Reflections in Steelbykatnip_21f©
It is dark in the bedroom. A dim white light from the bathroom backlights the room in stark contrasts of black and white. The wind roars noisily about the corner of the house – or is that merely the pounding of the blood in my head and ears and eyes drowning out everything else? A red haze surrounds my brain, and I struggle to break through. I grasp for a lifeline back to reality from my precarious perch at the brink of madness - a sound, a word, a vision... But all that comes through clearly is the heavy feeling of the gun in my hand.
I stare down at that gun ponderously. The cold weight of it fills my hand with power, a power I've not felt in many years... the power to change my life. My heart thuds heavily, filled with a dreadful desire to do the unthinkable. A life in shambles, dreams shattered, a family torn – what could I do? The inertia of events leading to this moment – events that had once been in my control - had long since outgrown my ability and desire to stop it. The gleaming of the gun hypnotizes me, coaxing to the fore memories long since buried.
My mind drifts back to my wedding day. My blushing bride two hours late to the church – an omen perhaps of things to come? My parents' sad and disappointed looks from the front pew... they had given their best advice but I didn't want to listen. I was blinded by love. Too foolish and trusting to know better. My dreams for the future glowed like a beacon. I saw my wife as a partner in all things, someone I would sacrifice everything for. I had no idea that the only sacrifice that she would demand - and the only one that would satisfy her - would be my own happiness.
Oddly, the handle of the gun does not warm in my hand, instead remains as icy cold as when I picked it up. I'd kept it impeccably clean, had in fact rarely used it. It had rested silently in a case beside the bed. The bed looks inviting. The fogginess in my mind urges me to lie down and rest while the adrenaline in my heart spurs me to action.
"Hey buddy," a voice beckons from the past. I am transported, there to Puerto Rico. High school graduation was just around the corner. My future shone like a silver path before me, and I had chosen a girl to share it with. I had left her at a graduation party the night before. I searched for her the next morning... where had she gone? I'll ask my friends... The memory had no desire to be recalled. The haze thickens. Fragments drift to me.
"...hey buddy... hate to be the one to tell you... she was getting pretty cozy with me last night... she wanted to... but you're my friend, I wouldn't do that ..."
"... same here, man... I don't want to go into details, but... I could have too... but not just us two... see that guy over there?... she disappeared for a while with him... not sure what happened..."
Blinded by love, I married her anyway.
A nauseous feeling twists my gut as my grip tightens on the pistol. A floodgate opens in my brain, releasing a torrent of memories – enigmas at the time, now seeming to be all related.
A co-worker in Minot giving me a pointed warning about young officers whose little wifeys wear skimpy clothes and seem to spend an awful lot of time at the gym...
The bowling league in Hawaii that my wife vehemently refused to allow me to play in... that one with the very friendly male player that she didn't want me to meet...
Her insistence that she needed contraceptive pills even after I'd taken the responsibility for permanent surgical contraception...
The late nights in Rapid City at the martial arts dojo – yet another activity she didn't want me to participate in with her. It confused me at the time why she allowed our youngest daughter to take classes there but not me nor our oldest daughter. It would have been nice for her and me and our eldest to be in the same class together – unless there was something going on with that instructor that she didn't want her child nor myself to see.
I grind my teeth and tear a hand through my hair, trying to drive out the memories of my own foolishness. The warning signs were there, and I had naively overlooked them. I had felt myself drowning in the misery of my marriage, my happiness shipwrecked at the bottom of an ocean of unshed tears. Yet I chose to attempt to salvage the beaten fragments of our marriage – and in the process had foregone the one chance at happiness that had presented itself in all those years.
I came close to falling for her – that "one chance" – that officer from my base in Colorado. In training in Mississippi, we became fast friends. She was pretty, sweet, and interested in me. When I spoke, she listened, without criticism, judgment, or sarcasm. Never did she respond with derision or mockery. She respected me and spoke to me in a way that made me believe in myself. I found myself wishing my wife treated me the way this woman did – like a human being with feelings and opinions worth sharing, instead of like a worthless object. I don't think my wife ever knew or cared how much she hurt me when she put me down, mocked my ideas, and made me feel wrong for wanting better from her. Perhaps until that moment I hadn't known either. But this woman was so different. She made me feel like a man.
I realized the direction my feelings for her were heading. I would have loved nothing more than to love this woman, but I could never in good conscience betray my family. I had two beautiful daughters at home waiting for me. And though the thought of returning home to the emotional abuse I suffered by my wife left me in a deep depression, I refused to be the one to tear our family apart that way. I ended our friendship abruptly without explanation before anything improper could happen. I optimistically hoped that after seeing how good a relationship could be, I could try to repair my marriage to that standard and reclaim my happiness. It wasn't long after my return that I realized I was the only one trying.
How long have I been standing here by the bed? What seems like hours has likely been mere seconds, my life flashing by like a series of snapshots. My body feels cold and feverish at once, and a slight tremble has seized my hands. Had I loaded the gun? I can't remember.
I should have seen the problem when I came home from Saudi Arabia to find my wife had moved out of our bedroom. She told me she needed some time and space to herself. Excuse me? I'd just spent four months in the Middle East with nothing more than a once-a-week telephone call to connect us two. I wanted to reconnect with my family, but my wife had no interest in reconnecting with me. I tried desperately to involve myself in her life. Soon I was asking myself, why am I the only one trying?? "Let me join you at the gym or for a jog?" I asked her. "Let me take you to dinner." Or, "Let's go away for the weekend?" No, no, no – she adamantly refused. Goddammit, woman, help me to make this family whole again!! I screamed in my head.
The late nights with her friends after class at the martial arts dojo had become more frequent. She sought any excuse not to come home to our family. My head swims as I think back to yesterday, but there is no haze this time. I recall every detail with frightening clarity. In a last ditch effort to reclaim our marriage, I thought I'd surprise her after class and take her for a coffee and dessert or something – just the two of us. I smiled inwardly, hoping she would be pleasantly surprised. As I sat waiting in my vehicle in the parking lot of the dojo, I wondered why she had always demanded that I stay away from here. It might have been fun for me to take classes here too.
People started trickling out of the school, and I watched for her. At first I didn't see her. I paid no mind to the couple walking out together all cuddly with one another. But when that couple went to my wife's car and started to get in, it dawned on me. Late nights with her friends she had told me. But to me it looked like just one friend – a boyfriend.
Stunned, I sat in silence a moment. The blood drained from my head and blossomed hot in my chest. How stupid I had been! Now it all made sense. The betrayal was like a knife twisting in my side, and I felt physical pain in my chest like a ton of bricks had fallen on it. Why hadn't she just told me? Why did she have to let me find out like this? My heart hammered so loudly, I thought it might burst through my ribcage. Without conscious thought, I went from my car to hers and saw the two of them making out intensely. Nausea gripped me so fiercely I thought I might collapse. I opened her door and they jumped apart guiltily, shock registering on both their faces when they saw who had come to confront them.
My heart plummeted to the ground. My wife – the woman who had sworn to love honor and cherish me until death parted us – was deeply involved with another man. Her heroic lover mumbled some cowardly excuses and pleaded that he didn't want to fight me. I scoffed inwardly. What man would fight to keep a cheating spouse? In my mind's eye she was certainly nothing worth fighting for.
Beneath the surface my senses were rioting, so the calmness I displayed in the next moments surprised me. After her lover took off, I quietly asked her for an explanation. I thought she owed me that much at least. She instead met my request with indignant rage. How dare I follow her! How dare I spy on her! I shook my head sadly. All I wanted was to give you a nice surprise – guess the surprise was on me.
I asked her not to see him again. I asked her to go to marriage counseling with me. I asked her to please try with me to rebuild our marriage. Her response to all requests was a flat uncompromising refusal. She told me she needed her space and she needed time and that I shouldn't interfere with her life. Sorry, but I simply cannot live like that. I cannot stay in a marriage knowing my wife is involved with someone else.
They were together again tonight, tempting fate perhaps? Testing my limits of tolerance? Well those limits have been reached and so here I am now with a gun in my hand, contemplating a desperate act.
A small ache in my arm reminds me I'm still holding the gun up before me, in fact haven't moved it since I picked it up. Its coldness reminds me of its lethal power. Rage, vengeance, betrayal, and pain well up inside me, dotting my vision with red blotches. At this moment, I want to point the gun at her and pull the trigger – erase her from existence, eliminate the pain and betrayal of what she has done to me, to our marriage, to our children. My fist tightens on the handle and I click the safety off. The thick red fog surrounding my thoughts swirls madly now, uncontrollably. Yes, this is right. It will be painless if I do it quickly. Yet as I take my first step toward the door, I pause.
I think of my children. Those two beautiful girls that are the reason I stuck this tragedy of a marriage out for as long as I did. What would they think? How could they live knowing their crazed father killed their whore mother and is going to prison? The thought is sobering, like cold water in my face. I can't do that to them. They are my whole world. They are the reason I was strong enough to resist the temptation of an affair. Their love kept me strong.
I lower the gun to my side, suddenly overwhelmed with despair. I want to act, I want to do something to fix this. What a shambles my life has become. My wife, the woman I dedicated all my heart and soul to, has repaid all my years of love with betrayal. Of course, if she doesn't want to try with me to fix what's wrong then divorce is inevitable. What did I do to deserve this? How will I ever rebuild my life? How can I start over again at my age? How will I ever learn to trust again? Tears fill my eyes and my hands tremble. I suddenly feel very tired, lonely, and vulnerable. I think desperately for a way out, then realization dawns on me.
I bring the gun up once again and look at it, seeing it in a whole new light. This piece of cold steel is my ticket out, a blissful release from this most painful experience. One quick bullet – a painless exit. The idea of suicide becomes more appealing as the emotional burden bears down on me. I slowly raise the gun towards my head and pause. A buzzing feeling crawls into my brain, and the haze returns. It swoops down upon my consciousness like a sudden fog preventing any action. I yearn for release, but my body feels paralyzed, too heavy to move. I surrender myself to the fog for a moment, watching it turn slowly from red to gold. A tiny voice whispers to me from somewhere in the mist.
"Your life is not over... it's just beginning!"
I blink. What does that mean? As the haze begins to roll back and sensation returns to my body, the cold reality of what I was about to do hits me, and I begin to tremble violently. This isn't what I want! I won't allow one cold heartless woman to ruin my chance at future happiness! The gun looms large before my eyes, and I hasten to put it away, back beside the bed, safety on, in its case. As I slide the case back into the nightstand, I pause. Just out of curiosity, I check the chamber. The clicking noise is deafening in the silence of the room. In the dim light of the room I can just make out the row of shiny bullets. A chill runs through me. I close the case.
I exit the bedroom and slowly walk the long hallway to the kitchen. My wife is there waiting for me. She watched me walk to the bedroom. She heard every click and snap of the gun. Her wide eyes search for my hands which are in my pockets, revealing nothing. Her face is white. She is terrified, yet she does not move. I look down at her frightened pale face and feel a twinge of pity for her. She carries within her the seeds of her own destruction. She no doubt thinks this is our final showdown. What she does not know is that I have already won the battle. I have won me.