Because I’m not AFRAID anymore

It was another brilliant summer day in Wyoming. I welcomed the baking sun on my skin as I stood on my front porch waiting for the guys to get off work. There was a wedding and we were all invited to just the reception. They knew we drank too much and were good for a party, but not so good for a nice important wedding.
The stripper stopped by first and stood waiting with me on the porch, smoking light cigarettes and drinking peppermint schnapps straight from the bottle. I wasn’t in a particularly bad mood, but not in a good one either. I had asked him to leave and didn’t know how to leave myself. Not with three kids, three cats, and two dogs. I’d need a circus train or something.
Everyday was unbearable–the criticism, the names, whore, psycho, cunt, breaking things, threats, manipulations. It had to end. I had my back against the wall and I was done trying to get along.
The guys showed up and the stripper went off with her boyfriend to get ready for the party. Dax walked into the house and to our bedroom. He opened the closet doors. I followed him in to change into something nicer than my mom jeans and t-shirt.
He shuffled through his dress pants, all hung neatly on hangers.
“I don’t have anything to wear,” he grumbled.
I was quiet.
“I don’t have any decent pants. Where are all my pants?” A little louder. The clink clink of metal hangers hitting each other as he went back through the same pants again. With more force this time.
“Why don’t you ever clean my clothes? I’m the lowest priority around her.”
“I did all the laundry yesterday,” I said.
He grabbed all his pants in one armful and flung them on the floor.
“I should own some decent pants,” he yelled as he grabbed another armload of clothes–sweaters, ironed dress shirts, and turned to fling them on me. He emptied his side of the closet onto my lap as I sat on the bed watching in silence.
NUMB. I felt numb, like I’d felt for 8 long years. If I cried he’d mock me and then I would cry more and not want to leave the house. I needed to be around my friends. If I got angry he would get angry back and harm something I loved.
I shoved his clothes off my lap and onto the floor. He followed me to the kitchen and grabbed his keys.
“We are going to Sierra Trading Post on the way,” he said, as though nothing bad had happened, as though throwing a tantrum about pants when there are ten pairs in front of you is a thing everyone does.
Sierra Trading Post was just as bad.
“You’re a terrible wife,” he said over and over as he looked through racks of pants. “I pay for everything you have. And I don’t get a decent pair of pants.” If I had said a word about the $20,000 in credit card debt he’d plowed his way through buying things he didn’t need, or the ten pairs of pants lying on the bedroom floor he would have bought new shoes, a hunting coats, and socks just to spite me.
We drove to the reception in silence. I sat as far away from him as possible in the cab of his new truck. I was a silent bystander to his increasing rages.
The reception was held in a huge tent behind the museum. I ran into the stripper and she dragged me down to the open bar. I wasn’t going to say no to shots of Jack and more schnapps. NUMB. I just wanted to be NUMB. Nick was standing at the entrance to the tent and I stood close to him, feeling a little protected from Dax’s attempts to drag me around to introduce his trophy wife to people he was trying to charm. I did not feel very charming. I wanted to drink more, laugh a little, and be around people who were NICE to me.
I felt resentful and angry and frustrated and guilty for not finding a way out of this mess and scared and alone and more than slightly intoxicated. (Never try to keep up with a stripper.)
She wanted to walk to the bathroom, which was down a path lined with trees and western statues. I let go of her hand half way down the path and fell sideways under an evergreen. Not one of my prettiest moments, but enlightening because it was beautiful under that tree. There was some space beneath the first boughs where I could sit and watch people go by and they couldn’t see me (at least I thought not, in my slightly drunken state.) She left me there, happy in my little shelter. It was shady and pleasant even as the bright day turned into a long shadowed evening.
He would never find me here. But SOMEONE did. A hand moved the branches aside and Nick crawled under the tree with me. He didn’t ask why I was under there. He didn’t try to talk me out. Sitting under a tree with me was a perfectly ordinary thing for him to do.
We were alone under that tree, just the two of us in the middle of all those people. I don’t remember what was said or if I was crying or anything else except for the words he spoke in that western small town accent, “One kiss won’t hurt.”
Ah, but it did. Not right then, but weeks later. It would hurt a great deal when he would crumble under duress.
Maybe because it wasn’t one kiss. It was many, and I hadn’t been touched in so long by anyone who cared. I melted into him.
Three days later 9/11 put things into perspective. Two days after that Dax moved out. A few weeks later, after days of harassment, manipulation, and the threat of losing all his friends, Nick stopped talking to me.
And then I crumbled too.
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