At the sink, the tension is palpable. I brush my teeth haphazardly, because I am rushing to bed. My mind is an endless whirlwind of indecision, and I just want silence. I want my head to sink into a pillow and stop the tape that has been playing in my mind:
How did you get here? How did I get here? How did we get here?
I catch your reflection in the mirror and immediately avert my eyes. For days now, I have been compiling a list of all the reasons why I cannot leave:
You are the breadwinner. I own nothing. All of our savings were used when you lost your previous job. There is nothing to divide: how do you split the air between two people? The kids will be devastated. The older ones will manage because you are not their biological father, but the younger ones…our son has been through so much in the past few years. Bullying. Homelessness. Death. He is finally in a good place, although I have not recovered.
I cannot afford our rent, or any rent. We can barely manage one home, let alone two. I might have to give up my dream of going to graduate school. I am so close to touching that dream. Who will get the dog? I want the dog. You hated the dog when I first brought her home. How will the kids get to school, or dance if we are not together? Will they have to stop dance lessons? Will they hate me? Will you hate me?
A mental onslaught kicks in:
You are being selfish. What will it do to our daughter? Will she stop gleaming with joy? She cries for you at night when you are just down the hallway. Who will get custody? Will we fight? Will you be angry, angrier than I can imagine? Can I handle breaking your heart? You are my best friend. Can I let that go, even though there is so much winter between us?
I let the guilt bathe my body from head to toe. Shame clings to every pore:
Do you really want to be alone? Do you know what’s like out there for someone rapidly approaching forty? Your body is a plumper shadow of your former self. No one will want that. No one will want you. This was your second chance at happiness, and it will evaporate. Couldn’t you live with it, even if it feels like you are drowning a little bit more every day? Do your feelings even matter?
I get a very short respite when anger fights back:
I hate that you are the social one that steals all the air in the room, when you always seem more fun to be with. No one sees what I see: the angry bursts, the flares you call passionate and I that I call fury. You yell at the kids too much, and force yourself in my older son’s face in a way that makes my heart sink and revolt. It’s not fair that time has barely touched you over the past 9 years. My body has been tortured and stretched and altered into a frame that I barely recognize, and I hate that you have stood still in this world. I have given up my career and time and longings, and those years are irreplaceable.
An optimist chimes in:
There has been so much good here, and so much love. Why is it not enough now? Remember the moments that are tattooed on your heart. He knows you more than you sometimes know yourself. He mostly loves you despite your worst. Isn’t that enough?
Finally, as my eyes finally seal together, and as my soul settles in to find peace for a short span of hours, I hear truth bubbling to the surface of my consciousness.
Shake off the fear. The timing will never be right. He deserves to be loved by someone who is fully committed. He will love again. You will love again. You will survive. You will heal. You are stronger than you could ever realize. Listen to that steadfast inner voice. Your heart never lies.
And then I slee---dream.
Reflections of a woman spawned in a cement cocoon...