I am your damage control.
Do you know what it is like? To get that phone call in the middle of the night from a woman who is falling into her own personal pit of hell? To hear the anguish in her voice and know you cannot help? To get in the car and drive as fast as you can with disregard for speed limits or personal safety? Just to get to her side and all the while knowing you aren’t the one she really wants there?
I am your damage control.
The night was cold and so was she. In every literal sense of the word. When I touched her, her hands were shaking and numb. Her usually warm cheek was pale. Her eyes were bright, too bright, the kind of bright that brings to mind deathbeds and high fevers. Every now and then she would retch, but there was nothing in her to come out. Nothing in her except pain, the pain you caused.
Why did you do it? That is a question that will haunt me for the rest of my life, but I can try to answer you. Because you need answers, don’t you? You haunted her until she realized she could never give you all the answers and then you left her like so much used furniture. Is that what she was? Just a decoration, a centerpiece to the life you built and the promises you made?
So, why did you do it? You did it because she loved too much. You did it because she thought people were good at heart and good triumphed over evil. You did it because she made mistakes, bad choices, mistakes that any of us could have been guilty of. You did it because she trusted too much. You did it because she tried to protect you by not telling you the truth. Because like the movie says, you couldn’t handle the truth.
And you couldn’t. You couldn’t handle it then and you can’t handle it now.
Because the truth now is this: You blamed her for everything that went wrong. You blamed her for being the woman she was. You blamed her for the very things that kept you in her good graces. You blamed her for being compassionate. You blamed her for getting hurt. And she took it all onto herself because that’s what a generous woman does.
But I am your damage control.
I showed up on her doorstep at three in the morning. Shortly after you tore her heart in two and stomped on it without regard to what would happen to her. You wanted to be free and you got what you wanted, because she was just strong enough to let you go. But letting you go took the last shred of foundation she had. And then she was left with nothing at all.
So at three in the morning, there I was. Do you want to know what I found?
A woman, broken and terrified. A woman crying tears that would not stop. A woman shaking, trembling, quaking with the fear of her worst nightmare coming true. A woman who clutched your picture like it was a lifejacket in a hurricane. A woman who looked at me with uncomprehending eyes and asked me why you had left her. A woman who would never understand.
She cried until she made herself sick and then she cried some more. Her legs wouldn’t hold her. Her body rebelled against everything sane. She could not form coherent sentences. She could not think. Her skin was cold and clammy. Her lips were tinged with blue. Her heart pounded so hard I could see it under the thin satin of her nightgown and in the pulse at her throat. She tried to talk to me but she couldn’t.
All she could get out was: “He is leaving me.”
So I became your damage control.
What did I do? I picked her up from the floor. I brushed away her tears and held her as closely as I dared. A part of me was afraid she would break, as if she were made of fine crackled glass. I held her hands to stop the shaking. I put her into the bed she once shared with you. I covered her with a quilt, then another one, then another one. I tucked them around her as if she were a sick child. I left her long enough to go to the kitchen. I made sure to make enough noise that she would know I was still around. That I hadn’t vanished, like you had.
I forced her to drink water that made her retch. I rubbed her feet and her legs and her hands and her arms to bring warmth back to them. I turned out all the lights, save one small light on the chest. I closed the doors down the hallway so her children…your children…would not wake up and find their mother unable to function. I could not prevent what happened to her, but I could still protect them.
Then I crawled under the blankets with her, though she protested. She didn’t have much fight left in her. I had to do it because I had to bring her out of the shock she had descended into. I simply held her as tightly as she would let me. Her tears soaked my shirt. Her hands trembled. Slowly her body began to warm, but it took hours. When she finally did collapse into sleep from sheer exhaustion, she had nightmares that I cannot begin to describe to you. Nightmares of fires, of floods, of pain unimaginable. She woke up crying out for the man who had caused it all.
She woke up fighting me.
She woke up in the midst of a nightmare that you just don’t wake up from.
I finally found the Valium in her medicine cabinet and forced her to take it. She refused it at first but that was all the fight she had in her. She threw up the first one. The second one stayed down. The third one did too. She fell into a dreamless sleep about the time the sun came up.
So I did what she would have done, had you not dropped the bomb into the center of her life. I got her kids ready for their day and sent her son to the bus. Your son. He kissed his sleeping mother and was glad she was resting. He had no idea what had happened the night before. He had no idea the man he idolized had cut off all contact with him. He just knew his mother was sleeping like a baby and that was more than enough for a child his age. He was laughing when he got on the bus.
Then, her daughter. Your daughter. I settled her on the couch with a thick quilt her mother had made. I tucked her in and made her giggle. I gave her chocolate milk and graham crackers and cartoons on the television. All was right with her world. She had no idea you had left them all. She just knew her mother was sleeping and her favorite show was on. That was enough.
I was being your damage control.
Right now I sit here in front of her computer screen and type this to you. I have never met you. I don’t know who you are, not really. But I know she loved you. She loves you still. And I know what you have done even if you don’t realize it all yet. But you will.
One day, you will. One day you will look at yourself and realize you are the loneliest man on earth. You will look in the mirror and you will wonder why your life has fallen apart. You will cry and wish for things you cannot find. And then it will suddenly occur to you. You had it all once. You had a woman filled with compassion and tenderness and joy. You had a woman who loved you with devotion only the luckiest of us ever find.
And you threw it all away.
Today she is in a living hell. She will be in those flames for a very long time. But she will climb out of that pit and slowly heal. The scars will be there forever and she might never be entirely happy again. But she will heal.
You, however? You won’t heal. Your scars will be too deep. Your pit will be too low. The hell she is in today cannot compare to the hell you will feel when you look back and see that mistake you made. She made mistakes and you couldn’t live with them. Now you get to live with your own. It’s not a very good trade.
I don’t have her compassion, but I have enough to know this: I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry for what you will go through when you realize you have lost all the things that truly matter. I would not wish that on my worst enemy. It is a pain I cannot imagine. You are going to live it. And the thought of that makes me feel sadness for you.
So now I give you all I can give you. And I give it because she loves you, and she would want me to be compassionate toward you. She taught me that love and generosity will always overcome anger. So now I take a lesson from her and give you this much.
I am your damage control.
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