(other chapters can be found scattered throughout blog)
When I got back to my room I found it freshly cleaned, bed linens had been changed and the side of the covers was folded over with a little mountain of turn down chocolates poured out on top. The excessive amount of candy was an odd but welcome kindness from the maid, for a second everything seemed brighter. My encounter with the creepy little Lord Fauntleroy faded away as I bolted the doors and checked every window for cracks. All good, sealed and locked, my fortress was once again secure. It was the only home I had left. Just the thought of my apartment made me cringe, because no matter how I imagined it she was always there with her fork. But this room was all mine, free of everyone and everything, it allowed me to be myself at my worst without limitation. I ate mountains of fries with mayonnaise, drank unsafe amounts of alcohol, rolled around on the floor in hysterical drunken fits or laid passed out hugging a trashcan full of vomit, and no one, no one could judge me. One might say I had been overreacting, in fact had I found a more lasting sober moment I would have probably said so myself, but such a moment was not in the cards. This is the nature of downward spirals, at some point all that remains is the descent.
This space was like a tortoise shell, containing all those parts of me that were soft and unseemly. Now, freshly cleaned it bared no traces of the last four days, as if my disintegration never happened. I was being offered a chance to move forward. I emptied out my shopping bag onto the bed, its primary content, the Vodka bottle tumbled out with a thud and rolled onto the pillow as if to display itself. I proceeded to mull over my options. Having sobered up some, my common sense was resurfacing, telling me that it was time to pull it together. However with it came a jarring awareness that the future I had planned for myself was no more. It’s hard to explain what that felt like, but the words “loss” and “emptiness” seemed to best encompass the entire spectrum of my experience. I felt lost in every sense of the word; I lost my head, my dignity, my pride, my plans, my home.
Being sober for the first time in days I could physically feel the holes that had been punctured in my chest, I saw them in all their mangled sadness and immediately wanted to climb inside that bottle again. Instead I climbed onto the bed and sifted through my bounty, there was candy, gum, tissues, some over the counter sleeping pills, a key chain with wiggly rubber hairs and a bunch of other little junk. I shifted my attention to the pile of turn down chocolates and unwrapped them one after another, there was an astounding twelve of them in total. I tried to test my will power and having stacked them together meditated on how I was not going to eat them. A knock on the door broke my concentration, I didn’t stir, the knock repeated, I ignored it; counting that it would just go away. Instead it became more resolute and escalated into a kind of rhythmic pounding. Still I just stared at the door determined to wish the intrusion away. In a strange display of non-compromise I sat on the bed for at least five long minutes staring at the door from which came a persistent thud. Finally I became sufficiently unnerved and curious to unfold my legs from the yoga position they were curled in. I worried for a second that the weird psychic kid and his horrifying dog had stalked me all the way to the room, but then I reasoned that this was not at all possible as neither unsupervised children nor animals in general could have possibly slipped by the front desk. I slid off the bed and tip toed to the door, leaning against it I held my breath and peered through the peephole.
A chill ran through me and I flinched, almost jumped. On the other side of the door there stood a man; he was a tall, slightly awkward looking person with shaggy hair and a short unkempt beard. I studied him more closely, from his sunken shoulders to his wrinkled shirt he looked like he hadn’t slept or changed his clothes in days. He didn’t look like himself, it was as if he was wearing a mask of a much older man. Seeing my husband in that state, mollified me in some tiny way. I watched through the peephole for another minute, as he continued to bounce his hand against the door. I felt relief. I was relieved to find that it was he because that meant I could finally ask all those questions that had been storming through my brain since the moment I saw her. Now the possibilities were endless, I could say everything that had built up inside me, I could release the pressure in my lungs, I could punish, guilt, forgive? I could let it all out and it would be done on my terms, in my house. I took a deep breath and told myself to be calm, to be dignified, but as these things happen, it was too late. My body had already shifted into a compromising high stress mode and well out of my control, my blood pressure had jumped and I could feel heat seeping out of every pore in my face. I realized that I had been tightly squeezing my fists but when I tried opening my hands my fingers shook so hard I had to close them back up.
This was one of those rare, but incredibly aggravating occasions when no matter how hard I tried to contain myself, my nervous systems betrayed me. It was completely uncontrollable and always embarrassing. Once in the middle of a business dinner I found myself so rattled by an insensitive comment made by a coworker that against my every effort tears started to roll down my face. The awkward silence which fell over the table in response to my inappropriate crying made me feel even worse and so embarrassed that in order to avoid breaking out into a fully fledged bawl I had to rush off into the ladies room. It took me months to live down the incident, I had to be all self deprecating and humorous about it around my coworkers. “Ahahaha those pesky hormones” In truth the guy who made the offending comment was an asshole and I wish I had it in me to tell him to stick a sock in it right there and then, rather than cry. I always believed that this was an example of why a chemical emotionality put women at a disadvantage in poker, business, and most importantly love, especially with the latter being a combination of the first two. I ordered myself to get it together, after all the timing was perfect. I was alright for the time in days, cleaned up and reassembled. My room was immaculate not counting the twelve scattered candy foils. It was a dignified staging. Despite these considerations the more I stalled the more self conscious I felt. In an effort to intercept the cowardice swelling inside my stomach I gripped the door handle and jerked it open.
He looked startled to see me, like the last thing he expected was for this door to actually yield. We stood opposite each other at a loss; locked in an awkward stillness. My whole adult life I believed wholeheartedly that I could never be an actor in this kind of theater, because my relationships were too evolved to be dragged down into such clichéd dirt. Now standing there all sweaty and petrified, a jilted wife and her guilt wrecked philandering husband, I thought it was unfortunate that there was no protocol for this sort of scene. Some sort of manual I could have studied to prepare for this possibility would have been nice.
The ironic thing is I never really believed in the sanctity of marriage vows, the frequency with which people broke them alone made it impossible not to keep a skeptical eye on the entire institution. I perceived marriage vows as just an exercise in romanticism and wishful thinking. They did not factor in the fact that with time people can change, grow apart and even fall out of love. Since none of these events can be foreseen, how could anyone make promises about the things still pending and unknowable? In my opinion it was the personal integrity and quality of the individuals involved which made for a substantive relationship, regardless of whether the eternal element panned out or not. My understanding of life and my values were built on this premise, a premise shattered by a barefooted girl in my kitchen and a fork. She created a vortex through which everything I believed in was funneled, my husband came out the other side a complete stranger, but what was worse I came out a stranger too, shapeless and uncertain of anything.