Stormy Nights

The analog clock on the wall reads 12:04 AM.

It’s nearly midnight, and he’s not home yet—again. A feeling of worry tingles through me, but at the same time, I remind myself to ignore him. After all, I’m used to it.

For the umpteenth time of the night, I frantically pace the room, biting my nails. All I can hear is my shallow breathing piercing through quiet, laced with worry.  I am aware he’s shutting me out, but I’m still worried. I cannot help it but flood my own mind with eerie thoughts. All I can think about is how he might be in any corner of this town, slitting himself, his soul seeing the darkness in his eyelids before putting himself out of his own misery.

I quickly dissolve the thoughts from my mind before they push me over the brink of insanity. I don’t know how to keep myself occupied while I wait. My worries are constantly on repeat, like a broken record faltering incessantly. I nervously pace from one end of the apartment to another, setting a dish in the sink here, straightening a pillow on the couch there, while simultaneously my hand runs through my hair aimlessly. I bite my nails and spit out the tips. I cannot sit still. Wide eyed, I stand in place for a moment and stare blankly at the wall in front of me as I crack every knuckle on both of my hands. A large bolt of thunder roars

The clock reads 12:08 now. I am so worried that I yank my car keys off the hook on the wall by the front door. As my hand rests on the doorknob, two headlights shine through the door in front of me, illuminating my sight.

This isn’t the first time he’s done this. He keeps me on edge, while I wait and turn myself mad and worried about him until he comes home well into the night, without a single response to my phone calls messages all day.

It’s almost as if he does it on purpose. For the past six months, he’s been coming home late, leaving me all alone in this crammed, clammy little apartment. It’s like he purposely has distanced himself away from me, as if he is the only one suffering, wallowing in his own sorrows. He refuses to utter a word about anything or even maintain a proper conversation with me. Does he not realize that this emptiness is mutual, a burden that figuratively ended our lives that stormy night three months ago?

We barely talk anymore. Our exchanges are like two strangers crossing each other’s paths, in our own home. Every response to my questions is a one-word answer. Ever since it happened, the bond between us has faded to a sea dull, gray, sea of nothingness.

When I ask him the simplest of questions, “How was your day?” for instance, he responds with “Just the usual.” He replies without meeting my eyes, his face set in a mold of monotone nothingness. The air becomes thin and awkward, each person waiting for the other to walk away.

He completely ignores my efforts to try and attempt to rekindle what’s broken. “Do you want to go out somewhere this weekend?” I ask enthusiastically, which he patches up with fraud excuses such as work meetings or hanging out “the guys.” “Sure,” or “I don’t know, maybe,” is usually his default answer, accompanied by a sigh before he walks out of the room. You know what I think? To hell with “the guys.” He’d rather sit around, eating Cheetos and smoking cheap weed, a germy game controller in his hands until five in the morning, rather than mending his shattered marriage. He didn’t do this before. It all started because it happened.

Everything is ruined now. Our life, our relationship, our sanity. That morning, I woke up, and noticed that something possessed our bodies, robbing from us something so precious, something that good people who did good deeds deemed unfathomable.  

Nothing is the same anymore.

We aren’t us anymore.

Sometimes, at night, or whenever he isn’t at home, I cry to the point where I cannot breathe. I reminisce the past few years of our life, and I cry and heave until there is not one ounce of energy left in my body.

He was the one person in my life whom I leaned on for comfort, and now I cannot even turn to him.

As usual, I’ve ended up at square one, the depths of darkness. I have sunk into the dungeon lurking in my nightmares: an evil hell titled loneliness.

~ ~ ~

Right at that moment, as I am finished reminiscing, I hear his truck roar up the driveway. A gratifying jolt of relief floods through me. He’s not dead. I wipe the tears off of my face with the back of my hand and quietly pad towards the front door.

He closes the door behind him quietly in an effort to not wake me and steps into the moonlight, stopping in his tracks to notice my presence watching him. His eyes scan over my body and his eyes fail to meet mine, a sense of guilt washing over his face.

I can’t help but notice how much he has aged since that night. Every line and crinkle on his face has seemed to add at least ten years. I don’t even have to look at him to recall his face anymore. His whiskery beard protrudes from his face, the hair growing unevenly in some spots, continuing to develop by the minute. I already realize that it’s been weeks since he has had a decent shave.   

He stands there and continues to stare at me. There it is, the stress apparent on his face. His eyes sag from tiredness and there are crow’s feet surrounding his eyes.  He looks a million years older than the young, vibrant soul he once was. It is suddenly then, at that very moment, that I notice the uneven redness blurring in his eyes, his eyelashes slick with moisture.

I immediately realize that he has been crying.

“You had me worried sick, you know. Are you okay?” I ask.

He simply stares into my face and suddenly whisks past me, strutting into the master bedroom, starting to unbutton his shirt as he cruises down the narrow hallway.  

“You could’ve at least called and let me know that you didn’t do anything stupid,” I say, a little louder this time.

His anger abruptly pierces the quiet atmosphere as his bellowing voice fills the void between us.

“You know, I’m a grown man and I can handle my own damn self. I don’t need you to look after me and monitor my every move!” He spits. I stagger backwards from his aggressiveness.

Uncontrollable tears well up in my eyes again and I attempt to hold them back. I follow him into the bathroom, where he is stripping himself to shower.

Through a choked-up voice, I attempt to comfort him over the noisy clatter of the shower.

“Are you okay Jay? You know you can talk to me…” I offer, with an attempt to be sympathetic. With a curt nod of dismay, he rolls his eyes at me and sighs. He throws his glasses onto the counter furiously, causing them to rattle across the marble. The left lens scuttles out of its socket. His sudden burst of anger makes my heart nearly thump out of my chest.

He quickly steps into the shower, probably washing away his sorrows under the steaming hot water only to be attacked by the demons again once he steps out. Even though he won’t speak to me, I think about how he is home, safe, with me. Before I leave the bathroom, I stop abruptly in front of the sink. The mirror is spotty with spittle and toothpaste. I can’t even recall the last time I cleaned anything in this house. Slowly, the stream from Jay’s shower fogs up the mirror. Past the blurry mess that the mirror is, I catch a glimpse of myself. My eyes are bloodshot from the tears I have shed all day. The bags under my eyes are at least two shades darker than my usual tan complexion. My hair is a matted, black mess. I touch my cold fingertips to my face and notice that cheekbones are more prominent. I must have lost weight. To top it off, my forehead is completely broken out.

My eyes well up with tears again, but I stop them from dripping. There is nothing I can do, no matter how hard I try. I decide to go to bed and let sleep wash over me. I can forget my troubles for at least a few hours. After all, sleep is the closest you can get to death without actually dying.