I am a bitch – he will not stop drinking – his ex-wife had this ridiculous request and she is a bitch, too. I will be a bitch for a few more hours, until he falls asleep sitting up on the couch. He will stumble to bed, scatter vomit from the nightstand to the toilet, and scream I have done nothing to you! until I confuse his wet-brain by hiding in the garage and setting the security system from my phone.
I will shake for a few minutes, slow my racing heart by locking the spare-bedroom door, and listen for a flushing toilet. Once the walls vibrate with his snoring, I will creep out, scour the living areas for signs of disease or damage, as the children are young and inquisitive, and I hope to keep this boiling pot far from their reach for as many years as I can.
I have concocted the perfect mixture of hospital grade Lysol and Meyers Lemon Fresh concentrate to alleviate midnight’s messes, to wipe away the unhealthy mechanisms of this marriage. He will praise this effort when he is revived, commenting on the fresh scents, the mopped floor, the spotless toilet. I will leave no trace of yesterday’s dinner on the side of the tub or on the rim of the sink. He will greet the day with guilt disguised as a smile, unaware of previously demanding that I pack up the children and the dog to get the fuck out of my house just a few hours ago.
I am a kind and hardworking woman today: I provide a supplemental income, stunning flower arrangements, and lovely folding techniques. Today, I am the love of his life. I am a mother who deserves a medal of honor, a woman who shines in full coverage makeup, a talented writer with the ambition of a lion. I am the glue that holds our blended and broken family together. I am a wife that will never leave him – because he has never hurt me – and my anxiety is just a nasty side effect of my pre-existing depression.
He will run into the city today, retrieving all of my favorite things, kids’ too, and we will laugh about something he did at work – something that all of the guys got a good kick out of. He is a really nice guy, down-to-earth, and up for a promotion – but I will carefully mock him. I will gently poke fun at his particular nature, commenting with a laugh, God forbid they knew how angry you get when I leave the laundry sitting on the dining table. He will laugh at himself in this moment, agreeing he is hot-tempered, uneven in personality, and he will offer a prayer over dinner.
He relieves my stress by putting stained silverware in the dishwasher and brushing crumbs from the counter to the floor. He is not pleased at my exhaustion but offers his condolences, I just hate that for you, Babe, as he opens a beer and fumbles between CNN and super hero movies. He should have his own show, he laughs, as he could light up a room with his small-town charm. I am a lucky woman; I should be thankful for so much.
The television buzzes as the children fight their sleep. I check the levels of my Lysol mixture and start a text-chat with a friend. We chug along with exchanges as I watch him transform over the top of my phone: his eyebrows begin to furrow and his mouth puckers; his head tilts and his eyes struggle to align. He empties the trashcan like a killer tossing his gun into a river.
I quietly sneak off to bed, avoiding the collision, but he follows me, turns all of the lights on and asks what my problem is because I have done nothing to you! I am worn down from the day, worn down from worrying about the evening all day, and I ask him to please let me be, please let me rest, I am tired. There is no reason for a lazy bitch like me to be tired – I have a charmed life, with his substantial financials and his caring nature towards my children. I am a selfish bitch, motivated by nothing but other people who think I am rude and cruel in nature. I am nothing more than a waste of space, a shitty mother, and a cold-hearted wife.
I stare at the hole in the wall he patched up a few weeks ago. I think about calling 9-1-1 as he shouts over the sleeping children, but the officer did nothing the last time he was here, almost laughing, Ma’am, we can’t arrest a man who chooses to put holes in his own walls. I can’t arrest anyone for yelling in their own home. I have exhausted all of my friends with this and I know a text from me will either be ignored or deferred to prayer. By this time, he has spoken his peace and slammed the door. The children sleep through the commotion and I crawl in next to them.
He does not appreciate their legs in our bed, but I press my nose to the top of their heads and breathe in everything I can about the days I dressed them in tiny onesies and put my breast in their suckling mouths. I think about the long, long nights – alone in a one-bedroom apartment – with the tv muted, and a heartbeat sound machine that always had dying batteries. I think about my own mother putting me to sleep in her dark arms, colored by her days in the garden. I think about her roses and the sound of her pulling weeds – a soft, gentle tug – one after the other.
Beyond my bedroom door, I am reminded of the chaos at hand – pots are banging on the counter and doors are slamming. There is no pattern to his movements, it is unpredictable, and I pull the children closer as I watch the light under the door. My heart is racing and I feel the tears building like domes of bees.
A shadow passes the light under the door and I imagine my mother on its other side. The clink of the dish in the sink is her putting away my father’s coffee cup. The slamming of the door is nothing more than her giving an extra push to a door that sticks this time of year. This late-night glow from under the door is her watching the news, lighting her last cigarette, and standing watch, like a mother who deserves a medal of honor.
C. Cimmone is an author and editor. She is alive and well on Twitter at @diefunnier.