I woke, the car was cold and off. It had run out of gas and I was half drunk sleeping in the middle of a frozen provincial park. Just as I had feared.
But it wasn’t that bad. I called BCAA, requested a jerrycan of gas and I was back on my way. And there was only one place left I knew I could go. My parents house.
“Becca,” my mother had sobbed when she opened the door to see me. Her hair had grown grey, her eyes appeared sad but her arms were still open and welcoming. “You look like shit.”
“Hi Mom,” I walked straight into the warmth of her arms and I let everything go. I cried and apologized for nothing I had done wrong to her. My father heard and came to the door as well.
“Have you spoken to James?” Were his first words to me, he liked James and for as silent and strong as my dad was, he always knew how to make me crumble. They led me into their home and said of course I could stay with them.
“I spoke to him, he hung up on me.” I choked out between sobs, the realization of what I’ve done being irrevocable.
“Can you blame him?” My father was so blunt, so right.
“I didn’t even get to say anything, it was the awkward first hello and he hung up! He didn’t want to even hear a word from my mouth,” I sat on the first chair inside their house and cried. My father made me a drink and my mother sat next to me.
“Let’s talk about it,” she put a loving hand on my arm and I broke. I told her about all the petty fights we’d had over the last few years. She already knew of the hardship we had in the beginning of our marriage but she didn’t know how toxic it ran after the kids were no longer around. How we began stabbing at each other with words once we no longer had children to fight for.
Even through explaining to my mother, I realized it was almost as if we started our relationship on a fight and it was all we knew how to do. It was all I knew how to do, to over analyze. To rip apart what James would say to me and turn it into something bad.
We sat and drank far into the night and by the time I woke in the morning, I felt I had to categorize my thoughts. I had to work through everything and decide what was still bothering me and what was false accusations.
I find myself sitting on a beach. These last ten months had set me in a position where I find time lapses missing in my day. As if alcohol wasn’t taking enough from my nights, stress and fear of the future cut large black holes in my days.
I spent the time at my parents house to call my daughter and have deeper conversations. I even apologized for what I had done, although she didn’t understand the apology since she were happier than a pig in shit at her dad’s. Jax was hardly phased either, it didn’t effect him at all. He had been happy to hear I left James, of course.
The sun warmed my skin, but not my soul. It felt heavy and dark. I screwed up. When I should have dealt with my problems head on, I ran. Leaving my family to crumble. I isolated myself from life as I knew it. This is what I had wanted and somehow coming to this point seemed anti-climatic as all I wanted to do was go back in time.
To request counselling when we needed it, to discuss problems right when they had happened. To point out words that hurt and left bruises on my emotional well being. I now yearn for affection and closeness that I cannot even turn to my daughter for.
Regret doesn’t even cover how I feel. Sadie may never want to leave the island again, I know I wouldn’t. Fort St John is a frozen ice hole compared to Vancouver Island.
The sun may be bright this morning but my sun glasses are doing their part to keep it from scorching my irises. It hid my tears as I watched happy couples stroll beach fronts. Setting up picnics on rocky beaches just to close to each other. The picnic table I sat at was freezing cold, the pre-spring sun did nothing to warm it.
I watched jealously as a young couple held hands. The woman is near my age and the man looked to be twice hers. She could be a gold digger, but the smile on the man’s face said it didn’t matter.
I recalled advice I had been told when reentering the dating world. To choose someone that is opposite what I would usually go for, “a guy that you would never look twice at.” Is what my friends told me after getting out of a toxic, cheating relationship with Sadie’s father.
“A guy with his own house, car and steady job!” They had exclaimed, although most of them didn’t have children or even a steady job of their own.
“So, you want me to be a gold digger?” I had laughed at my friend’s advice. So I had met James, at a grocery store picking out oranges as I was told, “grocery store is where they’re at!” and we went on a date. I had thought James was nearly ten or fifteen years older than me. I had been wrong but that didn’t stop me from falling in love with him. He ended up being a few years younger than me and his life was in shambles more than my own.
We had fun, lots of fun. We went on adventures, extravagant dinners, shopping sprees like we had won the lottery! We drank red bulls while scratching lottery tickets and watched movies til 3 am. I fell in love, fast and so did he and we married quick. Was that wrong? I wonder to myself as I sit alone and a divorcee by default.
A bird’s loud caw behind me startled my thoughts, jolting me back to the present. The couple on the rock beach in Penticton were sharing a kiss. The water lapping up on their toes, it seemed picture perfect. The man embraced his woman firmly, I could see the love emitting off them and I missed it. It pulled at my heart but seemingly with a string attached, it brought another memory with it. As if the two were one and the same. The beginning and the end.
We had purchased a new house and James had been working a new job. With a new job came a pay raise, which is always nice. However, the number of times I had to comment that money isn’t everything was getting exhausting. Our fun had faded, when I would mention going out for dinner he would reply with “let’s order pizza”. Always quick to want to stay in, I became more comfortable with the lazy life style as well.
James had been away at work for a solid week when the weather had finally warmed. The snow melted and the grass was showing. I took it upon myself to rearrange the backyard, with a black dirt border all around the lawn having been a flower garden the year before, I decided it was best for it to just be grass. We had two large dogs that love to dig when there is fresh dirt.
I spent the week, ripping out black landscaping mats, shoveling dirt, wheelbarrow dirt and putting up restriction fences to keep the dogs out of the fresh mud. I just needed it to dry some so I could seed it and grow fresh grass.
After that week of work, I then spent the next week preparing for James’ birthday. Which of course is on the same day as Sadie’s and just after Mother’s Day. Making it a busy two weeks of shopping, gardening, still working full time and cleaning winter dog shit.
I woke to sizzling bacon smells in the house, two days after James’ and Sadie’s birthday. It was a Sunday morning and the weather was beautiful. James made me breakfast and woke me with a kiss and a mothers day platter of food. I happily eat with him and agree to join him for a brisk morning walk with the dogs.
“When do you want to move that dog fence?” James asked me, as we walked side by side. Each with a dog leash in hand. I am walking our boxer, Luna and he is walking our Catahoula Leopard dog, Thor.
“Today would be great, then I could put seed in next….”
“You should seed it today,” James replied but it was more a command. He hardly flinched at the fact he cut me off mid-sentence.
“No, I want to be sure we won’t have frost again.” I had retorted, having been fully informed by all my gardener friends that had lived and gardened in the north for years.
“You’re taking away half the back yard from the dogs,” he snapped in response to the dog fence that cut through the yard (to protect the digging up of dirt.)
“They wont mind, they have lots of room. I want to be sure…”
“You already won’t let them in your garden,” his anger thick on his tongue. The type of words that you can stab with. I looked sideways to him, tried to determine how it shifted so quickly.
“That’s because Thor will dig up my raspberries, piss on my carrots. Don’t you remember what happened when Luna was a puppy?” I replied, I had hoped it would bring up the memory of my ruined snow peas, the chomped lettuce heads.
“We bought the house with a large backyard for the dogs. You already took half the yard for your garden, now you want to waste the other half for grass!” One octane below yelling at me, his words echoed down the empty street. An under cutting rage, the one that you can’t say he is mad but you know he is getting mad. My own voice falls quieter.
“ But I’m doing this work for the dogs. So they’ll have more grass next year.”
“And what about this year?”
“Well, let’s move the fence today so I can put seed in next week,.” I plead to the calm gods.
“No, I told you. You need to seed today, then you’ll have grass next week.” He picked up his walking pace, I struggled to keep with him.
I fell silent, I didn’t want to argue and he wasn’t going to accept my opinion. I was the one that had put all the work into the yard, I had put the dog fence up myself when it was windy. Fought with it, cried over it, cut my arms with it and finally got it upright. That’s when I had decided I should see it through to the end, to ensure we would have a nice lawn all year. Rather than half mud. James already had his mind made up too.
“What? You don’t want to talk anymore?” He snapped as his pace went further ahead of me. I wasn’t even sure what to say, the conversation spiraled quickly towards a fight.
“No, it’s just I put a lot of work into the yard.” I say syrupy smooth, wished he would look at me so I can smile and reassure him that it’s okay.
“No, for the dogs.”
“The dogs don’t get to use it though,” he kept going. I exhaled and kept my face down. I had no more in me. I tried to walk faster to stay next to him but he was near jogging.
A long moment passes, I tried to think of something else to talk about.
“So now you do this,” he snapped. The thin thread of our conversation broke.
“Do what?” I looked to him, but he still refused to look at my face.
“Go quiet and look at the ground.”
“I always look at the ground when I walk,” I chuckled but he didn’t find it funny. His face is peeled forward, we are only half way home and the tension is choking me.
“So, know you don’t want to talk? What is your problem?”
I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t have a problem, he did. He is digging and driving the tension further between us.
“Why do you do this? Respond with something like, oh I always do this? I’m walking. I was trying to talk but you are just getting mad! Nothing is wrong, I don’t have a problem. I am walking.” I blurt everything out at once, I was irritated that he put it on me. I didn’t start the argument.
I was trying to shift the topic away from the sensitive one at hand. Why was it even a sensitive topic? All I did was try to fix the backyard for the dogs! I had done all that work by myself to have it cleaned up, spent weeks cleaning dog poop while the snow was melting. James doesn’t do anything of it and then he had the audacity to start a fight about it?
We cut through to the normal path and walked a short distance up to the double wide sidewalk. He had gone stone cold quiet and I fell in the pit of tension with him.
Luna pulled me off the sidewalk and I allow the distance between James and I to grow. He would never reach to hold my hand voluntarily anyway, I always have to make the first move. My mind drove my mood further down. Then his cold silence made me begin to doubt what I said.
Did I say something wrong? Was I being selfish trying to work on the lawn and keeping the dogs off a section? Our walk continued up the street in death silence. The light stroll turned to torture and I dreaded what it would be like at home. It felt like our street never came and the tension made my legs feel like lead.
I recall considering turning the music on my cell phone, if I’d had ear buds I would have. But instead I kept my sight down and listened to my own breath quicken from anxiety of the fight we were silently having.
I had an overwhelming feeling I wanted to spring from him, my heart grew heavy with sadness because of the feelings that were overwhelming me. It filled my soles with sand and my steps slowed more. James had an unrealistic pace and I turned to face another street to my left. I didn’t hesitate as I crossed the street for a different route home. One that would take me away from the tension he had caused. Or I had caused. Or we.
“And now you do this,” his words resonated through me. Stuck in a whirlwind of self doubt. I wanted to shout at his back, “look how you do this to me!” As I walked in a different direction but I didn’t and he never looked back.
I crossed the street and Luna seemed grateful for the fresh air. Her bubbliness piped up and her steps quickened. My puppies unending love picks my heart up off the pavement and as I stepped behind the row of shrubs, I had a sudden urge to run.
I kicked one foot up, as if a skip before taking off at a sprint. Burning the tension from my lungs with the rapid pounding of my shoes against the pavement. Out of sight from James, I allowed my heart to quicken and heal itself with electric exercise.
We ended our walk as two single people walking in different directions, and even though I never asked James, I am sure he never noticed I went a direction route. By the time I got home I was pumped, I felt great and I did my own thing. Leaving James to wallow in the tension we caused but I didn’t allow it to bring myself down.
I stood now on the sandy beach in Penticton. The early spring air was still crisp and I watched in humor as the couple standing in front of my embarked in a wet sand tossing fight. They laughed and ran and got soaking wet.
I wanted that, I wanted the fun and love back. Not the petty bullshit my marriage had been dwindled down to. I turned from the couple, kicked a skip step and took off running.
I don’t notice the first tear fall. I blame it on the wind in my eyes.
I didn’t notice my resolve change. I blame it on the loneliness I’ve endured.