I am so selfish. I cannot believe how thoughtless I've been. I know I didn’t mean to be but that is no excuse.
After finishing up last night and getting in bed I was half way asleep when some noise caught my ear. It sounded like the baby gate at the top of the stairs. I was up in a flash because Feena occasionally climbs out of her crib though she’s never done it at night. Sure enough it was off its latch, something I didn’t think she was capable of yet. I started down the stairs, trying to be quiet so as not to wake up Cal as he had gone to bed early ... I thought it was exhaustion catching up with him.
The first floor was as dark as the inside of whale's belly and I couldn’t hear anything that told me where she could be. I almost flipped on the light switch but then the one in the kitchen came on, then was intentionally turned dim so I knew it wasn't Feena who couldn't even reach the switch. My next thought was that Cal had gotten called into work.
I walked in and I am glad I hadn't called out because what met my eyes when I rounded the corner took my breath away. I found Cal with his head down on his arms at the kitchen table. He wasn't making a sound yet his shoulders were shaking. A picture of his and Lily's wedding day half crumpled was held in a fist. I was caught flat footed. I had no idea what to do. Some men are extremely private about their misery and pain. But then I thought, this is Cal, we've been through some horrible stuff together, if I don't try and share his pain then who will. I owe him.
Quietly I came over and hugged his shoulders. He jumped slightly, stiffened a bit, then relaxed enough that it wasn't like trying to hold a boulder, though it still came close. I don't know how long we stayed like that. Eventually he sat up, but wouldn't look at me.
I had to say something; the quiet was stretching into something terribly uncomfortable. "I'm sorry for the circumstances," I told him solemnly. "But I am blessed to be the one here and to give back some of what you've been giving to me for so long."
He got up and went over to the sink and splashed his face. After a moment he cleared his throat and finally spoke. “It isn't like this day hasn't been coming. Maybe for years. I know I didn’t want it at first but now I do so it isn’t that. I don't know why it is hitting me like this.”
Trying not to say the wrong thing I took a moment to answer him. Drawing on my own experience I told him, "Because … because it is like a death. You're grieving the loss of what could have been."
He seemed like he was thinking over what I’d said and then asked, "Was this how you felt with Daniel?"
"I don't know. Some I guess. There's days I still don't know how I feel. Sometimes I think I have a handle on it and sometimes I know I don't. I still don’t know why Daniel made the choices he made and I sure don’t know why Lily did what she did to you. They were both wrong."
After a sigh that sounded like it came from deep in his soul he said, "I know why. She never loved me."
Automatically I said, "Aw Cal, of course she did."
For some reason at that moment I noticed that the bald spots on his head had finally grown back in but then that thought flitted away as he shook his head and said, "No Aria, she really didn't. She married me on the rebound to prove that she was over the guy that had dumped her mid-way through college. She married me to escape the life her parents kept trying to force on her. She married me because it was unexpected and she wanted to break out of what everyone kept telling her she would do. She married me because I was easy to get along with and I made her feel better. She was in lust with me, we were good in bed, but she was never in love with me."
"You can't know that Cal."
He shrugged, but it had not energy to it. "Sure I can. When we were really being honest with each other in counseling she said it and never changed her story."
Confused I asked the first thing that popped into my head. "But ... but if that's true, how did your marriage last this long?"
Still not looking at me he said, "Because I was willing to settle. Divorce just wasn't an option I was willing to consider. I loved her; I made that good enough. I learned to accept that she didn't love me the same way but I convinced myself that in time she would. I accepted she didn’t want kids. I learned to accept what she could give and live with it. And for a while things were good; they were never great, but they were good. Some of the best times we had being together and working together were when things were so bad between you and Daniel. It is like we were seeing there but for the grace of God went the two of us and we made more of an effort each day to treat each other the right way."
"But it's also when things went so bad."
"Yeah. Because I think she saw it all and it was just ... she got tired of settling, pretending to herself that it was enough. She went back to her first love to try and recapture being in love. When that didn't work is when she got angry … angry and progressively nastier. Mostly at me but the anger spread looking for a target. You got caught in that, so did Trish and Amaris. She was angry at what she started to think of as all the wasted years. She just didn't want to waste any more time, anymore years. See she’s finally decided she wants a kid."
"Wait, I thought she didn't."
He shrugged. "Turns out she just didn't want a kid with me."
I have to say, even with all the carp I have gone through, the stark cruelty of that sentence shocked me. If it is honestly how Lily feels, why would she tell him that to make his pain all that much worse? How could she possibly blame Cal for loving her? How could she possibly blame Cal because she was unable to love him back? It doesn’t make any sense to me at all. It would have been better if she had left him years ago when the marriage was so young than to build his hopes up, make him believe that forever was possible.
Cal pushed away from the sink and walked over to the back door and opened it but couldn’t go through. He stared blindly at the shuttered opening, as if he’d opened a door only to find a brick wall behind it and was still computing the surprise.
I stood looking at him trying to find the right words but they seemed out of my reach. I knew telling him he'd find someone new was useless because I didn't know for sure that he would … or if he even wanted to. I sure didn't tell him what Lily had said didn't matter because it obviously did. I walked over to stand beside him, not touching since it seemed that was that last thing he wanted but still near, silent proof that I was on his side if he wanted me there. Hurting because I saw him hurting, frustrated I didn’t have the words to make it better, the only thing I could come up with was, "Lily is a fool in so many ways that there aren’t enough numbers in the world to cover them all."
We stood that way for a while and then without saying another word he shut the door and we turned and went back upstairs, only separating as we each turned into our own rooms. I hope he got more rest than I did because it was a long time before I could sleep.
But it isn’t over. In some respects it may never be over for him anymore than it may never be over for me. I don’t know if he’ll dream of her, wake up and for just a moment forget she’s gone. Maybe he’ll imagine he hears her voice in the middle of the night calling out to him. Maybe he’ll change his mind and decide he made a mistake and try and win her back. Maybe not, part of me hopes not unless that is what is going to make him truly happy like he deserves. Mostly I pray he’ll handle things better than I have and find some peace.
He rushed out of the house this morning. I don't know if it is because he was late for work or because he didn't want anything said about last night. There were no friendly texts during the day, no slightly bossy texts checking on things. The silence has deafening even though I understand it. Then about five o’clock he did text but only to tell me he wouldn't be home tonight.
I don't want to make him uncomfortable. I don't want to make him feel bad. I want to do something to help him feel better but I don't know what. I do know that I can't continue taking him for granted. I hope it isn’t already too late.