Sara did what she could to keep the tears back. Sitting at the edge of her king size bed, through glistening eyes she stared out the window to watch the cold purples and dark blues of dusk slowly give away to the dim warmth of the morning glow. Memories of the previous night, a sleepless night that conjoined both days into one tired stretch of time, billowed in her exhausted thoughts. Her fists clenched as she held back the tears. But, no more lying to yourself, they’ll come. They’ll come no matter how hard you fight them.
Once, now seeming not so long ago, after the birth of their energetic, bright blue-eyed baby girl that reminded her parents so much of her, she had told herself “Sara, don’t you dare take him back! No matter how much he begs, no matter what he promises. He left you, us! all alone. Don’t you take him back, don’t you dare!”
But that had been a lie; she knew it even then, just something to keep her strong as she waited. For four months she had waited, waited for him to decide to be the husband he had promised, for him to decide to be the lover he once was, for him to decide to be the father his newborn daughter, and Sara, needed him to be. The whole time lying to herself, lying that she would never take him back, not now not ever, while she decided between breast or bottle feeding, acknowledging the overflow of gentlemen callers, sharks tasting the wounded’s blood of sorrow– either out of instinct or design, or dedicating herself to her daughter, undividedly, in some hope that she could make up for her yellow-backed, spineless sperm-donor’s absence. The bitterness of those memories stung her eyes like harsh fumes, but she could turn away from them.
She lied to herself while picking out clothes, alone, and toys and baby food, she lied to herself while going to the doctor, the grocery store, the bathroom – the shower was the worst. It was in the shower little Deena was conceived; at least that’s what she told – lied – to herself whenever she tried to get a nice, soothing shower between work and tending to her newborn, allowing her memories to explode, escaping through bitter tears, hidden by the falling water. It had been after a fight, one sided of course. Her yelling at him for showing up, hair rustled, shirt rumpled, smelling of perfume, four hours late; and him, standing there, tight lipped and eyes, black and empty now that she remembers, sullenly glazed over with marred disapproval. As Sara yelled, voicing her obvious complaints, distrusts, and disapprovals, he stood there, lips sealed and pursed; perhaps they were hiding the truth then, or just concealing a sickly stream of promised-to-never-smoke-again-for-you-and-the-baby cigarettes. Perhaps they were hiding more, the smell of another woman’s genitals; or maybe they were just sealed tight out of sheer and simple cowardice.
Even then, it was the same old play, acted out over and over again by the tired duo of desperate actors to a tired audience of secondhand apartment furniture and walls so thin they could catch their neighbors’ performance twice a day in return – the evening show, Sara thought, was always the more adult, and entertaining of the two. A fight and then a fuck, at least their nights ended on a high note.
It was that fight when she had decided, not so consciously, to strike him, to bring the fight from its dimension of sounds to the realm of physicality.
You didn’t hit him that hard, another lie. Be honest now, at least with this, you wanted to hit him hard, and you would have too… if only you would have just kept your nerve.
At the last moment her hand missed its marked. Her clenched fist, so ready to bite his tanned skin with tightly rowed knuckles, unfurled into an awkward cup and clumsily skittered across the side of his face in a half-smack half-bludgeon. Even in her performance of true rage, she was lying. No blood, no bruises, just a few gnashing streaks of red and raised skin, and his broken glasses tumbling from his tight-lipped face as he near-mockingly recoiled. Tears already begun to stream down his face as he tumbled back over the makeshift milk-crate coffee table, cracking the small sheet of drywall that served as the table top, the drywall itself being leftovers which were purchased to fix a hole he had placed, post argument, into one of the apartment walls just a few weeks prior. As her teary eyed, whimpering man-child cracked through the coffee table, sending magazines, nail polish, and empty cans across the living room, he turned to catch himself, but, as awkwardly as her half-punch half-slap, he turned and caught his outstretched fingers against the base of the couch. They were jammed instantly, bent upward at odd angles, but not broken, not to the extent he had cried. Like a child, like a big fat child.
It was now that Sara realized that it wasn’t the pain that startled the tears from his reddening, frustrated face; it was the realization that he had to answer for his wrongs, to acknowledge that he could no longer do what he wanted to do without any repercussion. But it was also a realization that he may no longer have a warm, safe place to come back to, no longer would he have a person to nurse his aches, to help lick the self-spread salt off of all his purposely-accidental wounds.
That was a lie too, she knew that now, her fists clenching into tiny white balls on her naked legs, living and reliving that moment with more remorse than regret. Wishing, praying that she would have kept her fist tight, her arm a little straighter, then maybe he would have fallen at a sharper angle and snapped his neck at the base of the couch. Then she wouldn’t have to lie to herself throughout her four year marriage. She wouldn’t have to sit up late worrying to herself as to why he was several hours late, or lie to herself about the pack of cigarettes she could always count on finding in his lunchbox, wrapped in aluminum foil. If only he would have just died, she wouldn’t have to lie to herself, her friends, her parents, her… daughter. If he had died then, twisting his neck as he awkwardly fell after being awkwardly struck by her white-knuckled fist, she wouldn’t have Deena, or Norman.
The thought pushed the tears from her eyes, that was the one that got her. Of all the truths being remembered and the lies she told herself finally being scraped away, that was the one that got her. But now, there was no more lying, he made sure of that.
“They’ll be provided for, but I want nothing to do with them,” he had said, “them, this marriage, or you.” The sound of his voice was empty, terribly empty, like he wasn’t even speaking to another living creature – let alone his wife – about their children.
There had been shouts that followed, though more contained in their two bedroom ranch than they were in the lofty apartments, loud enough to stir the neighbors and –Deena, and Norman, my babies I’m sorry, everything will be okay, your daddy and I were just – then there was begging, and then more lies. But unlike the times before, the countless times he had up and disappeared, leaving her alone, then alone with their daughter, then alone with their children and dog; she knew that this time they were playing for keeps, and he was forfeiting.
Slowly standing up from the edge up the bed, tears were streaming down from her bright blue eyes, scooping under her tight chin, and dripped between her breasts. Her muscles on her naked back were tight and knotted, her legs stiff and creaking. She didn’t know how long she had sat there; all night could safely be assumed as the dull bluish tinge of the awakening morning had dissipated into the yellow-dead glow of a winter dawn. She unclenched her fists, shaking the blood back into them as she crossed the floor of the hauntingly empty master bedroom and pulled a pair of pants from the dresser. After sliding the wore jeans over her knit blue panties, the ones he had liked so much, she pulled a tanktop of her head, shaking her body between its tight fabric. She knew that there were no more lies to tell. Not to her friends, to her children, however hard the truth would have been to explain to them, but most of all there were no more lies she could tell herself.
He wasn’t coming back, the voice stung in her head.
“He isn’t coming back,” they stung doubly in her throat, almost oozing out over the hoarseness developed after a night of yelling.
From now on I’m alone.