Sunday, February 28, 2010
Eternal Affair: Short Story
A man middle-aged wakes up in a dark room. He gets out of bed, banging his knee on the cheap nightstand. “Ugh, what the hell is that awful smell?” He says aloud sleepily. Who is he talking to? No one is there with him. No one.
“Oh, Johnny you seem a little confused. You don’t remember what happened yesterday, do you?” another voice laugh dripping with periodic sarcasm. “You did it again Johnny. Good job! You did it again…”
Johnny rubs his eyes viciously and stumbles to find a light—any light, just something. He hazily sees a sink, washes his face for some clarity and looks up. A mirror. In the reflection he sees a lost man with a broken spirit looking quite awful; he looks like he hasn’t shaved in days or showered for that matter. And this current cage he’s in becomes clear. Finally seeing the motel room for what it is—and it hits him!
“Johnny, Oh my gosh! I can’t believe I did this again. Twenty-Three years. I was clean for five months. I thought this was done!”
He hurriedly runs around the Motel-6-like room to search for his cell phone. He rips off the covers, blankets, and sheets from the bed. Pillows? Thrown on the floor. No phone. The madman opens the drawers in the nightstands to find nothing in this horrible excuse for a room. Checks the garbage, (Yes the garbage, people do crazy things when they’re high.) only to find his pack of empty cigarettes staring back at him in the bottom of the wastebasket. What about the shower? Nope.
“Yes look my little slave. Try to get your pathetic life together. I don’t know why you’re looking for that stupid phone anyways. Your family doesn’t want to talk to you. They don’t love you. You’re a piece of shit. I’m the only one who cares about you. Our relationship has been going on for decades. Anytime you’re feeling low—here I am. Your great escape.”
“Shut up!” Johnny shouts out. “You’re the reason I’m in this mess in the first place. My wife is going to kill me!” Last time he left on a mission she told him not to come back. He can’t lose her. She is the love of his life and they have three beautiful children together. I need to talk to her. I love her. I love her. I swear she means the world to me.
“Ha! Very funny. Who are we fooling here? You’re an idiot! Look at you rummaging around in this roach infested room trying to find your brand new $150 cell phone. Don’t you remember? You sold it, dummy.”
Overwhelmed with emotions, Johnny breaks down. The crash. His spirit has been here regularly so many times before after hi runaway vacation with his “other woman”. “You’re right. I am an idiot. I let them down. I keep doing this! I’m worthless. What kind of father does this to his own family? “Sickness and in health”—I doubt this is the kind of sickness my wife expected to be dealing with when we took those vows. What kind of man can’t handle getting paid without fucking it all up? That’s not a provider! “
He sluggishly picks up the raggedy dirty cream colored room phone with his shaking hand and attempts to dial the number. First time a complete failure. I can’t even remember my own home phone number? Great. He tries again only to hear the “If you would like to make a call, please hang up and try again” nagging monotone voice in his ear. Even she was telling him he couldn’t do anything right.
He goes at it again. Brrrrrrrrrrring. Briiiiiiiiing. Briiii—
“Hello” The sweetest voice whispers over the phone.
“Baby, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!! I just want to come home.”
“Um, sir who are you trying to reach? I think you have the wrong number.”
“Reeeeal funny, Julie. I know you’re mad but you know I love you. You’re my rock, the love of my life. I don’t mean to hurt you. Something overcomes me--it’s like…I’m not even the same person.”
“Julie? I have NO clue who you’re talking about, but this is not her home. And whatever you did dude, sounds serious. You needa way better apology than that.” Without the chance for him to wrap his head around her criticism, she quickly hangs up. “Failure”, the familiar voice whispers.
Johnny curls himself in a ball on the bare, pungent mattress and cries. It sounds like his heart is painfully crawling out through his eyes. A sob from the soul. That real crying out, breaking down, “I hate myself”, completely helpless kind of wail. H
He is completely lost. For hours and hours he blubbered; moments of total insecurities, worries, and disappointment. I guess that’s what comes with a marriage with his euphoric lady; the Devil’s drug. A quarter of the day wasted on his shame and tears, he attempts to use his current enemy again.
“Hello?” It’s his Babygirl, Lo. Well she’s not really a baby anymore, around 6. But still immediately after he hears her angelic innocent voice, mixed emotions come across his heart; a smile for her and a frown for himself.
“Babygirl, how are you?”
“Daddy!! I’m good. I really miss you. I don’t like when you leave like that,” his lip quivers and tears start to roll down his cheeks, “Where did you go?”
“Ummm… I went…”
“Mama’s been crying for a long time. I think she needs you here to make her feel better. You are our Superman! You always make me feel better. ‘Member that time I fell off my bike and you picked me up and told me I’d be okay? What did you say again? Just get back up and try again. I can do anything I want to! Just put your put your mind to it Lo.” (If only he was taking his own advice.), “That made me feel a lot better, Daddy.”
Now Johnny was a mess. Crying hysterically, but trying to keep his composure for his daughter’s sake. “Daddy, are you there?” Sucking up his tears he managed to respond, “Yes, Lo honey I’m here.”
“Are you okay Daddy? You sound like you’re crying.” Geez, I can’t even cover up crying to my 6-year-old daughter. I really am a failure. “No Daddy’s not crying. I’m okay.”
“Okay Daddy. Are you sure? You know it’s not good to lie. That’s what you and Mama always say. God doesn’t like it.”
“Yeah, lying is bad dear.”
“Well wanna talk to Mama?”
Hesitating to answer, his thoughts are interrupted by his wife of 18 years voice.
“Johnny I could kill you! How could you do this, again. I can’t handle this anymore. I really can’t! I’ve put up with this for too long. I can’t depend on you. I am doing everything on my own here. I always have to worry!” Past times of his lies and deceit flash across Julie memory-movie-screen; the trips to the pawn shop trying to buy back her own TVs, DVD players, moments she sent him into the store with $40 while she waited in the car and he never came back, times her and her three kids celebrated holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries alone over the years, etc.
“Baby, I know! I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say…You know I love you. I don’t mean to…” His tears come again. She’s heard his tears so many times, a familiar song to her, the song of her husband’s soul.
“Johnny, I was so worried about you. I called every jail and motel in town” She starts to give in a little—but then immediately snaps back into her anger, resentment, and hurt. “No! Johnny, I can’t. I really can’t. You lost your job!!”
“What? I did?” He loved that job. Everyone at his construction site absolutely adored him. He was one of their best workers. They admired him as a person because he had a good heart, plus he and Julie were the most amazing parents! Their kids made the honor roll annually it seemed like. And their son Alex was the best varsity high school football player in the district, he took after Johnny in so many ways. So many good ways.
“Well what else were you expecting when you haven’t come in for the past two days?” Tuesday. He finally knew what day it was; which means he left on Friday after work--along with his check. “We are losing our apartment Johnny. Again. After we fell behind last time (three months ago) Joe told us we couldn’t get behind anymore. We already begged them for the ability to pay the rent a week later than they ask, and then the day we tell them they will get the money—you bailout! That is so typical. And I’m left here to pick up the pieces. I’m the one holding the children when they cry. I’m the one who has to answer their questions about Daddy. Then I’m also the one who can’t sleep at night ‘cuz I have no clue where the hell you are. What if you get caught with that stupid drug laced in your cigarettes? What if something happens to him—there are crazy people out there! What if he overdoses? I’m the one trapped inside the misery of my wandering heart as you selfishly leave your family ‘cuz things are getting tough. I don’t leave. What if I just got up and left every time I got frustrated? I know it’s an addiction, but why can’t you fight it? I can’t live my life like this forever. I don’t want to be grandparents having to explain to our grandchildren why the hell their grandpa took Granny’s prescription money and left us in the middle of dinner. I can’t take the missing holidays! I can’t. Johnny, I just can’t. I refuse.”
He knew this speech well. He’s heard it for over and over for 20 plus years. Each and every time it becomes more painful to hear and he’s left with nothing left to say after her loving lecture but the typical “I’m sorry”, begging his first love to give him another chance.
After their battle of confused and hurt emotions, Julie’s heart decides to let her soul mate come home. This was a familiar cycle. Each time Johnny had to dig deep to find some form of inner strength to make it back for his family. They somehow found a way to get back into the routine of normality as quickly as possible, Johnny’s disappearance left unmentioned between him and his children. It was something they just tried to not speak of. It’s not that they were avoiding the problem; more so hoping if they didn’t speak of it, it would aid Johnny toward a breakthrough--pushing him onto the road of recovery.
“Johnny wake up. Wake up! Now’s your chance.”
“Chance? Chance for what?”
“To get away with me, let’s go. I bet your wife has some money in her purse. Just get it out of her wallet. Then it’s an all-access pass to paradise.”
“Paradise? Are you serious? This is paradise. I’m at home, where I want to be, next to my gorgeous wife; here to protect my kids in the middle of the night—the man of the house, the head of the family. Leave me alone, I’m trying to sleep.”
“So you think you can just bail out on me, huh? You think it’s that easy? Look how long our lustful marriage has been going on. You can never get away from me. This is no regular earthly marriage. You can’t go down to the courthouse and file for divorce. This is a real forever love.”
Johnny’s mind flies in the cloudy night sky as he sits in bed and thinks about his life and what it has became since the first time he and his sick possessive lover eloped. He never could have imagined all the extra baggage that one little puff with his boys would evolve into. Johnny constantly regretted that moment in his life. Life would be so much simpler. He wanted peace, enjoy his time on Earth destiny handed him and quit living with a secret weighing down his heart. He just wanted to erase all of the extra stress he knew his drug problem caused his family. They were ashamed of that other being--the addict.
“I’m through with you. Can’t you see? I’m trying to do right. I want my life back! Hell I want my soul back. I want to dream again. I want…control. I’m tired of being weak…”
“Oh please. Stop it. You think you have the power to overcome this? Let’s get real. Your life is in the palm of my hand. Don’t you see?”
Johnny looks helpless—defeated. He yearned for power within his spirit, but his soul was rotting in this life-size jail cell. He was trapped in his own nightmare and his mistress dressed in white had the door’s key.