Dialog with an Absent Husband
SHEREE LA PUMA
Today I set the world on fire. Wait…I know you’re skeptical, but I’ve taken up skydiving, risking my life in order to prove it’s worth something. I’m trying to impress you. After all, how many 38-year-old mothers jump out of planes at 12,000 feet? I’ve done it fifty times now and I do it for you, even though you’ve never acknowledged my accomplishments. I love you with all my heart and I long for the day that you realize I am the best, the best for you, after all, you married me. You fathered our three children. My genes were good enough then, so why are you still searching? Why does the girl with childless hips charm you so? It kills me that you have her, in our house, in our wedding bed. Yes, I left it behind, with the intention of winning…earning you back. Please understand and help me understand why I failed you? Do you remember when I used to tape the sermons at the Presbyterian Church and play them for my mother? It was in her garage in Palm Springs, me who couldn’t find God if he was standing right in front of me. We were close then, you, me, God. What’s happened? I’ve lost you both and I’m languishing, caught in terrible pain.
Honey, I aced my English test and I wanted to call you right away. I knew you’d be so proud. You always wanted me to go back to school and I’m finally doing it. Your girlfriend, yes, I know she’s degreed, but I stayed home to raise the babies. I’m going back now, doing well, missing you terribly but tying, working hard. I think it’s good for the girls…to see me reach for the moon, the stars. I know what you’re thinking, how much can I accomplish, still wanting to be a writer? What mother can support her family with Poesy? Yes, I’m depending on you to see us through, but you’re more than money in the bank. I’m sorry that I couldn’t express myself when we were together, but you’re my husband. I thought you could read my mind.
“What God has joined together let no man break apart.” Honey, you held my hand all through the child conciliation court and we decided that we couldn’t do this to our babies. We were too smart, too intellectual to fall into the divorce trap, Sure girlfriend number 2 is doing it, but really, what is her IQ? Ok, I know you get angry when I’m condescending towards others, but it’s insecurity in myself. Baby, last week Katie told me today that she loves us “Bigger than outer space” and she wants us back together so we can be a family. What am I supposed to say? Daddy doesn’t love us anymore…Daddy doesn’t love me anymore? That’s the truth, isn’t it? I know what you’re thinking. How much is one man supposed to take? After all, I cheated on you twice, I admit it, me Mrs. Perfect stay at home mom. You just want some normalcy in your
life and I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I just want one more chance. I’ve changed. I’ve grown up. Remember when we were 20 and I couldn’t even fill my own tank of gas. We’ve been apart for a year and I’ve learned to do everything for myself. I capable, but heartbroken. I cry for hours a day, wondering how I can make it up to you. Especially when you won’t give me the chance.
I dropped the kids off at our old house today. I miss it and I miss you. At the time I lived there, 4,200 square feet was overwhelming. I never felt as good as everyone else, the neighbors, after all you were Mr. Disney genius. It was hard for anyone to notice me in the spotlight. When I made friends, I never talked about myself; everything was based on your accomplishments. “My husband is a Disney executive. He invented the Indy Car and holds the patent. He also invented Enhanced TV. Have you ever seen the ads for Monday night football or Millionaire? Those are his shows. Me, I’m a typical soccer mom. We have a son that is 15 and a daughter 11 and 5. I love them more than life itself.”
It’s not your fault that I floundered, but I think you need to cut me a little slack. We did vow, promise to be true, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. That should include the depression I’ve struggled with. I know you believe all our problems have come from alcoholism, but even if its true alcoholism is an illness as well. You of all people should know that and have a little empathy. We both had alcoholic parents. 90% of recoveree’s relapse and I’ve relapsed twice, not fifty times! I was making an attempt at sobriety when we separated. I had agreed to go to Betty Ford and our insurance turned us down. This disease is horrible, frightening and could kill me. I fight it at every turn and it’s always there lurking. You seem to believe that I drink to spite you. Do you really think I want to die like that…alone, broken? How many times did you hear me say… my greatest fear is that I’ll end up alone on the streets and you promised me…honey that will never happen! I love you!
Katie saw me crying today and she said, “I know what’s wrong Mommy, you have a broken heart.” She’s so confused and so am I. Believe me I know there is no one to blame but myself. I just can’t figure out why for the life of me I do the things I do. Am I really that lost a soul? Do I have no redeeming qualities? Shane tried to protect me today when I went to pick him up. You were gone and he told me you went out flying. I do admire that you’ve learned to fly ultralights by the way. You picked it up after I started skydiving and I felt like you were trying to compete with me. I understand your passion for it now. I’m proud of your accomplishments but on that day, I was hurt when you told me you had been out with your girlfriend. It’s bad enough that you reject me, but a teenager shouldn’t be left alone overnight. I’m not trying to preach, but Shane is very needy, much like his Mother.
Baby, we need to divide up 19 years of unity. How does one accomplish that? You are so ready to split it all apart. You use your girlfriend as an example, but how many years was she with her husband and do we really want to stoop to that level of humanity? I know…stop bitching…I just wish you’d hear me out for a change. The way you deal with today is by forgetting yesterday. You forget that I exist…that we ever existed. That makes it much easier to move on. It’s when you talk to me or see me that the façade starts to crack. I know all those emotions are bottled up inside you, just waiting to burst out. You told me that you were ready to cry the other day. I’m not afraid to let you see my pain. It’s real and it’s brutal.
I’m so pissed today. You took the kids and played the perfect Disneyland dad. Well you are a Disney VP I guess that gives you some right. But really, who takes care of them, wipes their snotty noses, drives them to and from school every day. Who threatens to spank their butt if they don’t shape up? Not you! You take them to the snow and buy them $90 sleds. They idolize you, and then you drop them at my door, tired, exhausted and little Katie cries and whines for you. I’m tired. It’s late and when I try to call, you’re not there…kind of like it was in our marriage. Katie wants you; she misses you and she tells me that if we were together, she wouldn’t feel like this. Sometimes I feel like taking a gun to my head to get even. Then you could explain to the kids why I’m not around anymore. Your LOVER could do her little charade and play Mommy. They would never know what they were missing. This is just so hard. Sometimes pain/anger/grief gets the best of me.
I love it how you called today, left a message on my phone…the high school called, and Shane wasn’t there. It’s finals and he needs to make up what he missed. Like I don’t know…well, the kid is at my house with a headache. I rescued him. He’s like me you know, and you hate it. Isn’t it ironic that you managed to get rid of me and yet clung to him? What do you really have after all? I’ve never forgotten that you were my husband. I may have been ill, but I never thought that you would leave me. We made a commitment and I’ve done everything I could to improve myself. I may be a raw piece of clay, but I’m salvageable.
I need your ear Mr. Disneyland Dad. It’s your day and I’m tired of running your errands. You were supposed to be back from NY last night and you owe me money. I’ll be nice to you until I get it but I won’t meet with your attorney. I’m having heart problems you know. Don’t huff at me…mister. Are you a doctor now? I’ve made up my mind that if you don’t give me this money, I’m going to camp out at your door. Screw school! I’m so fed up with everything.
I went to the house today and saw a book on your bed stand, “What a rich father can teach his children that the poor cannot.” You’re not rich. We have more debts than assets. That’s why the divorce is taking so long. How do we divide of 19 years of debts…19 years of failures?
This week I’m feeling small…ha, you say. I broke my ankle skydiving. You say I’m being pressured into to it. Well, maybe I am. It’s my lover…he’s so different from you and I cling to him. I’m terrified of losing him. Then tonight…not so terrified. It’s time to call him, tell him to come home and I’m avoiding it. I know he’s drunk, and he’s been smoking. I hate it. I said I’d never be with a smoker… a drunk, well that’s another thing. That’s what drew me to him and away from you. I imagined a scenario where I would leave, and you would miss me so much that you’d come for me. Real life has no fairy tale endings. I’m constantly trying to rewrite this but nothing matters. Not the 4.0 GPA, not the stack of short stories on my desk or the Grad school applications. You don’t want me, and I don’t want him to come home. He’s mean sometimes. He’s mean to me and he’s cruel to the kids. How did I fall into the abuse trap? I’m sure he wouldn’t see it that way…but he’s sick sometimes. It’s like he gets his period and wigs out. I’m so tired of it. Why do I love him? I have no idea. What the hell is wrong with me? He criticizes me all the time. I’m never good enough. I want to go home. I miss my family and I so tired. I miss my husband. Sometimes I hit myself so hard it leaves bumps, knots under the skin. I cover the bruises with makeup.
The settlement is close you say. We agree on it and then you step back and travel. I so goddamn frustrated, angry and tired at the same time. I get so angry that I want to drive my truck through your front door and then I go lie down on the bed and sleep. You have written up a note on the house. I get the note and you get the house. You’ll pay off all the debt, or so you say. I don’t trust you anymore. I need the money you promised me. Everything is about money nowadays. We would get along if it weren’t for the constant struggle over it. You make close to a million a year. I don’t understand why the kids and I have to suffer. You tricked me into paying the bill for Shane’s teeth and I’m furious. I had to write a check that is no good. If you don’t pay me back it will bounce, and I’ve e-mailed you twice with no response. You never answer me anymore. It’s been a one year and six months since we separated and you’re happy. You’ve taken up flying Cessna now as well. It’s become your passion and you never miss a weekend. The girls call me constantly on the days there are supposed to be with you. “Mom, Katie won’t take a bath. She’s being really naughty.” What am I supposed to do? It’s my day off…but I guess a mom never has a day off. Dads just ditch their families. Katie asks me “Mom, why is dad gone so much when I visit?” I feel like telling her it’s because he only takes you to pay less child support. I know you love them, but you love them when it’s convenient for you and that’s not very often.
I determined that we are never going to be divorced and never going to reconcile. Two years later I know I can never again be part of a family, completely united, completely in love. It’s every little girl’s fantasy and I lost it. Well, maybe it was never there in the first place. I just wanted it to be, needed it be. That’s why I acted out, trying to get your attention like a naughty kid. It’s like all the psychologists say, even bad attention is attention and I craved it from you. You wrote me an e-mail days after I left. It was the most poignant thing I’d ever read, a fantasy. I was sure you were coming to rescue me, that my plan had somehow worked. You told me that you loved me and missed me. That I was your best friend. How I cry over that now. We were together for seventeen years. We grew up together and you were the best friend I ever had. How does one ever recover from the loss? Honey, tell me all this time later how do I move on? I’ll never stop missing you…taking to you…loving you.
About the Author
Sheree La Puma is an award-winning writer whose personal essays, fiction and poetry have appeared in or are forthcoming in Heron River Review, The Rumpus, O:JA&L, Plainsongs, The Main Street Rag, Burningword Literary Journal, I-70 Review, Inflectionist Review, Levee, The London Reader, Bordighera Press - VIA: Voices in Italian Americana, Gravel, Foliate Oak, PacificReview, Westwind and Ginosko Literary Review, among others. She received an MFA in Writing from California Institute of the Arts and taught poetry to former gang members.