His words echoed in her mind. His chosen sequence signaled the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. If given the opportunity to adjust her life’s diary, she probably would not change very much, if anything at all, despite there being times when the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel definitely seemed like the oncoming train.
The dynamic between men and women will probably never be understood in its fullest, well to her at least.
This and other probing thoughts played with her mind often, especially when she had those fleeting moments of “my time” and she tried as best she could to pull from deep within the strength and calm that her count-on-one-hand female friends insisted were key to her being a successful woman, mother and wife.
The choices she made in her life were her responsibility to bear and hers alone. She knew this.
Choices, many times these came pre-packaged and tagged with a price she thought was too high to pay, but she knew only too well that when the reaper (gray bastard) was ready for his reward, there was little that she could fight against.
To this quiet unassuming woman, the institution of marriage remained one of the oldest establishments of which, from as a long as she could recall, she wished to be a member. Hilda had been conditioned and preened, from a very young age, to be fully focused on the requirements for entry and as a proper young lady was expected to be versed on the language, the etiquette, the service (in some instances servitude), the song, the dance and the play (both fore and aft).
Her adolescent life was performed not unlike acts in a pantomime, scene after scene: comedy, tragedy, and parody. The directors may have changed, the screenplay edited but the concreted epitaph remained: My hope, my dream, “I promise to love and care for you, ‘til death us do part.”
The climax of her screenplay was when that wiggly little bundle of joy was presented to her by the trusted family doctor. Tears and sobs choking and preventing her from making the ‘thank you’ speech, but was gallantly delivered by her knight in shining amour who stood to her right, protecting her, loving her, showing her to the world; anxiously waiting to whisk her and their angelic wad into the newly leased car for the anticipated journey to the nest.
Was this only a dream? Or could this dream become a reality? She prayed on this every night. She was told by her pastor, that one should never ask for oneself. She should seek to allay the world’s suffering by pleading intervention on other people’s behalf. But who was doing it for her? Who held her in their nightly prayers?
She was certain that no one did and so she decided to brave the inevitable hell fire and brimstone and make just that one request. “Father, please bring him to me. I need to be happy.”
Her wish was granted, or so she thought. The early years were grand. She was happy, they were happy. Dreams became reality, or at least for a time. But then, it went horribly wrong.
The excuses, the tales, the cover ups were numerous but she had been taught, that as a woman and more importantly a wife, it was critical to continue on the path that had been designed for her. Such a pity that little girls and boys do not attend the same school of doctrine. Even if they did they were obviously taught a different syllabus by different teachers using different texts and no one had seen fit to add “Preserving and Nurturing Relationships” to the required reading list. Such a pity!
So, having now forcibly been thrown back to earth, no Asgard and no Valhalla in sight, reality hit hard. She was faced with unprecedented challenges, financial difficulties and spousal delusional episodes. Family, in-laws and friends attempted to mitigate in their self-perceived gracious manner and succeeded in making matters one hundred times worse.
Despite the turmoil, the female cranial cavity considered nothing to be wrong. She, with an unbelievable appetite for punishment, went about the tasks of the day, and night, with relentless aptitude, tireless resolve and unquestionable fortitude.
So when the sun rose, as usual, for the umpteenth day in her cycle of matrimonial bliss, steering her weary form to the kitchen to whip up the usual breakfast, get the kids out the door, to school and to work, prepare lunches and await the usual goodbye hugs and kisses, she was presented with “The Pink Slip”.
“I have not been happy for the past twelve years” her partner of a lifetime announced.
A relationship that spanned almost three decades, three children and one house (thankfully no dog or cat, just fish) was now destroyed.
Hilda again tried to focus on the person standing in front of her.
She gazed at him, eyes searching for clarity. Her every sense heightened, struggling with the stimuli they were receiving. Synapses firing wildly in her brain, she was breathing hard now, her heart pounding in her ears, her adrenalin coursing.
“Come on, you can’t be serious” she finally was able to verbalize. “What have I done wrong?” she whimpered.
Her throat tightened as if she had mistakenly eaten shellfish. Her body went rigid, hot then cold, then hot again. Who was this man standing in front of her? This was not the same sensitive guy she couldn’t wait to see or hear so many years ago, and still does. What did she do wrong? Can she fix it? But as these questions pinged her mind like an impatient contact on the blackberry network, she was unable to answer them with the speed and lucidity that would satisfy.
He continued. “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”
“Do what?” she beseeched.
The alcove to the kitchen started to sway and swirl, as if being viewed from under a turbulent stream. She tried to regain her composure, but to no avail.
“Why don’t we have sex as often as we used to?”
Oh Father Jesus!
Up to this point in the notification process, she was listening through a veil of shallow tears.
Miraculously, the veil lifted just when his last questioning accusation was pelted with a force that a fast bowler with exceptionally long arms and a wicked stride would envy.
“Is there something wrong with you? Were you sexually abused as a child?”
The yorker struck and Hilda heard nothing more, saw nothing more. She had collapsed on the freshly cleaned kitchen floor.
Hilda had no idea how long she laid there. The floral smell of Disiclin assailed her nostrils. She raised her upper body, steadying herself on trembling arms. Crouched on all fours she reached for the edge of the sink ledge and pulled herself up.
She must have been down only for a short time, or maybe that was just a wicked prank her brain was playing on her. She looked through the kitchen window out to the driveway. The car was still there. Maybe there was still hope, maybe.
With a demonic reverberation the front door slammed.
He left her then, overnight bag in tow, out the door, into the car and, she was sure, into the other door of the other residence.
What was she to do now? House, mortgage, children and mammoth debt, something had to give.
The average person would sympathize with her, empathize even but good will across an expansive energy field does little for the person on the verge of collapse and despair.
What would she do now? What could she do? Logical thinker as she was, she embarked on self-analysis. She decided to start with his-self.
The header on the pink slip was clear: I have not been happy for the past twelve years.
She however was convinced that the footer should have read “I have not been happy with myself for the past twelve years”. If her hypothesis was correct she then had only one course of action: stop, re-group, re-flect and re-cover. It was pointless moving forward with his baggage. Instinctively she knew that what she was hearing was not what was being said. The trick was to get pass the white noise and tune in to the true signal. The static confused her. She automatically defaulted into a self-blaming mode.
It had to be her fault. She must have done something wrong. What was it, oh God, could she fix it?
She stared out the kitchen window, and the beginning of a plan crystallized in her violated mind’s space.
Step 1: Call in sick.
Step 2: Boil water……..