At the time, it concerned me that the wicked dreams would be my constant companion forever. This angst inside of me forced brittle spikes into every moment of my being because every single day was yet one more lie to myself, my parents, and the world. I left Henry because I could no longer tolerate the pain of living without my love, my William. As much as it pained me to walk away from my daughter, I knew there was no other choice but to see what could become of the other side of me. The true me.
There are a great many of you who will shame me for my decision. And while I deserve your hurtful words, there is nothing you can say to me that I did not already think of. Over and over, I have been cursed by the universe – to have been given one life and in a fierce streak of ungratefulness, thrown it away for another. I am fearful. I am wistful. I am unwise, cruel, and selfish. But I am also brave. The journey so far has been harsh. I deserve to feel love.
I am sorry. To my mother, my father, my sister, and my daughter, I am so sorry for this pain I am causing you. I would understand if you never spoke to me again, if my choices led you to kill me off in your own hearts. If you woke up tomorrow and I was dead to you, I would empathize. But you must know that until now, I was dead to myself.
“Stand before the flames
as all I used to be burns;
stain yourself in ash.”
Tyler Knott Gregson
The night I made the decision seems like a million years ago. Today it is happening. I don’t know what to expect on the other side. I am afraid she will never forgive me. Rachel will be crushed, and at this very moment, I realize that I am casually okay with that. It’s Lila that I’m worried about. I am her only mother, and she is but a small child.
That’s how I justify it. She will recover, and when she is an adult, she will barely remember this.
Part of me wants to begin planning her rescue.
The other part of me knows that I may be walking away from her forever.
Tears again. I am astonished that I have it within me to leave her. The rational part of me settles the feud: “First things first, Toni. You will cross that bridge when you come to it. And you will eventually come to it. Probably sooner than later.”
“Before now, I wasn’t certain,” the drunken words whooshed over my lips. His body pressed mine against the bathroom wall. His presence corned me, and the pressure relieved me. I didn’t even attempt to control my tears.
“Toni,” he breathed into my ear. He, too, was drunk.
“I pined for this moment,” I cried.
“Are you certain, now?”
“Yes. I’m coming with you.”
I spent three years trying to figure out how to do it. Part of that time, I wasn’t even sure if William would take me back once I left my husband. Eventually, though, he came back around some.
On his arm he carried Rachel, my best friend. I was not allowed to be unhappy for her. My dear, my darling Rachel… was trying like hell to have what she supposed I had in Henry. Yet, she confided in me many concerns; the most heartwarming of which was that she didn’t believe my William truly loved her.
Though intensely painful, I welcomed him back into our lives, even though his new role was so completely wrong. I greeted him with genuine warmth. Our greeting embraces were only sometimes a second too long, and the kisses he plopped on my cheeks were never more than what he would give to his aunt or mother. Our façade fooled everyone, myself included on occasion.
Henry and I continued our little parties until Friday evenings became a spectacular show. I would drown myself in booze waiting with eager dread to see if William would show. And on the times he did, I continued to satiate my sorrows with poison in the hopes that any missteps could be blamed on the alcohol rather than my betraying emotions.
My hands shook when I wrote the note to my five year old daughter.
“My beloved Lila,
I did not mean for things to turn out this way. Please forgive me. You must know that I love you very much, but so does your father. I could not take you from him because right now he needs you very much. Please be good for him. I will see you one day again soon.
Your momma, Toni”
I’m trying to love Henry. He is a good man.
He loves his daughter. He works hard to support us.
He gives me everything I need. At least that is what I say. He is good with people and children. He loves me dearly. That makes everything I’m feeling that much more horrible. Because while he’s stepping all over himself to please me, I am a rotten fish floating further away from him.