I started writing last night. Just kinda let myself go to it. I got just about three thousand words out but a lot of it wasn’t as good as this part. For what that’s worth.
PROLOGUE – What Came Before
I looked up and kissed her on the cheek when she said she was leaving. I’d probably have kissed her on the lips if I’d known she meant forever.
Both kids snug up in their beds, I was distracted and incurious when she stepped out. I must have assumed she was going to get something to eat or something but I can’t remember what I thought. It was just another night in front of the TV.
When I looked up and it was eleven thirty, I’m pretty sure I thought she must already be up in bed. That happened plenty, so I was careful and quiet when I went up to bed at two. I woke up early and got ready for work. She usually gets up – got up, pardon me – just as I am ready to leave. Kinda makes sense, now that I think about it. But she didn’t get up. So I put off leaving. When it was obvious she wasn’t coming down, I thought she was just mad or something. So I went up to see what was the matter. She wasn’t there. Her side of the bed was still made. My head tilted back and I started feeling sick to my stomach. I looked around the house. After all, she could have just made her side of the bed. She used to do stuff like that to make me help out around the house more. She gave it up pretty quick when she figured out I’m pretty happy whatever. “Like a pig wallowing in his own filth,” my mom used to say. But she wasn’t anywhere in the house. I looked out the window. No car. Oh, shit. She’s been in an accident. That’s what I thought, anyway. Wasn’t the case, though. I called her cell. She never leaves without that. Good move. One ring, two, and a small voice.
“Hey. Where are you?” I was relieved but scared a different way.
“I’m on the highway.” Never one to give more than is asked.
“Why? Where you going?”
“I told you last night, John. I’m leaving.”
“I thought you were coming back.” That, I remember saying for sure, because it made no sense.
“I thought I was at first, too. Then I started driving and nothing in me wanted to come back.”
“Plenty in me wants you to come back. I think there are two others full of wanting you back too, Linda.” I don’t cry much. Maybe at those stupid movies where they always have a fight then get together, then have another fight and then they’re really together. And when my kids were born. Can’t forget that. But I started crying then. I guess it makes sense.
“I can’t, John. I can’t do it anymore.” Sounded like she was crying too.
“Can’t do what?” Like her life was so hard. That’s what I thought, then, but I didn’t say it. I was trying to get her to come home.
“Being a mother, being a wife. Cleaning. Always cleaning, and never any help from you with that. You come home and you play with the kids ’til they go to bed and then you watch TV. Every night.” She was letting it out and it kept coming out faster and louder until she was screaming at the end.
“I never knew you wanted anything else, Linda.” I got that out, even though it felt like I was punched in the stomach. “I never wanted anything else. I wanted a wife – you – and I wanted kids – Rob and Alice. I got what I wanted and never pined for anything else.”
“You’ve got more than that but you can’t see it. You’ve got a job. You’ve got control over the money. We never go anywhere. I feel like I’m locked up in a crazy house with those two every day and you don’t appreciate all I do.” She didn’t get loud this time, she got quiet. For some reason, that hurt even more.
I wanted to defend myself. I wanted to say that I worked hard at a crappy job for not enough money. I wanted to shout at her that it was her stupid idea that I should control the money, that if she wanted a job, we could get daycare. It was cheaper now that Rob would be going into school. I wanted to say all these things, but the more she talked, the further she got. She was driving away from me, but her heart was already gone. I had nothing more to give her.
“What do I tell the kids, Linda? You’re walking away from them and I don’t know how to tell them.”
She didn’t say anything. I could still hear the car motor and the faint sound of some Bobby Darin song. She always did love that Bobby Darin. I never thought he cared enough – I like my singers to care.
So, we stayed like that for a couple of minutes, her getting farther away in the car and me getting farther away in my heart until she said, “I gotta go.” And she went.