You vow before God and the wedding guests to love each other and stay committed to each other until death takes one of you away. You seal your vows with your first married kiss, celebrate with your friends, and then start the very real business of building a life together. You cry with joy as each of the four children is born, cry with pain as each child decides to live life by different values than yours, and cry with loneliness as each leaves the nest.
You survive PTA Meetings, car pooling, bake sales, puberty, job losses, and scarce Christmases because you are committed. You survive both the marriages and the divorces of your children, because you can foresee your husband’s retirement and all the trips you’ll be enjoying with him.
You hold your first grandson, and the past seems worth it as a smile of recognition greets you. You’ve just celebrated your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and, in retrospect, you feel you’ve been a good wife, lover, mother, and now, grandmother. Life has not been easy, but you thank God for the opportunity to live it, and you look forward to a much easier twenty-five years with this man you love and trust.
Then one Memorial Day morning, before the sun has arrived, you are wakened out of deep sleep by someone digging through the living room closet. All of the children are living elsewhere, so you fear it must be a burglar. You reach over to waken the husband who has always protected you, and find only a pillow where he slept. Still hearing the commotion, you rise ever so cautiously, reaching for both a robe and some kind of protective weapon. A hammer left over from your picture hanging catches your eye, and you proceed into the hallway, your brain pumping blood and what-ifs simultaneously.
As you round the corner, the first thing you see is the naked buttocks you’ve known intimately for twenty-six years. They’re sticking out of the closet door and your husband is furiously throwing things out of that closet you’ve been meaning to organize. Grateful that it isn’t a burglar, your heart beat eases and the humor of such a sight sinks in. You begin to laugh, thinking maybe you’ll take him back to bed and remind him why he’s hung around for so long. But the expression on his face stops you cold.
He blurts out that he’s leaving you. Says he just can’t stand another moment living with you. Won’t look you in the eye as he says he’ll probably end up regretting this decision, but it’s something he has to do. His words blur into an unintelligible drone as the floor begins to move. You think this must be another earthquake, but nothing is falling off the walls. Confused, you wonder if this is one of those vivid nightmares you’ve had before, and you pinch yourself to see if it hurts. It does. Now you know this is your worst nightmare come true.
You watch, first in disbelief, then in panic, as your life falls apart right in front of you. Your knees buckle, and you grab for the doorway before you fall. You think of everything and nothing to say, and you feel like the biggest fool that ever lived. You wonder how twenty-six years could all have been one big lie; you search frantically through the years for some small clue of what was now happening. Tears blur your vision, and, in desperation, you think maybe you should put on some makeup and fix your hair. Maybe he wouldn’t leave if you looked better. Maybe he would change his mind if you acted like you didn’t care. Or maybe if you cried, begged, threatened him with a weapon.
You wonder why he can’t stand being with you anymore. Why, all of a sudden, without any warning whatsoever, does he find you so repugnant? Too numb to feel your body, your mind races through a thousand possibilities, replays a thousand scenarios, and still, you have not spoken a word. You think you finally know how a mute person feels. Finally, you hear yourself speaking. You are asking why. One word. The only word that matters: WHY? He says he can’t explain, he just knows he’s suffocating and has to get out before he dies.
Struck dumb and numb, you watch as he dresses, packs his belongings and walks out the door. You remember your vows, and you wonder if this is what he meant: to love you until he suffocated. You can’t believe that the man who made love to you only last night is the same man who’s walking down the sidewalk. You feel unbearable pressure to do something, but you don’t. You stand at the window and watch your whole life drive away in a Ford pickup truck.
©1989-2009 by April Lorier