Life after Dark.
These days the sun goes down early, around six. Earlier for us, even, because we live on the eastern side of a hill so the tallest trees begin to cast their shadows at four.
In the winter, in January, I wait for Ashley to come home. I remember a year ago when I was pregnant and desperate, miserable, the days divided simply into before and after. Before he got home. After he came home. I waited with all the desperation of a lonely creature. Maybe I cleaned. I know I read. I read and read and read. I don’t remember any of them. Those days were a blur. I’ve blocked them out with the relentlessness of an unhealthy mind, troubled and distressed and terrified. Just as the diseased mind of depression refuses recall, or the inability of the human body to remember physical pain, I can no longer summon remembrance of things past.
Those were the days. The nights began when he came home. (So simple, how they divided; he came home when the shadows began to creep over the yard, the roof. I didn’t care about when the sun went down because one day was no different from the next; there was no promise of tomorrow because the days stretched endlessly, coldly, as far as the eye could see.)
Because there was nothing else to look for, nothing significant in those days, I attached so much importance to his return and waited for him like a puppy. It was hard for him, I think, almost as hard as it was for me. When he drove up in his truck (green trucks still make my heart skitter) I ran out to greet him, sure that the boredom and loneliness of the day was ended. But he was always tired from work. He wanted a beer and a cigarette, not a kiss. I hated him for that. I learned to shut down, how to close off and to keep for myself what should be shared. I shut down. After weeks of running (running!) out to his truck to meet him, I began to stay in the house. Later I learned to not even put down my book when he walked in the door. He didn’t want it. What felt like his rejection was devastating. I cried years.
After dark, after Ashley came home.
We talked, sometimes. Mostly about what was for dinner. I hated dinner. I hated talking about what’s for dinner. It’s an excuse for not talking about other things. It’s not a topic of conversation. It doesn’t count as “talking.” But Ashley doesn’t like to talk very much. So we sat together, mute, on the porch and sometimes I smoked a cigarette. He drank. A picture of life after dark was Pabst beer bottles and an ashtray of cigarettes. The most talking we did was screaming. We fought and fought. I don’t remember any of it. Only some images remain: Ashley red-faced, putting his fist through the drywall. Me shattering a floor length mirror. Throwing glass. Smashing things. Ashley beating his head against the brick, screaming was this what you wanted. Tears and rage and rage and rage and stasis. Running away, hugely pregnant, to the highway at midnight. His anger. Telling me I was psychotic, that I needed a therapist. That he would take the child. Find a new wife.
This, this is why our bodies block pain. this is why our minds refuse to summon nights like those. Our mercy on ourselves.
I forgot myself in those long months. I saw with his eyes. It was easier to become him, to lash out. I learned the art of defensiveness. To take offense, to pounce, take the mind unawares. POUNCE! YOU BASTARD! how dare you say such things. I hate you. And the other, shocked, angry now, and fuck you and I’m leaving.
Too much. Not good reading. Draining to write.
These nights are better. How could they get worse? Baby Annie’s here now. My consolation and my love. Marriage is like sandpaper, Kate said. It hurts but it will refine. We still fight, sometimes. But my days are no longer empty.