my only choice was the restaurant behind me or the local Tim Horton’s. Neither option held my interest. People slept in, stayed up late and kicked back to enjoy life. You can feel it, you could smell it and taste it in the coffee they brew. Made with an extra sprinkle of enthusiasm. Or THC crystals, I wasn’t quite sure.
I recognized the voice before I had to even look, it was Sadie’s Dad. He stood in the open restaurant door and a quick thought told me to walk. Reluctantly I turned to face him.
“Oh, hey Matt. I just told Sadie I’m not….”
“Look, I don’t know what you think you’re going to accomplish with this,” He took a step towards me. His adam’s apple bounced from the strain of his words, “I can’t have Sadie sleeping on a beach.”
“We’re in a hotel Matt,” I rolled my eyes. I wasn’t about to come stay with him if that’s what he wanted.
“But you weren’t, and Sadie told me you don’t have much money. What will you do when it runs out? Huh? Have you thought of how you will feed her when money runs out?” He took another step toward me, as a zoo keeper would with an electric rod in his hand. Slightly crouched as if I were caged and about to strike.
“What about when this year is over, will you even have a home to return to? She’s lost all her friends, she has three pairs of clothing. Where’s all her baby pictures huh? All the belongings I have bought her over the years!” His voice raises with the apparent anger, his hands swung into the air as if showing the empty space to me as my life was. Empty and I had dragged my daughter down into my empty space. I cannot see the restaurant behind him, he had taken steps toward me that all he had to do was reach and he could grab me.
I glanced back down the streets that now appeared threateningly empty. No one was there to help or support me and it became clear why Matt had asked me to breakfast.
A police car had rolled up the street, the doors cracked open an inch.
“What is this, Matt?”
“When is she going back to school? Huh? You’re going to make her miss grade nine, that’s an important year! She could fail, did you think of that?” His rant falls to deaf ears as the police vehicle opens the doors wider. “It’s illegal to pull her from school, that’s kidnapping if it’s without my consent”
“What is this, Matt?” I screamed, I tried to step backward from him. He wasn’t here to support me and the police emerged from their vehicle. I had no one to held. I hadn’t realized the situation had escalated. How easily it had spun out of control. My mouth struck dry, I had no words to say and before I could hear more of Matt’s words, I turned and ran.
He didn’t try to stop me, he had what he wanted already. I never meant to put Sadie in danger or to set her up to fail school. I had never meant to hurt anyone, I didn’t even know what I had meant. Sadie had told me I’m single now by default, my husband never left a message and the street in front of me was vacant of everyone. I had nothing.
I ran until my heart felt it would burst, even then the panic did not ease from my muscles. It gripped hard but it also allowed my legs to carry me far. I ran until I didn’t recognize my surroundings, until I was no longer sure if I were even in Parksville anymore. Until I couldn’t remember what Matt had yelled after me as I darted, until his final words of, “I’m keeping Sadie. I’ve called the Ministry,” didn’t register.
It’s like those dreams you have, when you’re running but you don’t absorb your surroundings. You can’t run fast enough and you don’t know why you’re running. Reality hits and fear drains your energy. Exhaustion strips you of oxygen. Until you feel a burn deep in your lungs but it’s desperation and burnt adrenaline collapses you. The grass gives no comfort as you collapse. There’s no intention of lifting yourself back up. Tears dry up from regret and you sob so loud that you think you’ll wake. But you don’t, cause your not dreaming. This is no nightmare. It’s your life and you burnt everything you had and now you’re alone.
When you think something is not quite right or not quite good, you think ‘maybe I need to walk away.’
Then as your walking your mind clears of the emotional fog.
Those silly fights that were once emotionally charged with anger settle.
But now you have walked too far.
Now you don’t recognize your surroundings and you’re alone.
Now there is only forward.