Trenton, New Jersey March, 2002
Stephanie walked through the front door of her home, dropped her umbrella on the front porch, took off her damp trench coat, and kicked her shoes off there too. They were soaked and wet and her hair looked miserable. She took a deep breath, perhaps a sigh of relief from such a tiresome day on the job. She shut the door behind her and stumbled over to the kitchen table where a sheet of tablet paper was folded neatly there.
The lights were on.
The TV was on.
It was as if Derrick had never even came home. Or did he? She couldn’t remember. Maybe he didn’t and she just forgot to cut everything off again. Damn. She sat down on the couch, unraveled the paper, squinted and began to read:
I left early this morning for Los Angeles. This isn’t a vacation though, this is where I will be living from now on. And no, it wasn’t a job offer. And no, I’m not seeing another woman behind your back either. I’ve decided to follow my dreams. I’m sure that you understand, we’ve had this conversation before. I am only reiterating these things, because I don’t want any confusion in the coming hours when you come across this letter. Don’t you remember? We were parked in the Barnes and Noble parking lot? We had bought all those books (most of which were for me– I was never successful in sparking your interest in reading). You must remember. Remember when I told you that I felt that I was being held back? And how I wasn’t living up to my full potential? And how for so many years, out of all of my siblings, I was the subject of ridicule? Everyone else ran full throttle on their dreams, and I stayed behind and got married. I don’t mean to speak of marriage in such a burdensome way, but can we be honest with each other? We’re not successful together, babe. We’re miserable. We never argued, we never raised our voices towards each other. I never thought once of lifting a finger to harm you. But things have gotten much, much worse as time has gone on. Your mood swings have intensified. Don’t you remember how I would always drop you off to work in the morning? I assume that you do. And how we would hug and kiss before you got out of the passenger seat? When was the last time we hugged and kissed? Lately, you’ve just been waving at me, and sometimes I wouldn’t even get that. I’d lean in for a kiss sometimes, and you’d lean away from me and give me this look of confusion as if you forgot who I am and what I mean to you.
Or what about that time we invited your mother and father over to dinner? We were all sitting at the table watching Family Feud. Your mother asked you what we had planned for our wedding anniversary. You paused and looked away. Your mother asked you again. You looked at her, smiled, and then looked away again. Your mother squinted at you and called your name rather firmly. You turned back towards her and screamed at the top of your lungs, “WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?!” Your mother told you that she wasn’t even yelling at you, and that she asked you a simple question, which was what is our plans for our anniversary? You paused again and looked down at your plate. I got up out of my seat and wrapped my arms around you as you wept, and told your mother that we had planned on going to New York for a few days.
Or what about that time that I was at work (this had to have been about 3 months ago), when I got a call from the police telling me that you called them crying because you got lost driving home from work? I had no problem picking you up, but how could you forget that easily where you live? Do remember any of this happening? I’m positive that you do.
I shouldn’t even have to mention that time you left the stove on one Sunday morning in our old apartment when you went to church, and when you came back…….
Stephanie crumbled up the letter and threw it on the floor. She couldn’t take any more of it. She grabbed a handful of hair and sunk to the floor crying uncontrollably. She screamed and cried, screamed and cried. She banged the hard wooden floors with her fists, she raged. She pounded her fist against her forehead over and over again, rebuking herself in the process. She screamed out “Why! Why! Why! Why! Why!”
She was livid. But who was she upset with? Herself? Or Derrick?
Was she as far gone as Derrick made it seem? Surely he had been exaggerating on some of that, right? “How dare HE try to play the victim in all this shit!”, she thought.
She got up off of the floor and ran upstairs to the bedroom. As she expected, all of his belongings were gone. She tried to think of when she saw him last, because here was no way that he could’ve packed everything that quickly. She thought long and hard, but couldn’t remember.
She walked towards the bed and leaned in to see a shiny ring sitting directly on the center of it. She felt her heart drop. In utter frustration and anger, she went into yet another rage, this time knocking over the nightstand, the picture frames on the wall, the bookshelf, the drawers and dressers. The room was a mess. she fell to her knees with her hair in her hands yet again and screamed and wailed in agony and heartbreak. Her eyes landed on the ring on the bed. She got up and grabbed the ring and ran over to the bathroom. She put the ring close to her face and examined the ring, all of the little details. Before she could even begin to weep, she threw the ring in the toilet and flushed it. She thought that she would be satisfied with seeing how quickly the ring would vanish after she presses down on the lever.
She wasn’t satisfied though.
She paced the floors. She walked in every room in the house, upstairs and down. After pacing the floors, she sat down on the bed– HER side of the bed. She wanted so desperately to seal the deal, to permanently erase him from her life– whatever was left of him, that is. If he was really gone, why should she have to live with anything that would remind her of him? If he walked out so easily on her, she wanted to delete his entire existence also.
She had thought of flushing down her wedding ring too of course, but she couldn’t remember where she had put it last.