Relative Truth

By Bob
August 4, 1998

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. The wall clock in the kitchen caught her attention. She rolled over and glanced at the glowing red numbers on her alarm clock. It was a little after two in the morning. She was awake again, just like last night and the night before, and the night before that, for about as long as she could remember.

And she was alone.

Alone in the bed that he had shared with her for so many years. The bed that their two children had jumped in to wake them up and join them under the covers so many Saturday mornings. The same bed in which their little Pug had always slept between the two of them, under the covers, like a little lump of love.

The sheets felt cool against her skin. Cooler than she preferred. Without thinking, she moved one leg, expecting to feel the weight of the little dog and the warmth of her husband's leg.

But they were gone.

He had moved out, taking their children with him. A few months before that, after suffering from epileptic seizures for several months, their little dog had suddenly run away one afternoon, to throw herself in front of a passing car or to die by herself in a field or under someone's bushes. No one really knew. They were all gone now. And her bed, once a cozy, warm, secure and loving place, was now a big, cold and lonely place.

She raised herself off her pillow and turned it over to the cool side.

After twenty years, her husband had announced that he had had enough. Her children had sided with their father. She was too controlling, they all said. Too selfish. Too manipulative. Too absorbed with her friends on the Internet chat lines. Unwilling to compromise. Unwilling to get help to be able to change.

They were all wrong, of course. He was simply going through a mid-life crisis. His mid-life crisis had brought back that same dark cloud to hang over his head that had been there the other times he had moved out for a month or two at a time. Every time he had his dark cloud, he could only think of the bad things in their marriage and totally ignore all the great romantic times they had spent together. She had tried to tell him that everything was fine -- that it was just his dark cloud again -- but he hadn't listened to her. All the other times, he had come back after her mother had helped convince him to ignore his black cloud. This time, though, he had left and he had filed for divorce. And of course, since they were old enough, the kids had chosen to go with him -- kids will always choose to go with the parent that lets them run wild and do whatever they want to do, instead of the parent that makes them live by some rules.

She looked at the clock again. It was almost two-thirty. She was alone and awake. Why was he doing this to her? Couldn't he see how he was hurting her?

A nagging thirst came to her attention. She considered going to the kitchen to get a quick drink of juice, but decided against it. By the time she returned, the bed would have already forgotten the little warmth she had given it.

Nobody really understood or cared how she felt. Not her husband. Not her children. Not the counselors they had seen together as a couple over the years. They had all taken his side because he had always been better with words and expressing himself.

She thought about her younger brother, who had stepped in front of a freight train less than two years ago. Nobody had understood him either. That's why he had become an alcoholic in his early teens. That's why he had abused drugs for almost twenty years before his suicide. That's why he had gotten himself into trouble so many times. Why he had hurt everyone who had ever been close to him. Why he had never found a good job. Why he had never found a wife. Because nobody had ever really understood him. Nobody had ever really loved him. This world had been a bad place for him to live, so he had chosen to leave it. As she thought about him, she remembered the song she had written about him and for him after he was gone. He's in a better place now, she thought to herself. He had gone home before his feet had even hit the ground.

That would be the way to go -- nice and quick. It might hurt a lot, but only for a split second and then it would be all over. Not like hanging yourself or cutting your wrists, where you'd have to suffer for a while before you're gone. A gun would be quick, but it would leave a big mess unless you did it outside somewhere, and you'd have to get a gun first, and then someone might see you. Pills might be OK, too, but only if you took the right kind. Something that would just put you to sleep and then you'd never wake up. Not like the bottle of aspirin she had taken as a teenager. That had just made her throw up over and over. Yeah, the right kind of pills would be the way to do it, and most people probably have enough pain killers and other pills left over from visits to the dentist or doctor to be able to do the job.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. The stupid kitchen clock seemed to be getting louder and more annoying. They can make a clock that runs for two years on one little battery -- why can't they make one that doesn't keep people up all night?

He had left before, but he had always come back. She sensed that something was really, really different this time. This time he had filed for divorce. This time he had hired an attorney. This time he had told her that she was going to have to find a job and support herself. Support herself? She hadn't supported herself in more than twenty years.

It must have been all those long distance calls he had made to her older brother -- Mr. Perfect Marriage. It was he who had helped her husband print out the email messages that she had sent to a few of her "Christian brothers" on the Internet, so that her husband could use them against her in the divorce. What kind of brother would help his sister's husband divorce her? It was he who had had the nerve to tell her that he thought those messages were extremely inappropriate, even adulterous, for a married woman to send to men other than her husband. And it was he who had told her that she had been wrong to drive by herself all the way across the country, to meet one of her "Christian brothers" at a motel for several days. What was the big deal? Nothing had happened. How could her brother judge her like that and then have the nerve to tell her that he still loved her and cared about her? It was he who had told her that he thought that she and her husband had been fighting non-stop for twenty years. It was he who had reminded her of all the times that the two of them had called him and argued with each other for up to six hours at a time, with him at the other end of the connection, trying not to be the referee that they both so desperately wanted him to be. She knew that she and her husband had had problems, but that was no reason for Mr. Perfect Marriage to encourage her husband to leave her. She had been perfectly within her rights to call and leave several nasty messages on his answering machine, telling him that he had ruined her life -- that her whole family was a mess because of him. Telling him that he was now her ex-brother. He had deserved to hear those things. In fact, she had even called his 800-number, so that he would have to pay the long distance bill for her messages. It served him right for poking his nose into her marriage. Everything had been going along just fine until her husband had talked to him. It was all his fault.

It was ten after three, and her mouth was too dry to ignore any longer. Swinging her legs off the side of the bed, she stood up. In the darkness, the plush carpeting felt spongy and luxurious under her feet as she walked to the kitchen. She shuddered when her feet touched the cold tile floor. Taking a glass from the counter, she opened the fridge, poured herself a half-glass of apple juice, then put the pitcher back. Closing the door, she carried the glass back down the hallway to the bedroom.

She stopped at the side of the bed and stood, holding the glass, looking around the room. She could just make out the shape of the bed from the red glow of the alarm clock. She took a sip of juice as other shapes began to emerge from the darkness. Turning, she stepped into the bathroom. The sudden glare of the bathroom light burned her eyes as she stepped to the sink.

She caught a quick glimpse of herself as she reached up and swung open the mirrored door of the medicine chest.


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