I can't tell you how much your comments have touched both of us. Thank you for your words, your advice, your virtual hugs and pints of ice cream. Just one more dark part to go.
Thank you for reading.
Thank you for caring.
We were fucked up. I won't pretend we weren't. Derrick was facing the most important day in his career. He was facing a cross-state move. He was facing the next four years of his life, one that would determine the outcome of his entire career...and he was facing my growing emotional detachment. It's one thing to face moving away from the family you've lived near for twenty-eight years. It's another to face losing the woman you love.
It's an especially twisted circumstance to lose her to an envelope.
I wish I could lay out for you in crisp detail what happened on the Wednesday night before Match Day. I wish I could set the scene for you, make you see the darkened hallway, the hardened drips of the locked door I leaned upon, the constant clack of the shot glass hitting the table, the way my knife ran through the rind of the lime.
I wish I could outline the night's events so they made sense for you, tell you which words we hissed and which we whispered.
To use a tired cliche, it was like a mirror had dropped and I'm left picking up the pieces, wondering which fit where.
Call me Unreliable. I'll be your narrator for the evening.
We had people over. We laughed. I remember this.
I remember a glass in my right hand throughout the evening. My oil can. Whenever I could feel my laugh grate, my hand shake, I'd refill the glass, and I carried on. I smiled. I took pictures. I made jokes. I was some bizarre semblance of normal.
Again, I lied.
I watched nerves and liquor take his body, saw the sidelong glances he'd give me. I saw him tense and relax, laugh and pause, become more and more unhinged. It was like watching someone drown and knowing you'd pushed him, knowing he had one hand on the deck railing and you had flung it away and watched him fall into the dark of the sea.
I tried to backtrack. I went into full supportive significant other mode. I played hostess for both of us. I listened sympathetically to the neighbors who came to complain about the noise. I dragged Derrick back in the house when he tried to confront them. I covered. I quieted. I soothed. I explained. I made excuses. And I lied.
The guests left either with awkward goodbyes or tense confrontations. When the last person had gone, I turned on Derrick. I confronted him. I interrogated. I raged. And in return, I got nothing.
Derrick was wrapped in some black cocoon, harboring himself in a shroud of tequila and defenses, waiting for me to drop that inevitable hammer. I'm leaving you.
I can't put up with you.
Why are you like this?
He expected it. He prepared for it.
Finally, I gave him what he wanted. I slammed him up against the wall and told him I was leaving in the morning. I was trying desperately, so desperately to wake him up, make him feel something about us, make him care.
The cocoon snapped and the dam broke.
I had said the words Derrick had been dreading all week. The rest of the night is unfocused, a blur. I remember the the monologuing, the locked doors, the smashed lightbulb, the pleading, the worry. I got him to bed. I waited until I heard the quiet stillness of sleep. Then I went to the couch and tried to cry.
I woke up in the morning with the quiet resolve to pack up my little old car full of as many clothes and necessities as it could handle. I was leaving.
Derrick came out at 7:50 and told me he wanted to leave at 8.
I don't know what I expected. I guess some grand sweeping "I'm sorry, we're perfect, I messed up, let's stay and leave happily ever after" speech. He was civil, sure. Positively polite. Agonizingly polite. Finally, I asked him if he was going to say something --anything-- about last night.
What's there to say? he said.
I was done.
I'm not going with you today, babe.
His eyes were as hard and empty as yesterday. Look. If you want to talk or whatever, that's fine. But not today.
I watched him rush around the house and get ready. I watched with the eyes of a woman watching her relationship wither and die in front of her.
I tried to imagine packing up all my things. I pictured spending the day packing while he was away at Match Day, waiting to learn where he was going for the next four years. The biggest day of his career. And I wasn't going with him, wasn't going to be there to cry with him or celebrate with him when he found out where he was going. We were done. We were over. This was it.
But it wasn't it. Life wasn't supposed to be like this. I had limits, he had limits, we had both crossed them. Fine. Still--
Give me five minutes, I said. We--us---this---is worth five minutes.
In a cold moment I will never forget, Derrick looked at the clock. He sat down. Five minutes.
You're actually going to time it? I asked. For the first time in 12 hours, I saw his jaw soften a little bit. I took a breath.
Look. This week has been hard. It's been really fucking hard. And maybe you think everyone HAS left you in the past. When your chips are down, they leave. They think, Derrick's got it. He's got this. He doesn't need me.
But I am not everyone else. I'm not. WE are not everyone else. And honestly? If that's what you think--that I'm just like everyone else in your life--I'm leaving. I'm walking away right now. Because you know I am not everyone. I am the girl who will talk with you for five hours straight about everything you've ever went through and beg for more. I'm the girl who screams Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" through your sunroof. I'm the girl who plays air guitar on our coffee table with all the window open. I'm the girl who goes into abandoned houses with you, who dances to the Temptations in the kitchen with you, who tracks through mud, weeds, and thorns in stockings and heels with you.
I am the girl who goes swimming with her goddamn clothes on.
And I am not everyone else.
I finally dared to look at him. His head was in his hands. When he lifted his eyes, there were tears in them. We cried and we held each other and we talked and we said I'm sorry, I'm so sorry over and over and over again.
And we left for Match Day. Together.