Sunday, February 19, 2012

Clutching Onto Hangers

It was about this time each morning she felt normal again.  Nothing seemed unusual as she dressed her daughter for school, hunting for her second shoe under the couch.  Pouring a bowl of Cheerios, she would tell herself, "Chris already left for work this morning. Nothing strange about him not being here." She had practiced the lie so many times that for a brief moment, she could believe it, and the aching reverberating through her body would hush and give her peace.

She would continue her morning in a state of blissful denial, brushing teeth and combing pigtails. Then came the arduous task of crossing the garage.  It was impossible to ignore the vast vacancy where his car had been parked. Her self deception couldn't withstand the blatant absence his missing car screamed at her. Each time she would attempt to convince herself it would be there when she got home, but the cold garage shook her to reality. She could stand in the oil stain for hours, if it weren't for a little hand that would grip her fingers and ask, "Go school?"

Her job, once a burden, bought her a few hours of mental freedom.  Co-workers politely smiled as they passed her, not many knowing her personally enough to ask how she really was.  The few who engaged in conversation were always found later, immersed in hushed circles. "She should really try a therapist...How's the baby doing?...It's so awful, he was so young."  She would walk firmly past, pretending not to hear or that it was just gossip about some other tragic soul.

The drive home always consisted of the same awkward moment.  A small voice would ask from the backseat, "Go see Daddy now?" Her eyes would burn with salted tears, and her lungs turned to lead. A moment of recovery and she could answer, "No, baby.  Daddy's in Heaven."

She did her best to infuse normalcy into their evenings; dinner, bath and a story before bedtime.  The same old routine the three of them had performed for months.  She didn't have any reason to rush through the process like she used to.  Now, she would turn out the light and instead of slipping out of the room to continue her evening in peace, she would crawl into the tiny toddler bed with her daughter.  She would stroke her hair and sing softly, desperate to commit each moment to memory.  She would wake up hours later, cramped and stiff, but relieved she wasn't alone.

Ordinarily, she could wander across the hall and put herself to bed, but one night she found herself wide awake. She held her breath, certain she would hear Chris snoring at any moment, but her ears were flooded with the still night.  Her mind flashed to moments of that evening. It was warm and still light out.  She had figured he must have been stuck in traffic, since she rarely had dinner ready before he was home, but tonight it was getting cold on the table.  She heard a car door close outside, and was preparing for her best "Where the hell have you been" speech, but halted at the sight of a somber police officer at her front door.

Her gut ached at the memory, crippling her with nausea.  She sank to her knees, overcome with heartache. She had thought it a thousand times, "Why me? Why my husband? I'm a good person and don't deserve this." She was ashamed to not be one of those brave souls talk shows love to represent. People who rise above tragedy and elevate mankind's spirit with their bravery in the face of devastation.  She would rather crawl into a hole and die.  But there was a small person across the hall who needed her. That was going to help her make it, and possibly the only reason she would.

In front of her was their bedroom closet.  She had not opened the right side of it since she had to find his suit for the funeral service.  "He's not coming back," she told herself as she reached for the handle and pulled the door open.  Faintly, his cologne clung to the air and wafted past her head.  She pulled shirts and sweaters from hangers and carefully folded each into a duffle bag. She left two items hanging, his favorite shirt that still held his shape, and his old high school letterman jacket. He would come back and haunt her if she gave it away to a stranger.  She stared at the uneven closet for a moment, trying not to see the metaphor of the vacant space.  She spread her clothes out along the bar, until she consumed the entire space.  It was her closet now, her garage, her life to live.  She would have to fill the void he left behind and be a mother and a father.  But she could do it.  It would just take some rearranging.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

With This Ring

A faucet dripped in the bathroom down the hall with a repetitive "tap, tap" against the porcelain sink. Any other night Julie would have sent Scott down the hall to stop the offending noise, but asking him for any domestic help was not a consideration.

They both feigned sleep while fully aware of the consciousness of the other person. A thick wall of awkwardness sat on the bed between them. Julie gnawed on a cuticle as the evenings conversation ran through her mind.

Why did I need to know every detail? Why couldn't I just leave it alone?

She had known something was off as soon as she saw the flowers. Scott had always considered flowers too conventional and prided himself on creative gifts. The stench of roses would permanently be associated with life damaging news.

"So that time you had to work late and missed my parents anniversary dinner?"


"Was it in our bed?"

"No, never. She has her own place."

A smoldering ember of fury ignited in the pit of her belly. She sat up, fists clenched, feet dangling off the bed side in the cold dark. Scott stiffened at the abrupt movement giving her a small satisfaction.

You should be scared.

 Her tolerance of being in the same room evaporated. Julie shoved herself off the bed and trudged down the hall. She crawled onto the couch, hugged her knees to her chest and felt the merciful numbness of shock melt away. Raw pain gripped her organs as a sense of betrayal, resentment and heartache clamped down on her senses. Comprehension manifested as hot tears and slid down her cheeks while a violent tremor rippled from her core.

She wept freely, indulging in the release of the emotions she had denied since Scott's confession. She was so wholly absorbed in the process she didn't hear him settle in the chair across the room. He shifted his posture evoking a creak in a chair joint and alerting Julie to his presence.

"What do you want?" She wiped her face with her sleeve.

"I wanted to make sure you were okay."

Appalled at his ridiculous assessment of current state of mind, Julie could only manage a laugh tinged with hysteria.

"I take it you're not," he muttered.

"Okay? You want to know if I'm okay?" She threw her hands into the air. "No! No I'm not okay, Scott. You don't unload your conscience on your wife by telling her you're a cheating whore and expect her to just get over it!"

"I didn't expect you to be happy about it, but I thought if I was honest we could work to fix things and..."

"Oh so you're honest now? Four months of sneaking around and lying are meant to be erased by one night of admitting what a pig you are?" Each word filled with more venom than its predecessor, she knew she was on the brink of erupting. She clenched her jaw to cease her attack.

Scott's shoulders raised and lowered with defeated sigh. A streetlamp filtered though a crack in the front curtains casting an luminescent orange across his strained face.

"I don't know the right thing to say or do, but I can't take back what I've done. I can regret it, resent myself for hurting you and listen to every nasty, ugly thing you need to say to me for as long as you need to say them. There's only one thing I don't think I can live with."

Julie met his eyes at his pause.

"I can't stand the thought of you hating me." His voice had dropped to a whisper, his proud frame crumpled in the chair resembling a boyish version of himself.

Julie averted her gaze before pity joined her barrage of emotions. She turned his words over in her mind and asked herself if she did hate him. She could plainly acknowledge anger, disgust and the intense pain of heart break. Hate was a long term commitment and she was barely five hours into the process of evaluating her thoughts and feelings.

"I don't know right now," her whisper matched his own. "I can't promise you that."

He straightened in his chair and cleared his throat, a defensive note to his voice. "I also want to remind you that we promised to love each other no matter what came our way. We took vows in a church, before God and our families."

His word struck her like a fist to her jaw. She shook her head to rid herself of the stun which was quickly replaced by a primal rage."You sanctimonious bastard!"

"What?" His head snapped towards her, eyes wide.

"How dare you!" She screamed, all restraint sworn off. "You hypocritical, cherry picking asshole! You want to make this a religious matter? Preach to me about the sanctity of vows that you trashed and then turn me into a villain before I have a chance to comprehend what's happened to my life? How about "forsaking all others"? Did you just think that was under the optional column?" She gasped for breath and fought off the growing lump of sob lodged in her throat. "Don't you dare even think to make this my fault, no matter what I decide happens."

"I said I was sorry and I meant it!"

"I'm not a priest! You can't confess to me and expect forgiveness. I'm your wife and you had a loyalty to me that you broke willingly. Sorry isn't going to fix this. Its not a broken plate, or a forgotten birthday. Since you can't figure it out let me point out to you, this is a hell of a lot bigger than that!"

She fell against the back of the couch refusing to succumb to tears. The hate Scott had feared was present and coursing through her body. Her hands clenched and released trying to regain control.

Scott was stone still, his jaw slack, mouth open like a stunned fish out of the bowl. 

They sat in silence, neither willing to speak. Julie's words lingered in the air pressing on their shoulders. Rational thought escaped her, leaving behind the rush of pulse in her eardrums. She closed her eyes and focused on the rhythm.

Several minutes passed, lulling Julie towards a hypnotic state until she caught herself twirling her wedding ring with her thumb. She contemplated the power of the small band of metal. No jeweler could ever remove the tarnish she would always see on its surface.

She dared a glance at Scott. He remained unmoving, elbows propped on knees and fingers tangled in his hair. His own wedding band glinted in the streetlight.

Clarity washed over her closely chased by certainty. She rotated her ring a few more turns and found the fortitude to stand. She crossed the room to stand before Scott as he raised his head.

Julie placed her hands on either side of his face and ran her thumbs over his cheeks. His eyebrows knitted together in confusion, but a hopeful smile tugged at his mouth.

"I do know there will always be a part of me that loves you." All the malice had left her voice.

Scott closed his eyes and covered her hands with his own.

She continued in her even tone. "But I also know that there will always be a part of me that will never forgive you."

Scott jerked away as if her hands had burned him. He opened his mouth to speak, but Julie stopped him by dropping her wedding and engagement rings into his palm with a tiny clink.

"And no god can force me to spend the rest of my life with a man I can't forgive."

She leaned forward and kissed his forehead before heading down the hall to the guest room.

Friday, February 3, 2012

When I Grow Up

I never made it to med school. May not seem like a big deal to most, but when you spend years believing that was what you were going to do with your life then it never materializes, it can be a bit jarring.

More than anything, it left me wondering what I was going to do with myself. That was a scary feeling. No way would I ever be content running the nine to five gauntlet I was caught up in, and no actual profession held any allure to justify taking a school loan. Then a conversation with my mom made it so simple and clear:

"You always liked writing, why don't you just do that?"

Huh. Never really thought like that.

"That lady that wrote those Harry Potter books is doing well for herself. Maybe that could be you."

Uhhh, definitely never thought like that and still don't, but I'm content knowing my mom believes I have that kind of power over the masses. I'm eternally grateful for her epiphany and her high regard for my less than talented talents.

Which brings us to this little blog. No, I don't plan on conquering the publishing world via blog, or even being a "blogger." Global warming would sky rocket from the overworked servers trying to keep up with my onslaught of opinions. The purpose here is to hold myself accountable to actually producing something. Too often I freeze up at the sight of a blank screen with a wicked blinking cursor and worry that what I have to say won't come across as lyrical on the page as it is in my brain.
Not a very effective business plan.

In addition to holding myself at creative gun point, I'm facing a monstrous fear of judgment from people I know. I know some ruthless people, and can think of several who may find their way here and not "get it." If I can get past the snide comments and general disapproval from those soulless bastards, then editors, reviewers and other publishing entities might not seem so earth shattering.

So, this will be home to short pieces of prose and possibly the occasional feedback about a book or something valuable about the writing world. I can't say what I will write about just yet as I rarely expect the stories that sneak up on me, but the point is they made it to the page for you to read.

A warning to the sensitive suzies, humor impaired and those in desperate need of a rectal evacuation of the pole up their backside: I have a twisted little mind, a warped sense of humor and usually don't have a conservative opinion concerning some issues that scare the hell out of people. I don't plan on getting all political or anything, just wanting to give you a chance to run while you can.

Oh, and I swear. Not to be offensive, but sometimes nothing will do other than a fierce expletive.

If that doesn't chase you away, then you are probably don't have the personality of a soggy bowl of shredded wheat and I'm glad you're here. Don't be shy, tell me what you think. That means the good and the bad. A valuable response won't just leave it at "I liked it" or "You seriously need to consider a new path in life because you suck." Tell me what it was about it that gave you that opinion.

Most important of all is just that you read. A writer without an audience is simply a nut job talking to a wall. Just let me know you are here now and again.