“I think we need to talk.”
No good has ever, in the history of spoken language, come from those words. He is standing across the room from me, near the doorway. He has me in plain sight, the only point of egress covered. Still, he feels the need to check his six. My prediction is this particular conversation will not break the trend.
“Okay. What do we need to talk about?” I have a theory. I start to get up from of my chair. His hand goes up instantly. Nope. This won’t be good.
“You don’t have to move.” Early evening, the light’s beginning to fade. I take my glasses off and rub the bridge of my nose. There’s a pain, just back of my eyes, beginning to build. I squint to see him. Maybe I’m happier not seeing him.
Allow me to introduce Bob, my husband of 13 years. From the way he’s shifting and twitching and looking guilty, this day is truly on its way to not ending well.
“We’d both be comfortable in the living room.”
“That’s okay. I’m fine here.” That makes one of us.
“Okay. Talk.” He looks irritated. I seem to have made him go off script. He hates that. I admit to taking a somewhat perverse pleasure in it.
“I’ve been thinking.” Probably not the time for a joke. “I’ve been thinking,” he repeats.
“You said that. Thinking what?”
“Can you just let me talk for once?’
That headache kicks it up a notch.
“I’ve been talking to Donte at work.” My eyes narrow. I’ve met Donte. Can’t say I liked him. At all.
“Donte. The one we saw at Best Buy with his wife? The wife so pretty I’d fuck her, and my gate doesn’t swing that way?” Then, I remember. “The one who’s pregnant girlfriend works with you, too?” His mouth compresses into a tight line. His eyes practically disappear. So much for his script.
“I’ve been talking to him. He says I need to get it over with.”
“Get what over with?”
My eyebrow rises in an impromptu Mr. Spock imitation. “Moving. I see.” We haven’t been getting along. Not fighting. Not really. Nothing that overt. We just seem to have reached the point of not caring enough to fight. At least I have.
“He said I need to just go ahead and get it over with. Move out. Get my own place.”
The pain behind my eyeballs picks up speed. “You’re taking advice from a man who has a pregnant girlfriend, and a wife and kids. Sounds like you may want to reconsider that.”
“That,” he says, “is part of the problem. You and that smart mouth.”
“So what else has Donte decided?” The sarcasm drips from my words. Along with some hurt and venom.
“He’s right. You hurt me. You really hurt me.” He really doesn’t want to go there.
“As I recall, you got firsts on that one.” His hands draw up into fists. He’d never hit me. He is getting angry, though. Good. I hate being angry alone.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right.” That always seems to be said by the first person to commit a wrong. “I can’t do this anymore. I’ll be moving by the end of the month.”
“You have a place?” He tells me about an apartment near the house. Our house. The home I put a down-payment on with the proceeds from my mother’s house.
“I can’t afford the house by myself.” He goes quiet again. Clearly, not his concern. He shrugs. Employment problems, money problems, lots of problems. We were probably going to lose the house anyway. This only hastens the inevitable.
“Sell it to one of those places that give you $1000 and takes over the payments. You can keep my half.”
The pain behind my eyes is now banging like the USC Marching Band. “Your half? You’re joking, right?”
“Donte said…” There are words after that. I don’t hear them. I couldn’t care less about Donte or his advice if I had paid for the privilege.
“Okay.” I need him to be quiet, for at least a minute. Just stop. I need to breathe. When I can breathe again, I notice he’s backed up a little. Not more of Donte’s sage wisdom, I hope.
“I need to tell you a few things before I go.”
“A few things like what?” There can’t be more. There just can’t
“I called Carolyn. I told her to take our names out of consideration.”
Carolyn is the agency supervisor we worked with in our effort to adopt. Consideration, as they called it, was the waiting list for the waiting list. We weren’t really being considered, but they haven’t closed the file, either. We spent years and a great deal of money hoping to adopt a child. A family is what I always wanted. He knows that. I’m adopted. His mother was adopted. I always wanted to adopt a child. When we got started, I didn’t have any fertility problems. What I had were Bob problems.
He said we couldn’t afford for me to have a baby. We couldn’t afford for me to be off work six weeks. It wouldn’t be fair for me to get six weeks off and him not. So, I suggested we look into adoption. I believed, I wanted to believe, it was something we both felt strongly about. That seemed a lot of tears, money, and dreams ago.
“Why are you telling me this now?” He takes another step back. Whatever he’s trying to say can’t be easy for him. Good.
“You need to know. About adopting. I didn’t want us to get a baby.”
The pain reaches a new pinnacle.
“I’m sorry. What? We tried for years—”
I give him a look to stop time. I need a moment to gather my thoughts. When we, scratch that, I, thought we were trying to adopt, we were in love. That was then. I know, delicately put, we aren’t as in love as we once were. This is now. I’m not sure then was better.
He gets this smirk. “I don’t have to explain myself to you.”
“Is that what Donte told you?” Fists clench again.
“You remember your friend, the tall one you went to school with?”
“Yeah. Her. And the gay couple we met at the training sessions? And the woman you used to work with?” I nod. We know all these are people from the adoption agency. All of them have been placed with babies, children, siblings. People who now have families. If he doesn’t get to the point, I’m going to throw something heavy. “Teresa and the woman you worked with are single mothers. The gay couple. All those other people, over the years, and they all got babies.” He smirks again. “You notice how funny Carolyn acts when we call her, or when we go by the agency?”
He has a point. She doesn’t seem especially happy to see or hear from us. She even told us it was best if she took us off the active list. I wondered at the time, but there’s nothing like being turned down by a 14-year-old single mother, as not being “good enough” for her baby, to kick you right in the self-esteem.
“Didn’t you ever wonder why all those people got babies and we didn’t?”
I did wonder. A lot. I wondered even more when I lay in bed at night, staring at the ceiling, wanting a child more than I wanted to breathe.
He’s waiting, watching me. I’m trying to sort it all out. Nothing comes to me. At last, he sighs.
“You need to understand something.” He takes a deep breath. I’ve given up breathing. “I did everything I could to make sure we never got a baby.”
It’s dusk now. I can barely see him. All I can make out clearly is the outline of his body, still braced against the door frame. There’s a self-satisfied glint to his eye in the fading light.
“Carolyn. I intimidated her, I didn’t tell you when she called, I complained about our case workers. Why do you think we had five caseworkers over the years?”
It begins to come together. Whenever I talked with her or our caseworkers, things seemed fine, like it was only a matter of waiting a while. When we talked with them together, things seemed far more bleak. Now I know why.
“I’d think you’d at least thank me for telling you. I could have let you go on not knowing I’m not a religious person. I am a person of faith, but religion never did it for me. That said, some thing, some entity, some power, far greater than myself, seems to be holding me to this chair. Preventing me from acting on the boiling rage ignited inside me.
“Typical. Never grateful for anything I do for you.”
“I’m grateful you’re leaving.”
He looks shocked. Knowing him, he hoped I’d break down. He expected this to devastate me. It has. There is no earthly way I’ll let him know that.
“All right. Well, I thought you should know.”
I suppose this is where my gratitude should come pouring out. Gratitude to him for ruining the one dream I had from before we were married. The one thing he said we agreed on fully. The one thing that meant more to me than breathing.
“One question. Before you go.”
“I’m not going until next week.”
“You’ll leave this house tonight. But there’s one thing I need to know. ”
“Why? Why did you do this?”
He looks at me like I’m simple. If there’s an obvious answer, it eludes me. “Because. I’ve seen you with babies. You love kids that aren’t even yours. Even worse, they love you.” He looks disgusted. I still look lost.
“You’re my wife. I’m supposed to come first. I didn’t want you to have a baby because I was afraid you’d love a baby more than you love me.”
Well. You just guaranteed that, now haven’t you?
This essay is nominated for The Flounce Non Fiction Writer’s Award 2015. Reader feedback in the comment section will be taken into consideration by the judges. Contest submissions deadline has been extended until Dec 5. Contest Rules.