His left eye sags a little, but I do not get the impression he is doing what caused that anymore. I do not know when all of it happened, or stopped, or if perhaps, on some level, it still continues. He always smells of stale cigarettes with a faint scent of last night’s beer. His face looks hard, and he is too skinny. Scary skinny, but I cannot pinpoint what is wrong exactly. You never know the truth with him; it is always impossible to get a straight answer. Could it merely be the years of alcoholism, cigarettes, and drugs? Or, is there something fatally wrong with his health after all the years of abuse? When I see him I want to shout at the top of my lungs: “Dear lord you need to go to the fucking doctor, you need a physical, something is wrong with your health. I will take you. Let’s go now!” But, none of that happens, it never will.
He turned 44 on Sunday, and he resembles the worst version of himself. Underneath all the pain, I see the tall, handsome man with olive green eyes I once loved with all my heart. To this day I see it, but I do not feel it. I still love him like you love your family or an old friend. The kind of love that desires the best for another human being’s soul. While at the same time, I feel nothing—no hurt, resentment, betrayal, or disappointment. My forgiveness was granted years and years ago for the misplaced loyalty, poor decisions, and blind choices. The emotions I feel can only be described as—vacant, or numb. Perhaps, I even feel a slight relief, resembling a dark private miracle, as if in a “ninja girl’s got killer moves” way, I dodged a bullet to the head. Thoughts of him will always remind me of too many tattoos, too many curse words, punk rock music a little too loud, a pack of Camel lights, and a twelve pack of beer. I hear an old Johnny Cash song playing in the background on a beautiful fall day with all the windows open and the perfect breeze flowing through our old house. I see these images in my mind, as a cool retro oil painting exuding canny creativity, deep heartbreak, and a splintery suffering, a kind of misfortune and hardship that not many I know can relate to or will ever have a necessity in their life to understand.
I do not see him often, yet when I do, after all this time, he still calls me honey but usually a snide remark is not too far to follow. I try not to let the off-color comments bother me, because I know deep down he is not a happy man. He holds the qualities of a hard-worker, someone you would describe as a real handy man. One of those mechanically inclined types who can build and fix anything; there is nothing he cannot do, and very well at that. I express all of those useful qualities, but feel it is noteworthy to interject: although he is capable of good, his deluded mind operates with several loose screws. It is hard to comprehend there was once a day I wanted to share my life with him, hoped he was capable of being a real father, thought over the years we would grow old together—as a family. Holidays, vacations, memories, those dreams were long gone over ten years ago; we had none of that together as a family. I lost everything my heart ached for; this truth stings like salt in a cut on your finger. In reality, he was never capable of what I wanted. That is simply not who he was when we were together—or who he will ever be; I wish I saw the truth then. I wish I knew then what I know now. Oh, how I wish. I think we all wish for something different from the past, but those pointless emotions are capable of changing nothing.
He was everything I wanted at the blind age of twenty-four, and he held all my trust. For eight years following the day I met him, his faithfulness was never a question in my mind. So much older now, it is a little frightening to come to the harsh, yet sad, reality that trust is a slippery slope. Like a light switch turning off, it happened swiftly; he instantly became, and ten years later still is, nothing that I want.
By Sperantia Zavala
Sudden Denouement Literary Collective