I’m walking down the sidewalk. It’s still cold, there is snow in places and I haven’t felt this cold in nearly a year. I couldn’t make it, I threw in the towel before day 365. Before I had to beg borrow and steal money from my parents. The last few hundred dollars bought my flight home but I am back. This sidewalk belongs to the City of Fort St John and leads me straight to my house.
I flew in on the evening flight, after staying at my parent’s house for nearly the last month. My mother had finally convinced me that day 352 wasn’t much different than day 365. To give up the silly determination I had to reach that numbered day. It would only mean more emotional turmoil on myself. I missed my daughter desperately, I missed my son, my step children and mostly, I missed my husband. I needed to either have resolution and say goodbye, it’s over. Or return and see what could be repaired.
James had never called me back after that short hello. I had contacted his mother once and she hummed and hawed, “you catch more bees with honey.” But I was pure vinegar and how I had whined about the break down of our family before moving north, I made it even more tattered after leaving the north.
I had shaved my head, a few days ago. While crying at the hair salon as the dreads plopped to the floor. That was the sound they made too, not the silence of feathery wisps of hair falling but a resonating plop of the hair I had spent years growing, months twisting and seconds removing.
The hair is soft as a baby duck’s down under my finger tips. I know James wouldn’t like the dread locks but that’s not why I shaved them. It’s taken my 352 days to learn to only do something if I want, not to please someone else. Not even my husband but I felt it was a new beginning. Arriving back in Fort St John, where my roots had been for so many years. If nothing else, I had to cut ends and move on or pick up and start again.
Or maybe I shaved them off to show the naked love I had for James. That I have for him. I miss him, I want our live back but I want it better this time.
The dreads belonged to someone else, it seemed. Someone I had pretended to be for nearly the last year but it was time to face the facts. Time to own up to the mess I had made of my life and Sadie’s. I had told her I was headed home and her first question was, “what’s James think of that?”
Well, I hadn’t told him and I promised Sadie once I figured all this self-induced mess out, I would call her.
But now as I walk down the darkening sidewalk toward my past matrimonial home, I wonder if I made the wrong decision. Another woman could very well answer that door for all I know.
The look of disgust I imagined would cross James’ face made me cringe. I began to worry that he would just turn my bald head away for the new Mom of the house. Not like there were any children to mother any longer anyway. I was useless, really. I had no job and nothing to contribute to that house that I left him, other than another $30,0000 debt.
Maybe he’ll laugh with my head bald, maybe he’ll think I turned to drugs and lived on the streets for the last year for shits and giggles. Can’t say the thought didn’t cross my mind, nothing says easy going than living from one hit to the next without a concern in the world. No bills, no work, no stress, no fighting. No food, no money, no home and no friends.
I guess I was already half way there anyway.
I had no words to form in my mouth as it ran dry. The streets grew more familiar as I turned the corner. I had nothing to offer for an apology, I would do this year over again if I had to. I didn’t regret it, if only Sadie were still with me then everything would have been perfect. But she is happy and she say a lot more than our small town and that was what I wanted for her. The relationship with her father is on the next level too, making it that much better. My laptop dragged on my shoulder but my novel was complete and maybe this could truly be another beginning for me.
I ran my hand over my scalp, suddenly felt self conscience about the decision to shave it off. I had added extra mascara so my hazel eyes popped like Sinead O’Connor but she was skinny, and famous. I may have lost weight but I was no model and I think her eyes were blue. Or green.
Either way, the hair is gone and after many years of my marriage and my husband being vain on looks, this may be the tipping point. No man truly wants a bald wife, no man would stand up and say my wife is honestly beautiful no matter what because at the end of the day, just as money turns the world, looks begin love.
I was also returning without the one child that James had left. I knew his heart bled when he left his children on the coast, my heart bled too. It was done to prevent our marriage from falling apart, to build a better life for the children and to get away from those crazy ex-girlfriends.
He may not love Sadie as his own child but it was the last child he had to watch grow. To drive to school events and sign report cards and I know that small sliver gave him something.
Now, I have to return and present myself and the repercussions of that decision. A decision of abandoning him for a year, of losing the last child that lived with us.
You may not love Sadie as your own, but I do know you grew to love her well enough. You looked at her as a father would, and she too looked to you as her dad. She pined for your respect and you razzed her just the same about short shorts or tight tank tops. The love was growing, and I ripped it away. Shame and regret were two words that tattooed themselves on me. They danced upon my flesh often without even needing the ink to coat in. They were real and they were not going away any time soon.
The taxi driver brought me as close as five blocks before I had panicked and asked him to stop. My breath was short and shallow then but was only becoming harder to breath. It caused my steps to slow and my heart to bang in my ears. I wanted to turn and run the other way.
The vehicles sped past me as the sidewalk slowly collapsed onto a dirt pathway. I was less than a block away and my feet filled with sand. Smaller and more persistent than the pebbles on the winter roads to aid in friction, the sand in my legs was made of guilt.
I was guilty, yes. I felt bad for what I had done to my husband. I knew he was hurt because I was hurt and instead of staying to talk through our problems, I ran away. Thinking there would be more to this drab life but really, if I wanted more, I should have looked to my family. I should have requested more outings, more adventures, more conversations.
Not that I was much of a conversationalist. I hadn’t said a word aloud since I left my parents house. Even when the stewardess had addressed me personally on the flight from Kelowna to Fort St John, not a word.
“Mame,” she had put her face into my space and locked eyes with mine. I feared another in flight panic attack, instead she held out a packet of cookies. “Would you like a wine, spirit or cola this evening?” She must have known I needed a drink, she must have seen the guilt written on my face, spewing from my pores like the garlic man at the gym.
I had hardly looked at her and only shook my head in a negative response, if I had one drink, I would have five. That would mean I would be arriving to my locked household door drunk and that’s never good with guilt on your tongue. I know from experience, I would only burst out into tears and would have no chance of explaining myself to James. If there even was an explanation, I wasn’t sure.
It must be the same as the apology that I didn’t have.
I had watched the stewardess the rest of the flight, out of jealousy. Since she was perfectly put together and eyeing my shaved head. She had turned and continued up the isle, offering treats and drinks to all the airplane passengers. I recalled how I would feel jealous just from her presence if James had been sitting next to me. Many years I felt disgusted from that jealousy but maybe it was a sign of how much I loved James. How truly scared I was on the inside to potentially lose him not from his actions or someone else’s actions but to be honest, my own actions.
My over reactions hurting only myself, my over thinking only bringing tears to my face when no one else understands. I had only been hurting myself but now, I have hurt my husband and my daughter. And possibly more.
I had severed friendships just to hide my jealous thoughts. There was nothing super special about him, but I loved him that much I couldn’t bare to see him leave me. And in the end, I left him.
My street sign screamed at me from the end of the crosswalk, so loud that my knees almost buckled. I could see the outline of our neighbor’s house and I had to literally force my feet forward. As I drew closer, most of my worried questions were answered. Had he moved, no- his work truck was parked in the driveway. Had our truck been repossessed, no- it was parked next to his work truck. Did he have a new woman? That I couldn’t tell, the front door was still closed and the kitchen lights off. No shadows to be seen behind the blinds.
The drown of the questions washed out my fear of approaching the front door and I fount myself just there, at the front door. Of a house I no longer was free to walk straight in yet I felt strange about knocking. My hands were sweating and my vision began to blur. I inhaled as much as I could with my chest being so tight and put my hand to the door knob.
The dog’s faces fill the window next to the door and start barking. It brings a smile to my face but fades instantly as I hear movement in the house. I hear James yelling to the dogs but as he draws closer, I panic and step away from the door. Before he can realize a shadow is there, I am back halfway down the driveway.
My feet led me to the back of the truck, with cat like stealth.
The dogs are in the window and continued to bark since they know I am there. It saddens me they don’t appear to be wagging their tales as if they know who I am, just that someone is there.
I’m hiding behind the truck, my eyes well up with tears. What did I expect? Him to be sitting at the kitchen table, hands folded and a smug smile on his face when I walked up? Gifts as a welcome and a warm hug? I’ll be lucky if there isn’t already divorce papers drafted on said table and his warm hug encased with someone else.
His voice comes to my mind, the silly fights we had. The comments that he would make that would stick to my skin for weeks.
“It’s like every five minutes with you,” he had remarked one time when I said he had hurt my feelings.
“How do you figure?” I had snapped, only looking to be reassured in his love for me.
“You’re always upset with something. I have always done something wrong,” he never raised his voice at me, never a fist or even a frown. His face stayed steadily loving towards me, even when I was blowing up.
“Are you sick of me?” I would snap back, as I tried to keep his focus on my needs. I need more love, more affection, more empty apologies.
“No, what makes you say that?” He would roll his eyes and look back to the TV. I would never retort why I thought James no longer loved me, it just resonated deep in me that way. It would drag me down for days, thinking he no longer cared until one day I would just snap out of it. It was never him. It was always me.
The front door swung open, James stood large and handsome in the open light of the kitchen door.
Our past fights linger as if they were yesterday in my mind and turn my rage into embarrassment from my behavior. Have I always been so foolishly selfish? Risking his own mood to boost mine with apologies and groveling. I feel ashamed at what I had requested of him. How foolish he was to keep giving me what I requested, he should have smacked me straight long ago. Like a parent setting a child straight, a smack tap to stop the tantrum. Not literally but shaken me at least. Told me to put my head on straight, or what did he always say?
“Pull your head out of your ass,” without realizing the words materialized from my mouth as I hid behind the truck. Even the frozen breath of my speech floated past the edge of the truck and up into the warm orange glow of the street light. Which was perfectly right in front of our house.
“Are you saying that to me, or yourself?” His voice was like a hug, one offered from an acquaintance that you were not quite sure if you wanted it or not until it came. But once there, it was warm and welcoming. It erased my fears and soothed my woes and he knew I was there. My frozen, lonely heart melted suddenly and the tears began before I even rounded the back side of the truck.
There he was, my husband that I abandoned nearly a year ago. His hands crossed, his face thinner but his muscles more defined. He had a beard, grown thick and cut perfectly trim to show case the bald of his head. His ice eyes popped above the black salt and pepper beard and an old broken candle melted into a puddle of wax inside me.
His posture had a wise appeal to it. As if he had in fact been to the Buddha temples while I was gone and realized more about himself than what I knew about my own self. Or at least that’s what the tears pouring from my eyes told me.
I wanted to throw myself into his arms, I wanted to say sorry and nestle into that beard and kiss him but I stood where I was until he walked up to me. A small voice in my head said he was coming to hug me but instead he walked past me and picked up my luggage.
The problem of me being needy it couldn’t contain my own emotions without ripping him apart. He watched me as he lifted the bags over his shoulder and turned toward the open door. I wasn’t sure what to do. I wasn’t sobbing but the tears were coming persistent. They would not stop anytime soon.
I found my feet buried in the concrete behind the truck. The sand that had been filling them solidified and refused me to move.
He stopped at the door, apparently he didn’t even need to turn around to look to know I was still standing at the end of the driveway, “I ordered an um, I ordered a pizza.” He stuttered the words but didn’t turn to look at me. He stepped through the door and the dogs came barreling to me.
Wet dog kisses are the perfect cure for frozen fearful concrete feet. Thor and Luna were at me, happier than children. Jumping and tails wagging and tongues licking, I crouched down to hug them as the empty doorway loomed in front of me.
I shouldn’t have expected any more than this and maybe this is what I needed. A cold shoulder to strengthen me rather than a soft one to cry on. I had been crying for too long and it was time to resolve things.
My soul cries for more than this cold welcome but with the door remaining open, I guess it’s as much an invite I would get. I hesitate my steps toward the house but the dogs are back inside in a moment. James steps to the door, possibly to see if I had moved at all or a better reason could have been to close the door before I could in fact enter.
Our eyes match for a moment, our souls seem to smile but neither of our lips move. Not for emotion or words. I walk harder, forcing my feet toward the open door and my husband standing in wait.
As I step into the house, the coldness of the home astonishes me. It it nothing but reflective of what I can only imagine this house has been. James has been just as alone as I have the only difference is, I wanted it. I stopped just inside the door, his body to my left, waiting to close the door.
He shifts to shut the door and a slight touch to my back sends an electric shock to the melted candle and it takes a form of a tea light once more. I turn to face him and without a word, he wrapped his arms around me and squeezed. A reassuring nudge of, it will be okay. I am still here. My arms pinned to my sides and my chest pinches as I prevent the sobs that want to roll out. I silence them just as I had for so long. Years of marriage that I swallowed my emotion, even if it were self induced or over imagined thoughts, they were still there. Now, I had to face them head on if I wanted to be here. Be with James, there was work to do. Talks to have. I would have to strip away the layers of perfections that I hid behind.
Perfection of a wife, never cry, frown or get mad. Perfection of a mother, never fight, say no or disagree. Perfect employee, show up on time, work hard and pay my taxes.
It had worn me down until I was nothing more than an empty shell of lies. Lies that I enjoyed cooking dinner when all I wanted was corn pops. Lies that I was happy when my husband started snoring before I got in the first kiss.
I remained in his arms and ran through a list of problems we had swallowed for so long that we were both choking. It might not be perfect but it will be ours.
James pulled away from me and opened his mouth to speak. I’m the one that needs to speak, he will have his turn.
I intend to fix the coldness in this house, not just on the outside with smiles and reassurances. On the inside, with apologies and acceptances and realness. To ruffle my feathers to truly release the oils of truths on the inside. It’s time.
“We need to talk,” I out gag on the words and force them through my dry throat. Parched from emotion and the forcing of truth out of it. The door closed behind me and James sat down at the table, to listen.