By Nicole Cater
I want to take you back, far back, back to ancient history, people. These were the carefree days of my youth, when I went out and partied often, had copious amounts of friends, and if I felt a little twinge in my back, so what?
I was a receptionist at a bank. I worked in the Davenport office in the morning, and then traveled to the Moline office on my lunch break. I heard all the jokes: Have I seen you somewhere else recently? Do you have a twin? Do you get paid double to work in two offices (NO)? But these were made by gross old men who had hair in their ears and if I was a smarter girl, I would have jumped for one of them because they also had large trust accounts.
Alas, it was a copier technician there to replace a printer who was surprised by my double office duties. A copier technician with bad hair but a good sense of humor and that’s what counts, in my book. And wouldn’t you know it; he honest to god had the nerve to ask me on a date? Not would I like to hang out sometime… not coffee. This man, whom I did not know, was brave enough to ask me to dinner and a movie. I was impressed, not by him, but by his nerve, and said yes.
Flash forward three weeks and I’m telling my mom and my best friend, Laura, that I can’t do this. I feel nothing for this guy. I must break up with him. Give him time they counseled, it was early yet, and I may just be nervous. Well, one of us was right.
I’ll skip the boring parts, no one cares. But let me say this, there is more than one kind of abuse. And the man I pledged my troth to forever and a day was a master manipulator; he was a destroyer of all forms of confidence; and he was a warrior at getting control.
For starters, little things that I had come to look forward to when we were dating stopped. There were no flowers, no deliveries of candy, and no surprise getaways. Just who the hell did I think I was? That kind of shit is for girlfriends. I was a wife, I already bought the package, sorry, no refund.
Shortly after we married, my AS reared it ugly head. My treatment at that time made me gain an enormous amount of weight. That and not being able to exercise, feeling fatigued all the time and not sleeping. I ballooned up from an average 145 and I stopped getting on the scale when it registered 220. Of course, this was all my fault. As if I wasn’t feeling bad enough about the weight gain, being blamed for it was certainly the death of my confidence. He bought me work-out tapes and a Gazelle, never realizing I was too tired and fatigued to do any of it.
And cleaning! His mom’s sole purpose in life was to make sure her house was spotless. You know what my mom did all day? She taught four-year-olds to write their name and hoped my brother and I didn’t kill each other after school (it was possible.) And then he entered, a much respected institution not known for its lack of cleanliness. He fit right in.
I never truly learned the art “a place for everything and everything in its place,” nor much care about the occasional clutter my books made. And most definitely if no one can see it, it’s clean. Theses were my rules.
And my rules, like everything else, weren’t good enough. I dusted, rarely, and with a dry cloth, not furniture polish. I, rarely, vacuumed and I went around furniture, not moving it to clean under it. I did not wash the floors at all, because they would just get dirty again. I separated my laundry on the basement floor because it was already dirty. I didn’t use a brush to clean the toilet because a hand and washrag work better. And the kicker, I didn’t get out of the shower correctly. Huh? Excuse me? Perhaps I heard you wrong. There is a wrong way to exit the shower.
But the most telling state of our marriage came during one of our fights over my slovenly (I would argue unorganized) ways. He was yelling me at the top of his lungs - berating me for being the person I am and always had been. He wasn’t even bothering to hide his disgust with me. (Just so you know, I’m not disgusting, I’m delightful!) Finally, in as calm a voice as I could manage; I informed him that we had lived together before we were married. He knew I was like this. It shouldn’t be a surprise. And he responded, and I quote, because it’s just too good not to: “I thought those were traits of Single Nicole, not Married Nicole.” Are you, like me, picturing the marriage fairy sprinkling married magic dust on me while I sleep? Or are you conjuring a Stepford Wife?
It matters not. This argument took place in the first year of my marriage. And with that one fucked up sentence, the scales fell from my eyes. This man honestly believes he is a reborn Ozzie. And there is no way in hell I am his Harriet. But because of my illness, I wasn’t working. I had no money coming in and no insurance. For three years I pretended I loved this spawn of Satan to survive. I could do that. Because I had my eyes on the prize: Divorce. I didn’t know when or if would happen, but I would be ready.
In the fourth year, when we entered counseling, I was drinking a six-pack a night just to let him make love to me. He, with his lack of education, didn’t believe a word the counselor said. I began playing a game in my head. When the counselor talked, I would play “beat the clock” on my husband’s rejection. And then one day he asked me to wait outside while he spoke to the counselor alone. I had no idea what was going on, but I was not prepared for what did happed. My husband told me he never wanted me to have children, ever, with anyone.
Let me digress here a minute. My doctor who treats my AS said that I was cleared to have children. And I had a small window of time when I could have children and keep up with them, as opposed to having them and being too tired to care for them. This was my window. He was shutting it.
As we had arrived separately from our jobs, I didn’t even pretend to go through the rest of the session. I left. And I refused to talk to my husband all that next day. It was the day after that he greeted me at the door. “I want a divorce.” Four easy words that I wasn’t even sure I was going to say once they were out. My husband, soon to be my ex-husband, knew nothing of my plotting and fervent hoping to get out of this marriage, thought it was all his fault, He gave me whatever I wanted, which was meager. I didn’t even hire a lawyer. I moved out and back into my mother’s house.
My family worried and clucked over me as families will do. Finally, about a week in, my mother confronted me about everyone’s worry; that I was showing absolutely no post-divorce emotion. And I said to her the same things that were going through my mind when I left session, when I worked in limbo all that day, that still come to me as a gift from the gods on high: “I can’t believe he made it that easy.”
This is our new Wicked Short Stories page with submissions from various Authors. Please look for bio-snippets about the Author at the bottom of the various pieces. Enjoy!