Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Prose: "Breaking the Barrier"
I don’t know how to compete against the memory of a girl that unwantingly has held his heart all of his adult life. Not even a memory, I guess. Because she is still there. She still exists. She hadn’t even wanted him since high school, more than fifteen years ago, and I want him more than any man I’ve ever met. Yet she is still my rival, my biggest competition.
He says he doesn’t want her. Not in the least. And I suppose I believe him. But in my heart, I am not sure it’s the fact of his physically wanting her that really bothers me. I am less afraid of the concrete than I am of the abstract. And his feelings for her are abstract. His place for her in his life is abstract. His place for her in his heart is abstract. I am queen of his concrete world. I reign supreme over his laundry, his aches and pains that require rub downs and massages, his shirts that need ironing before his shift begins at 4 am. I sit in a throne of power over his homemade dinners cooked every night, his twins that I carry within my body, his lustful needs in bed, his prescriptions that need filling at Walgreen’s. But I have no idea what that means. Because for some reason, that doesn’t translate into anything more…no special place in his heart, no certain weakness over his being, no unwanted power over his mind, body or soul.
Love for him requires my appreciation and dedication to the work around the house that he finds important. Making sure there are no random papers on the back of the couch from when my older son brought me his latest work from school. Putting the dirty dishes immediately in the dishwasher and the clean dishes immediately back in their place. Washing, drying and folding the clothes. Keeping our home free of clutter. Making sure my side of the bed is clean. If I do these things, for the most part, he’ll be happy. If I tell him what a man he is, how responsible he is, how much I appreciate the work he puts into keeping our family fed and sheltered, he’ll be happy. But I am not.
Love for me requires physical touch. Not sexual, although that would qualify as well. I need the hand on the thigh when we are sitting near each other. A touch on the back of the neck when he passes me. Our feet meeting in secret under covers while we sleep. It also requires words of affection. I do not need to hear “I love you,” simply because I doubt that you love me, but because the mere sound of those three words, in that order, bring tidal waves of joy and happiness into my heart, provide for me a sense of calm and home, a euphoric sense of peace. These things are the hardest for him to do.
That was not how it was at the beginning though. He wanted affection and gave it back. Freely. But now I live with some monstrous, alternate, twilight zone version of him. Someone who shops online for himself and doesn’t think to ask if I needed anything. Someone that has yet to really “surprise” me with a little special something that I don’t really need that he didn’t need to give to me, other than to show his adoration or love. Someone that is able to walk out the door to a fourteen hour long day of work without even as much as a peck on the cheek.
Sometimes I’ll say things such as, “It’s hard, I’m pregnant with your babies, it’s a constant reminder of you,” and he’ll respond with a sarcastic and angry, “Thanks, Like I needed you to remind me of that.” What does that mean? Why can’t I say it out loud? And doesn’t that make me special? Doesn’t that make me different? Doesn’t that change the way that he should look at me, present me to the world, think of me? I don’t get it (another one of his least favorite phrases of mine). I don’t. The minute I knew we were pregnant, the minute he went from “boyfriend” to “daddy,” his position in my life forever changed. I would do anything for this man. I do anything for this man. When he wakes at 3:30 am for his day of work, I rollover with him and massage his back, lotion him up, do what I can to make my man feel good about having to wake at 3:30 am to take care of his family and his home. And when I am done with that, I get out his white shirt and I iron, with starch, just like he likes it—despite the fact that the smell of the starch makes me sick. AND AFTER THAT, I’ll ask him if we wants anything to eat for the day, the morning, whatever, and I’ll go to the kitchen and make him his two sandwiches, just the way he likes them with turkey and bacon and cheese on toasted bread, or pack him a Tupperware full of leftovers from the homemade dinner the night before, and get his energy drinks or bottle of water with iced tea packet. Haven’t I earned my place in is world, if not just through carrying his babies, but through my actions, my sacrifices, for him?
I am his burden. I am not his greatest love or his most precious possession. I am his burden. I dare anyone to wake up every morning with that knowledge. I dare anyone to try to react normally to abnormal situations in their relationship with that sitting in the back of their mind. It’s impossible. Everything feels like a test, and around every corner you are looking for a shred of evidence that you have moved up the ladder. “Oh yes, I know he’ll show me this time that I am not just his burden…that I am more, I am his love, his woman, his queen or at least his princess…maybe this time, no, that time…maybe…” While another woman held secret dominion over him for 15 years, yet paid him little of this attention. Rejected him. Kept him at bay. Flaunted her hurt at other men not loving her in front of him, pranced her pain of random relationships in his face and around him while he held her on a pedestal, made her his greatest love, gave her the position of sacred woman, beloved woman, the only woman with a hold over of his heart. My heart is breaking. My heart is breaking. My heart is breaking.
I have given him everything I have, everything I am, but it is still not enough. I am empty. And now my dreams, which I shared with him when we first met and stayed up for all hours of the night talking about impossible dreams, are dying. We discussed a kind of love that could occur when two people vowed to take care of each other. If I were devoted to you and your happiness, and you were devoted to me and my happiness, then we would share the most wonderful, selfless kind of love and live in bliss for years to come. But what happens when someone doesn’t hold up his or her end of the bargain? I am the answer. You are an empty vessel. And your heart will break. And then, you will start to fill yourself back up, you will gain back your confidence, you will regain your strength, but you will lose your dream and you will slowly slip away from that other human being, who may not notice at first, but who will eventually see and may or may not come around at that point. But, it will be too late.
Ironically, that his how he lost the other woman. The woman that has unwantingly held onto his heart. She had to let go. When she did, he slowly began to come around. Maybe her power over him has been guilt. Maybe I need to walk away too. Maybe then he’ll come around. But I don’t want to hold any power that comes from guilt. I want the deep and unending equal power of love.