Now, I recall it with such bitterness.
I am pained with my embittered solitude, confined to the darkness of concrete rooms and half-closed doors. The dim light creates a binding facade that follows the contours of the molding,
carefully hallowed by lines of duty. The linens are cold, stained, exasperated. The pale orange light of artificial lamps plays Nordic folk images in my head as the flicker dances across the
hallway in a disjunct waltz. The faint sound of music from far away, a gentle muffle nearly lost in the rattle of the furnace and electrical pulses, filters through the din creating a myriad of hums
that are neither lost nor found with no end nor beginning in sight. I cough, I wretch, a fevered monotony that has coalesced to sleepless, dreamless fancy. The darkness surrounds me with
broken images, much like the skipping of a timeless record, and abruptly i am lost in India, Peru, Naples....I am drugged and intoxicated; the science of illness-- the precipice above the depths
of a depression. For two weeks I have been in a lucid state that I dislike, yet I cannot shake my ailment. My husband has vacated the residence temporarily for his other marriage: his love of
music...and conversely, of younger women. After all, why should he he stay and rebuild what is broken? As with all suffering, we must experience true despair alone. Unlike most marriages, we
are resigned to be two different entities rather than one singular union.
Now, I know that it doesnʼt matter if I am home or alone. Even when we are together, we are apart. I am afraid of him-- afraid of the power he wields over me. As I am regaining my
independence and sanity, he has become violent and the toxicity in the air has inhibited me. There is some sinister void inside my soul that cannot be avoided, might as I try. It is a parched
sanity, one with a stubborn beauty that eclipses the very mindful way I have of living. Chores has been left undone for what seems like months; laundry piled up and dishes in various states of
decay. My face hanging dejectedly, the feeling of infinite disillusionment clings to my bones with an icy accomplice: Failure. It is an isolated sense of rejection, one so bleak and demanding that
one is lost within its peculiarity. It is as if there has been a death in the family, the feeling of loss magnified by the coming of a dying season and waning light. Sometimes I move the sheets and
sit up halfway in bed so that the only light I can see is the faint glimmer of the smoke alarm above the bed. It is like a tiny red star in the night sky, guiding me home. On the far wall, the dresser
sits absentmindedly, piled with clothes, hats, jewelry, and an old tiny television engraved with “Spirit of ʼ76.”
So many items in my life are antiquated, much as I am. For twenty-two years I have lived so many lives that I canʼt keep my own straight enough. So many feelings, some not my own, flood
through my mind and cloud my judgment, causing irrational thought processes as I contend with them to sort everything out. There is no room for change here, the halls cluttered with
silhouettes and forgotten promises. My phone lights up the room, a momentary beaconʼs glare in a sea of dark bodies. I pick it up, glance at it momentarily then replace it, recognizing the name
but not the purpose. I am at a loss of words, out of touch with reality at this point. I am living under pretenses that are false: that I am loved, that I am happy, that my husband will not rape me
again or belittle me. My feet gingerly step onto the cool concrete floor as i stumble blindly for the doorway. My eyes adjust to the light and I find myself in a room rich with the blues and grays of
twilight and the faint flicker of the orange streetlights across the alleyway. Elliot Smith on the record player; repetition only unifies his despair with my own shortcomings. The refrigerator hums,
the icebox shifting in careful unison. I want to believe that the answer is lying here somewhere but my needs are so illumined by my wants and expectations that one would think Iʼm entirely
I place my steps carefully as I float across the floor, taking special consideration of the many furniture items we have collected over the years: a collective artistry. I can be found clutching our
wedding album, the photographs so vivid to me in this half-dark. Day after day I sit at work, the photographs a reminder of the hopes and dreams we once shared together. A screensaver
flashes years of my life in minutes, memories that remain almost untouched for what feel like centuries. Past regrets. It is not so sudden that I realize with the bleakest sense that things have
changed and we have changed. Part of my reclusion has taken its toll on me. I have found that no matter what is on paper, no matter what you tell yourself when you go to sleep at night, across
the bed, across the room-- we are alone. It is with a fair sense of sadness that I realize this. Perhaps I always idealized it, assuming things would be different, that we are different than all the
other couples we know. I felt I could mold myself to the ideals of matrimony, yet in reality the entire time I was trying to adjust, he was simply and covertly making a mockery of our union. I make
my way to the hall and realize that the deadbolt is unlocked. A sense of alarm and regret enters my mind. The fact of the matter is that no matter how much someone claims to care about you, it
is the little things like this that determine how much worth you carry.
The fact is that for five years I have put him first in all cases and he has rarely ever conceded to do so for me. It is quite an astonishing revelation. But who has died? Or has it been my marriage
that is withering away? I wonder if I shall mark a gravestone, carve out a box, and hammer out a key. I want so badly to begin again, to change the sequence of events that forced us from each
other. I want to forge that bond again, to renew the wonder and amazement that we shared. Why is love so tainted and bittersweet? Why is it so hard to renew love yet so easy to regenerate so
many other feelings? I fix some cold soup, toast some broad, and regard my belongings with an icy stare.
Our children, my dog and cat, sit around anxiously, waiting. When will I know who I am and who I am supposed to be? Right now I wish so much that I was who I needed to be, yet I know
everythingʼs wrong and I am not at that point yet. I know I have side-stepped somewhere, lost my way. Nothing is permanent, not even bonds. All I can do is wait for my life to pass me by, or
wait for some sort of absolution. I am still but a child in so many ways. Why must I have to be the one to make such a defining and damning decision? I thought he was supposed to love and
honor the sanctity of our marriage, yet more and more I realize that he doesnʼt want to have this love, this responsibility. He feels only obligation and comfort, and my bankroll is the only reason he hasnʼt disappeared altogether. He is out all the time, taking up hobbies. I pretend I am glad about his newfound interests, but word has reached me that these “interests” are of a sensual nature. And yet, in my weakness and fear of confrontation, I say nothing. If he stays preoccupied, I know he wonʼt come after me or slander my name and more than he already has.
Can he not see that I myself am drowning? I sink into a chair, into oblivion. I do everything in my power to keep myself sane, yet it is all a result of pushing and prodding my innermost thoughts
and feelings away. I canʼt deal with reality anymore because it is too complex and there is too much room for error. I am trying so desperately to hold on to our life together, trying to paddle to
keep my head above water. The panic I feel is so vivid, the reality that our ship is sinking and the waves are trying to pull me asunder. The pain I feel when I realize he isnʼt listening to my calls,
isnʼt listening to my sullen cries and my ultimate destruction. The disappointment in my disillusionment, the bitter realization that my head is almost underneath, arms flailing, and yet he fails to
see or perhaps intends to look away. It is easier this way, isnʼt it? Easier to push me to the brink of sanity than to save me from the wreckage? And I wanted so desperately to be saved, for I am
can no longer save myself. I am a seasoned sailor but too tired and too old to go on. I want a hand to hold me up, a dolphin to steer me into bar, an anchor to steady me from being swept away.
My mind is so clouded now, my memory so shrouded in the past few days, I cannot recall when I have been awake, or asleep, or if I am sleeping even now. The driving force in my mind, the
source of light, is one of the only things sustaining me. It has been eight hours already. I remember he had only said he was going to run to the gas station to buy some cigarettes...
I remember walking back from the sad cafe alone, my footsteps echoing down the street as it inclined. The air was lukewarm, a faint breeze muddling the otherwise still night. The sun was
nearly fading away into the clouds; lone birds flew to power lines without cries or calls. All life was stillness; all life was meant to be still. It was like looking through a viewfinder, only to find that
the world was enveloped in stills. I turned the corner seeing couples in love, couples smiling and laughing. I brushed past them and retreated to my lair, incapable of love, incapable of feeling
anything other than exhaustion and resignation.
Now I sit with my eyes open, staring, at the blank dreariness of the ceiling. The smoke alarm light still glows from the deep black of night. I am not sure how to act, so I put on a show. I am
happy, I keep telling myself this. There is nothing to be sad about. I am overreacting. I am jealous. I am irrelevant. My feelings are irrelevant. This is not about me anymore. I gave up my needs
a long time ago. I am meant to feel this way because this is who I am meant to be. People of my type are not meant for happiness. We are not meant to be loved fully for who we are. We are
not meant to be loved at all.
I curl up in the icy sheets, a slight shiver. The pets gather around me, one on each side, blanketing me with their love and devotion, their understanding, their trust, and their attention. I am
ashamed of myself for not being stronger. I am weak. I feel drunk on this affirmation, this shame. My body languid, my repetitions of vanity so carefully exposed. I am waiting for a resolution of
this, a voice to tell me that there is some finality. People are not meant to live this way, they say. Yet I am living, arenʼt I? I am living, right?
We walk around doing our own activities, sometimes bless each other with our presence, yet there is a strange distance between us. He does not want to change things the way they are, for
better or worse, and I cannot change any more than I already have without losing everything that I am. I want to believe that we are stronger people, that we can work through this, but the
painful realization that I am the only one who wants this is evident now. He blames my depression for all of our problems, blames me for not fitting his ideal of a mate, and I walk on eggshells
these days. How does one say goodbye to the person they love most in the world? How does one give up on something that they themselves believed to once be so infallible? So I am living
two lives now. The one with the stark reality that someday soon we will know each other no more and the life I want to live where I am holding on to what my life was once meant to be like with
him. Yet, realistically, the inconsistencies in that ideal life spin me back into true reality.
I stare out the window at the dirt, realizing that one day that will be me. There is so much beauty in dirt, yet there is little comfort in realizing you would someday be forgotten; that there is no
stability in life; to believe so would be a falsehood. Yet I want stability in chaos. I want to know that no matter what the state of the world, I am alive.
We are on two very different paths that I cannot alter no matter how much I want to. I am helpless against his anger towards me, his preoccupation with loose women, and his complete
disrespect for my body and mind. He seeks a life that I cannot give him; that I cannot compete with. I seek a life more settled, more stable. I want to be a contradiction-- to be wild and free
within the confines of stability and faithfulness. He seeks a life of fame and fortune, of unpredictability, and agelessness.
I turn down the shades, adjusting my eyes to the night again. It is ten degrees colder now, at least, and I watch the streetlights across the alley dim and fade only to brighten moments later with
a faint clicking hum. A few lone headlights dance across the ceiling, emitting from the hill across the way. I see the traffic lights change from green to yellow to red. I hear the rattle and thud of
something falling on the floor upstairs in another apartment much like our own. I stare down the empty hallway, retracing my steps just months earlier when we first moved in this place. i recall
the darkness of our old house, where I never felt quite alone enough, ironically. Yet now, as I stare into the darkness, I realize what true loneliness feels like. I retire to the bedroom, the solid
clicking of my clock as it returns to the time of 7:12 every moment of the day as it has for three weeks since the batteries died. I begin to wonder if I am dead or alive, asleep or awake, dreaming
or exaggerating. I curl up into the sheets, letting my hair fall down where it may, and close my eyes. The smoke alarm light stares, a beacon, down on my restful sleep, wary of my isolation. I
fall into a deep sleep, wondering when my husband will return or if I have lost him already to something I canʼt understand or appreciate. The refrigerator hums in its stale manner, the ice in the
icebox shifts, and somewhere across the alleyway a dim street light surges on and off throughout the night.