Its funny how it always seemed to happen on a Friday after work. Actually, funny isn’t quite accurate, what it actually felt like was suffocation, like the walls of my world crumbling helplessly around me, like the ground was turning into quicksand that I just couldn’t keep from sinking down into. But after a while, I guess it feels better to call it funny.
Time has been kind and dulled the memories, removed details, frequencies, specific words used. When I try to recall them now its like I forgot my glasses and my ears are clogged – I can almost make out that detail right there – but not quite. Underwater and blurry and mucky, my memories of that time are.
Some things made it through with me, though I’m not sure why. I remember the mechanical actions that became routine those Fridays – text to my mom: “Big fight. Coming home for the weekend.” Stop at the same gas station, the one with a pizza joint attached, park in the same spot, fill up my little silver Honda Civic for the drive. Look at my breath in the air and wonder if I would make it back before dark. Look at the dirty snow and gravel in the road, wonder if it would ever be pretty again. If Spring would ever come. Most of the time I was sick. A cold that never seemed to go away, a sore throat that lingered, a pounding headache always. Once I drank two pink Vitamin Waters on the drive, pounding them like my life depended on it. My mom and sister always thought they tasted funny, like fake sugar. They did, I realized, once they said it, and I couldn’t drink them again. I drank them so fast that 45 minutes into the drive home I had to stop at a little town I had never set foot in before and make a mad dash to the bathroom to pee. I hoped I could find my way back to the interstate. This was before smart phones and GPS in cars and I remain severely directionally challenged. But I didn’t really care. Not about anything.
After so many Fridays, I stopped being surprised. Started planning I would go home anyway, regardless as to what kind of conversation was waiting for me in the little kitchen that always smelled like Vietnamese food because of the couple upstairs. My weeks were a countdown to Friday, to the day I got to sit and observe my marriage falling apart, a countdown to being able to go home and be with my family, the comfort of people who loved me instead of the crushing, lonely emptiness I felt in our apartment, at my job, at the gym.
My mom paid for a gym membership for me. She knew I was depressed. She knew we were too poor to pay for it on our own, me armed with my little silver flip phone’s calculator at the grocery store, me panicking that we weren’t going to make rent this month on time, money money money fights that turned into other fights that turned into other surprises that turned into worse conversations and realizations each and every time until really, money should have been the least of our worries.
I went to the gym part exactly one time. I believe I did the elliptical. What I came for was the yoga classes. They were so busy that you couldn’t fully extend your arms to the side without grabbing hold of the torso of the person next to you. So full that I felt a little less alone.
I went on Halloween night. I didn’t have any other plans. There were only a handful of other people there that night. I wondered what they thought about me. I knew I looked young for my age. I had that big pretty ring on my finger that I assumed everyone was looking at. Probably nobody was looking at it. Probably people went to yoga for other reasons than wondering about me and my life and trying to catch a glimpse of my ring. But I was only 22. I didn’t know that yet.
One night I ran into a guy I went to high school with, he looked at the ring and his eyes got big and he said “Wow he must REALLY love you!” I don’t remember what I said. Probably something polite. Probably something I hoped deflected the obvious irony I was experiencing at that moment.
I wondered if the people in yoga thought I was a kept wife, one of those young women with a little too old of a husband, with nothing better to do that go to the gym alone. The kind that maybe shopped and lunched and did interior decorating. That story sounded lonely but mysterious and a little charming. I felt like my own story was just lonely. Period.
I came home Halloween night to an empty apartment. Honestly, I can’t remember where he was. It doesn’t matter now. There were no trick or treaters. I think I cried. If I didn’t, I wanted to.
Today I was driving with my 2.5-year-old daughter and “mommy and daddy’s song” came on the stereo. We were driving one night the first time either of us heard it and he turned to me after it was done and said “I like that song. It reminds me of you.” She sings along now, its possibly one of my favorite things in the whole world. The verse goes:
And if I never get to build my mansion in Georgia
Or drive a sports car up the coast of California
Oh if all I got is your hand in my hand
Baby I could die a happy man
My daughter sang “If I never get to build my mansion for George …” She loves that curious little monkey in a fierce way. I glanced back at her and couldn’t stop myself from bursting into laughter and she quickly squealed back at me. “I said GEORGE!” She giggled. “My mansion for GEORGE!!” Peels of the sweetest little laugh filled my car.
On Friday we will probably order take out or pizza and there will be sweatpants and probably Curious George on the tv, maybe daddy will wear the pink princess hat again. There will be bath time and I will sit on the edge of the tub and watch her giggle uncontrollably as daddy makes the sharks and whales swallow water and spit it back into the tub.
The sky this afternoon was just like it was on those old Fridays. I remember that part. The rest of the details have slipped away with time, filled with new Friday after work memories. Memories that crowd out my mind, my heart, the space in my chest that fills up with what I can only possibly describe as joy.