A First Marriage
People ask me all the time why I married you. I've never come up with a good answer. I wasn't madly in love with you. I had no illusions of growing old with you. There was no romantic blur in which I overlooked your faults. I tripped into marriage with you. I married you because you wanted it so badly, and because... it was something that was happening to me, a wave rushing over me, a train I was riding on over which I had no control.
Our marriage happened to me.
I know what a cop out that is. Nonetheless, there it is. And it's as close to the truth as anything I can come up with. That, and the fact that you were the smartest man I had ever dated. Having a father who was and is the smartest man I've ever known, it was inevitable I should pick a husband by his intellect.
It took you months to get me to go out with you. More months to get me to take you seriously. But we would have conversations that would last for hours or even days, and I did love that. Then I left you for a time and wanted you back and I heard the words fall out of my mouth, "I'll even marry you if you really want me too."
And so I did.
I bought the wedding rings, paid for the justice of the peace, paid for the honeymoon night at a local hotel. And I remember talking to you just before we got married, telling you I was scared to death, and you promising me that I wasn't in this alone.
But I was. In it alone. I had to make all the money. Keep everything organized. Pay the bills, balance the checkbook, go to the grocery store, cook the meals, work overtime to keep up afloat. And you, when you weren't smacking me around, you mostly slept late, and hung out on the couch watching T.V.
You got a couple of jobs. Jobs you never took seriously and which paid subsistence wages. You had your child support to pay, and once it was taken out, there was almost nothing left for us.
I would walk in from a 12 hour day at the office and the first words out of your mouth would be "What's for dinner?" I used to love to cook. I used to be pretty damn good at it. But our marriage killed whatever pleasure I once found in cooking for me. Never again would it be a pleasure.
The worst thing was the violence. I remember the first time you hit me. You had slapped me around some before that, but the first time you really hauled off and hit me, I was in the hospital. I had had a heart attack, and had finally been moved out of CCU to the telemetry unit. I was hooked up to a thousand monitors and after you hit me, my heart raced, my blood pressure went up, and the room was suddenly swarming with nurses. I knew what to do: I knew to ask one of the nurses to call security, have you thrown out, call the cops and press charges. But I just couldn't do it. It was too much to take on. I had just had a heart attack. I was unsure if I was going to keep my job. I was worried sick about money. I just didn't have it in me to take on the violence too.
And I was ashamed. Incredibly, overwhelmingly, ashamed. To think that I, the rabid feminist, was a beaten wife.
The next worse thing was that everything, especially sex, became just another chore around the house. We would have sex and the clock would immediately start ticking counting the time until we had sex again. I suppose few people are fortunate enough to get in a marriage where their sex drive is exactly in synch with their partners, but your constant hovering, your waiting, it made me feel hunted. I hated it. I began to hate having sex with you.
But I learned something. The something I learned was that the desire level for sex with my partner was directly proportional to my trust level. The less I trusted you, the less I wanted to have sex with you. And in the short time it took for our marriage to self destruct, I completely stopped trusting you. Sex with you became a matter of endurance. A matter of "Okay, it's been a week. Let's get this over with."
Good thing too that I stopped trusting you. You were lying to me about money. Setting aside money for fun so I could work a 60 hour week to just pay the bills. You were lying to me about sleeping with other women. And when I needed you most, you weren't there.
That's what kllled it you know. I had surgery. I absolutely, positively could not work for six weeks, and you turned down a job offered by a friend who knew how badly we needed the money. But you thought it didn't sound like fun, so you declined. Fun! As though my corporate job were fun. As though I worked all that overtime for the joy of it. I knew then that if you couldn't be there for me then, you would never be there for me.
And you know what? I'm glad. I could have stayed in the violence, the degredation, for years had you not done that. I was so incredibly ashamed. I bent over backwards to keep people from knowing. Even now, no matter how often I tell another woman in the same position it's not her fault, I feel the guilt and the shame. I still believe on some deep level it was my fault.
After we split up, I fell apart. Completely unstitched. You were kind enough to take the time off to drive me to my first nut house. I was completely undone. The weight of all that had happened had settled on me and squashed me like a bug.
For a while, we had a friendly divorce. A thing that lasted until I found the lump in my breast and you decided that would be a good time to challenge the moral foundation of my life. Because, you see, I honor my obligations. I knew I was about to get in debt, and unlike you, I intended to actually pay it. You took this as yet another sign I was obsessed with money. Easy to accuse me of that. Easy to accuse anyone of that when they've been paying your bills.
We had agreed when we divorced that you owed me at least $3500 for the money you never paid for your share of the bills, for the gifts to your kids that you charged on my credit cards. For the money I'd spent fixing your motorcycle, keeping you in toys. You've promised for years - you with your $70,000 a year job, to pay that back, but the promises have never resulted in a single check. So tell me, just who is it that's obsessed by money? The one who supported you while you lived on the couch? Or the one who'se never paid back a single cent of that debt? How easy to live off of someone else and blame them for the stress of carrying you.
When the post-divorce relationship first went sour I was sad. I also couldn't believe that you would take this so seriously. But I'e come to be glad you're out of my life. I see you a bit more clearly, and in seeing you more clearly, I'm more grateful you are out of my life.
I've let go of the money you owe me. I've let go of the apologies you owe me. I've even let go of trying to figure out what happened. I'm just glad you're gone. Just glad it's over.
I have the broken bones to remember you by. The cigarette burns, and the sideways nose. I have the memory of walking up the stairs to our apartment knowing I was about to get beaten and not knowing how to avoid it. I have the memory of the awful way you played with me head.
You're no longer in my heart except for the bruises. And bruises - even ones to the heart, heal.