I took this picture as I was sitting in the car last Wednesday morning, trying to decide what I was going to do. The fact that day could be so beautiful and so ugly at the same time is depressing as fuck.
I know how the saying goes something like “we need the bad things to recognize the good things”. I knew about the bad. What I didn’t know about was there are worse things. I didn’t know how the expressions of “my heart sank” or “a knot of fear in my stomach” or “the color drained from my face” actually felt outside of books.
This picture was taken at about 10 AM. Fittingly, I was sitting our car, getting ready to drive away from our house and the life we knew, probably right around the time that he was entering the courtroom for his hearing. I imagine him looking around for me. I don’t know if he expected me to be there and was surprised to see that I wasn’t, or if he knew there was no coming back from this; I wouldn’t be waiting to return to his side when this all blew over. Maybe he didn’t expect to see me, but had been white-knuckled and gripping to a glimmer of hope that I would still support him through this, like I always had, setting aside my pain to assuage his. Perhaps he knew I wouldn’t be there all along, and that’s why he couldn’t look at me before they walked him out in cuffs.
When I spoke to his mother that morning, I could hear the fear in her voice. My family here is the only family he has nearby, and the rest of his small family is thousands of miles away. His actions made him the enemy, and there’s no one here who will rally by his side. Knowing this, she asked me to be there for him, to support him and get his side of the story. “Don’t make any rash decisions while you’re upset.” I told her there were only about two hours for me to decide, actually less if I wanted to look like a presentable human being. “Please,” she said, “give him your support today.”
By then, I knew in my heart I couldn’t stay. For the last two years, my heart and my brain were at odds. Logically, I knew that I shouldn’t stay if we weren’t, for the most part, happy. Emotionally, I couldn’t give him up, and I didn’t want to. A “festering” love is how I described it. Our love was rotting from our hearts outward, the infection that ate away at us, a cancer slowly killing us. The longer we stayed, the worse the prognosis was and the more painful that unavoidable death would eventually be for the two of us. It was only a matter of time before one of us succumbed to the illness of our love, but one question remained: would one of us pull the plug and take our marriage off life support, or would we keep it going with tubes and wires, but not really alive?
And so part of me is happy. That Wednesday morning, the decision was taken out of my hands. It would have hurt if I had made the decision to leave on my own, and I feel as though it would have hurt even more if he was the one making that choice. In a way, he had made that choice all those years ago the first time he entered that AOL chatroom and typed
anyone want to chat?
When I agreed to stay two years ago, I made a promise to myself that if I ever got to the point where I wasn’t immediately sent into a spiraling ball of anxiety at the thought of leaving, I would know it was time to go. And all through these last couple of years, I would still feel that burst of panic blow up in my chest at the thought of being apart. Even as recently as last week, I still had days where my heart would beat faster and I’d almost get nauseous at the slightest suggestion that things weren’t ok.
There were days when I could admit to myself that I wasn’t happy in the marriage, although over the past two years those days were far outnumbered by the days when we were good together. Or, at least the days when I thought we were good together. His mask was good, and a careful observer may have seen that something wasn’t quite right. The edges didn’t quite match what he was underneath, maybe it looked a bit too “uncanny valley”, but that mask never slipped enough to reveal his true nature. I saw the mask, and I knew it for the disguise it was, but he had changed and I didn’t know what it was hiding anymore.
Talking with his mother that morning, I already knew what I was doing. I probably knew what I was doing before I even called my own mother, maybe even before the detectives left me sitting in stunned silence at my dining room table. When she asked me to be there, I knew that I wouldn’t be. There was simply no way for me to be there for him. Not then, and not now. “I can’t go to him, I can’t be there for him now if I don’t plan on staying with him forever,” I told her. It was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to say to anyone, but it was also the most honest thing I could say to her. If I told her I’d think about it, I’d give her a bit of hope, and it wasn’t fair to do that. While putting aside my pain might lessen hers, it would be terrible to hurt her with a lie.
Once again, I’m mourning my marriage. My life, in true Fresh Prince style, has been flipped, turned upside down. I’m grieving for a person who isn’t dead: the 24 year old I fell in love with, and the 41 year old who’s no longer going to be in my world. Worse, I can’t even really say “in my world”, because he absolutely and entirely was my world. I can’t even wrap my head around what happened, and what’s still happening. Even now, a week later, I feel like I’m holding myself together with little more adrenaline and shock and I know it’s just a matter of time before I completely shatter. It’s coming, and I can feel it.
And as sad as it is, and as scary as it is, this whole situation is probably the best thing that could have happened right now, for both of us.