Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I loved a man once

I'm alone now, but I wasn't always. Once I woke when my husband did in the mornings and made him breakfast before work. He said he didn't really want pancakes with fruit in the batter before work - he said he wasn't really that hungry that early. So sometimes I stayed in bed. The problem with that was he'd kiss me before leaving, and his cologne which was nice when I was awake made me furious when it intruded into my sleep. So often I'd get up and try to cook breakfast anyway.
He liked big lunches. I'd pack them, or he'd pack them himself. He'd iron his clothes and shine his shoes and sometimes he'd cut his hair before work.
He was always on time.
He told me he loved me a lot. Sometimes he'd call home at lunch. While he was gone I'd do laundry and clean things and write letters and worry about money and the ATM fees from how many times he got $20 cash. I'd read cookbooks. I'd look for jobs in the classifieds.
After he got home he'd cook dinner, or I would, or we'd cook together. We'd watch Star Trek or PBS or read books or sometimes he'd garden on the balcony or maybe we'd write. We talked about his day, and things we'd read and heard and seen, and decide what was right and wrong in every instance. Sometimes we'd talk about what we'd tell our future kids about it.
We'd close up the apartment for the night and go to bed together. Sometimes we'd have sex, or maybe argue about whose turn it was to give the backrub. I tried to fall asleep first, because he snored horribly. Sometimes I'd get so angry listening to him snore because sleeping was hopeless. But I'd say I could sleep when he left for work.
In later years we worked together on newspaper routes, waking at 3 am to drive to a warehouse that smelled so strongly of rubber and plastic and ink he'd have to pull the car over so I could vomit. I tried not to get sucked into the Wall Street Journal articles because folding and wrapping faster meant more money for us in tips.
He always folded more papers than I did.
He also did all the driving.
And all of the talking to strangers.
For years he worked that job, and then would drop me home and work another full shift at another job.
And he loved me.
I'd ask:
"How much do you love me?"
And he'd answer:
"It's without measure."
We'd fight about money. Or sex. Or our families. We fought a lot about the future. I wanted a plan. He wavered. I wanted him to get a degree, then a career, and then I'd get a degree and a baby, maybe, or a career. He wanted things I didn't want, and was afraid to tell me, couldn't see how to get them and keep our life. 
He was afraid I wanted things he couldn't give me.
I did.
But I didn't want to let go of his hand to get them.
Because he loved me.
He brought home kittens. Jewelry. Lemon trees. Furniture. A computer with internet. Plans to get dozens of CDs for "not too much."
I worried, constantly, about money. About paying bills on time. About debts. About lonliness.
I would ask:
"How do I know you love me?"
He'd say:
"I come home to you every day."
I cried and confessed I couldn't be a pastor's wife, sobbing about how sorry I was that I'd ruined his plans, that I'd deceived him, I just couldn't, just couldn't stomach it, couldn't live begging people for money and being nice to people I didn't trust and being an example.
He cried and confessed he'd never be able to give me the life my sister had with vacations and a house and two cars and cable TV and new clothes. And I hated myself for wanting those things when I was loved.
And over years the decisions and compromises and things you do to get along and make things better, and we made more money and got degrees and a house and cell phones and two cars and new clothes. But we didn't read each other's writing as much, and we didn't see each other every night. We'd work separately on different floors and made friends that weren't shared. 
And I'd ask him:
"Why do I need to come home tonight?"
And he'd answer:
"Because you're my wife."

I loved a man once. He cried when I left him, and asked about my new boyfriend, and asked if he was a good man who took good care of me.

I was loved once. He came home every night and brought me gifts and called me his little German French girl. I saw him give a report to the police when he was mugged walking home from the bus. He got me swing dancing lessons and horseback riding lessons and taught me to drive stick.

I wasn't always alone. 

I'm alone now. It's ok. But I wasn't always.

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