It is a strange situation when you find yourself a stranger in your own life. I wake up in the same bed, drive the same car and yet every breath seems foreign to me. This is not the same life I have been living. There is no car seat in the truck, no lunch box to pack, everything is exactly as I leave it everyday when I return. After fourteen years of being with someone I am experiencing loneliness for the first time. I have envied so many single friends and only now do I understand what it is like to be all alone surrounded by a sea of humanity. I surf through Facebook and Myspace trying to find old friends and struggling to make new ones. I have been hidden for so long beneath this enormous lie that was our marriage and trying so hard to pretend like my life was the same as my peers that I don't know where to start sometimes. There is no twelve step program to stand up and declare "I am a battered woman. My husband is an alcoholic, a drug abuser, and suffers from a debilitating mental disorder. I chose him and I stayed with him until he almost killed me. Today is the first day of the rest of my life"
Everything still has the tainted feel of the previous life. I still park the car and sit gathering my thoughts and preparing for whatever I might walk into. In my old life I never had the luxury of stability or security. I used to sit in the garage trying to ready myself for the nights activities. Sometimes I walked in and all was well. Sometimes I walked into a war zone, shifting from the chaos that was work into the chaos that was home. It is amazing how quickly you learn to make those adjustments. How hard it is to let go of the known, even when it is cruel and cold, just to avoid the unknown.
I walk into her room and it is so cold. There's no need to keep the heater on if she's not going to be there. Dust is starting to settle on the windowsill. I still think I hear her chasing the cats through the living room. The last night she was here I slept in her room. Beside her crib, which is unusual because when things were really bad I used to sleep under it. God what a shitty mother I was to need my child to protect me from my husband. I slept under her crib, woke up the next morning and went to work like nothing was wrong. After living a falsehood so long you start to forget where the truth really lies. In my case, it was under a crib. I think I'm going to get rid of it soon.
I started cleaning the house. Removing the years of accumulated memories and disappointments. No need to hold onto birthday cards from a decade ago. I suppose there never was, but I did it anyway and now I'm not quite sure what to do with all the shoe boxes of promises and dreams that will never be realized. Do I keep them for her so she knows that we loved each other, that her history and birth was not a mistake. Or do I just let it all go. A past life that is gone and is never coming back. I suppose a lot of it depends on what happens now, in the After. If he breaks down, gets hospitalized, kills himself, or me then it will be all she will have to know her father. I think of all the freshly orphaned children I have seen in my job and I know they want to hold onto all those memories. Everything their parent ever wrote or even touched. I just don't know whether she will need these things. I don't know if I need them. I guess it goes back to the question I ask all the time. Am I widowed or divorced? Is the man I married dead or alive.
The painful part has been finding all the hidden parts of him. Trash bags of empty vodka bottles, 211 malt liquor, and remnants of drug abuse. Some of it explains the ups and downs, the times I knew he was high or drunk but listened as he lied to my face. The answers to the worst moments of my life hidden in cabinets, on top of the refrigerator, under the mattress. Hauling it all out into the light of day I realize just how far down the rabbit hole he has gone and why I can never follow him down. I've been cleaning for days now and I don't know if I'll ever get the stain of him out of my house, off my body, and free from my soul.
So I suppose this is After. Decidedly different then before. Better, but I don't know who I am anymore. Maybe I never did. I just know that there was a Before and an After. But right now it just seems like I'm still stuck in the middle.