It all started with mismatched socks.
It escalated from there and ended with solitary dinners,
and evenings so quiet that she pressed her hands against her ears, forcing her eardrums to buckle.
But that was okay.
Because she came to find out that a solitary life is not necessarily a lonely one.
And a hero doesn’t necessarily wear a cape.
Why couldn’t she match the socks? he would ask. How difficult is that?
The dryer eats them. They disappear, she would think, but would never dare say.
He would run a finger along the top of refrigerator. Dust. Grime.
Who checks there, she would think, but would never dare say.
I like my underwear folded twice, he would say.
You pull them on, who cares, she would think, but would never dare say.
Why would you go to dinner with Elsa? You have me.
I need to get out. I need to have more, but would never dare say.
The isolation was slow and insidious. His complaints endless and relentless.
Was every marriage like this?
People lie, she would think. Of course it is.
She excused. She dismissed. And she lied to herself.
And to others.
She always wanted children, albeit for selfish reasons. But it never happened.
It was her fault, he would say.
No, you’re shooting blanks, she would think.
Because she carried before.
But every afternoon at three o’clock she had a date.
Dr. Phil entered her living room and counseled her for free. From his virtual sessions, she found that she was full of dysfunction, depression and self-doubt. She lacked self-respect because her father left when she was twelve – a critical time in a girl’s life, apparently – and her mother dated every plaid shirt from Munsey’s Bar. And the most powerful role model for a child is the same sex parent, evidently. So she had no model at all. She could earn her degree in psychology from one hour a day, five days a week. She was her own case study. Observing. Offering commentary. But fell short of summation and true insight.
He would step in front of their fifty-two inch tv screen.
He’s blocking my view of Him.
“What are you watching this for?”
“It helps me unwind my tangled ball of string.”
“What the hell does that mean?” he would say, the disgust on his lips and in his eyes.
And then the insults would fly and hang in the air, suspended in their own speech bubbles. And they would press down on her chest until she couldn’t breathe. She would wait because he would eventually tire and isolate himself in his hovel he called his Man Shed.
Then her Dr. Phil said, “We teach people how to treat us.” She slid to the edge of the couch.
How could I have not heard that before? How could I have not learned this?
She felt cheated, like being taught half a syllabus. An incomplete preparation and then sent out into the world. Synapses responsible for her critical and independent thinking fired for the first time.
Epiphany they call it in sessions, don’t they?
She moved around the room like a caged animal and she was sure her aura was glowing red with sparks of orange. She grabbed the mirror off the wall and held it at arm’s length so she could witness her transformation. She would swear later that her whole body radiated. Then she assumed a meditative position on the couch. Mentally she observed her feelings as if she were a rat in a maze. Her psyche weaved its way through all the phases of grief because, of course, she felt she needed to grieve: Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
Denial, well, that was just her every day.
Anger. Never allowed. Ever.
She ignored Bargaining because there was no bargain with her father, no currency for her mother’s attention and no choice with her husband.
Depression was not next because it had already clung to her for years like stink on skunk.
That left her at Acceptance.
I could do that. What do the kids say now-a-days? It Is What It Is?
There’s a calmness with acceptance. A peace that had eluded her whole self was now permeating every cell and changing her DNA, changing who she was and will be. A conscious decision born of frustration, shame, passion and, yes, repressed anger.
Finally. There it was.
But the anger was just a flash. She was in the EZ Pass lane of cognitive and emotional growth. Dr. Phil would be so proud of her. She looked at the clock. One hour. She wrapped this up in the allotted time, sans commercials.
But this was her. And this was real.
Hidden and dormant was her identity, for too long. She felt she should be on top of a building overlooking the city with the wind flapping her cape.
And she left.
Alone is not necessarily lonely.
It all started with mismatched socks and ended with her freedom.
And a hero doesn’t necessarily wear a cape.