Emily wished he would die on the operating table. That one small miracle granted by the universe would solve most, if not all of her problems. She had slept with him last night. God she was such an idiot. So what if the surgery might leave him paralyzed? So what if he died on the table? Why had she done that to herself? Why did she feel any measure of pity for the man that left her emotionally void? Last night after the act, she’d cried longer than usual. Rough deep sobs that shook the bed and she’d turned over in shame, inconsolable, slapping his hands away as he tried to comfort her.
Someone once told her that the pleasure and emotion centers in the brain are very close together and often there can be a misfire if one has an intense orgasm, so it wasn’t really that uncommon. She never verified this information; she already knew that if she was going to have one, it was going to be earth shaking. Tack on the benefits of simply being over thirty and the intensity of multiples? She’d scream bloody murder into a pillow with the pure force of each crescendo, losing her breath and falling into a mass of limbs onto the sweaty cotton sheets always with the same horrific uncontrollable response.
She thought a moment about how humiliating and frightening the first experience had been. She could only imagine what that reaction had done to his ego. Poor fella. It’d scared the shit out of him obviously. Emily shook her head as that first memory faded into other moments she’d shared with Jack. She cringed. If he made it through this he’d think there was still something worth saving and she’d never be rid of him. Fuck. What had she done?
His face was an overly theatrical version of his true emotions. She couldn’t bring herself to look at Jack much during sex because she’d just end up laughing at him. It was obvious he thought the faces he gave her were a personification of his pleasure. Nope, it just looked like he’d watched too many pornos, and took his acting lessons from the well paid actresses. Men simply shouldn’t make those sorts of faces, it just wasn’t right.
To her girlfriends, Emily had dubbed him “The Drama Queen,” giving him a name befitting not only his character in bed, but also in reality. She ran the names of old lovers over in her mind trying to remember them all. Sitting in the waiting area she had nothing but time to waste. She stared up at the mounted flat screen monitor and looked for an update. Still in surgery it said in green letters. She had three hours left at a minimum to hear any word.
Emily settled back in her chair, the synthetic fibers moving underneath her form. She could feel the edges of the waiting area’s wood framed furniture through the sparse padding as its ends pressed into her spine. Awkward, and uncomfortable furniture; just as she felt sitting here in a room of strangers that seemed to genuinely care for their loved ones, waiting to hear word from the surgeon.
Thinking back to the list of names, Emily smirked to herself, I wonder if I can remember all of them; she began to count. Hot Married Bill, who was hot, and married, and also incredible in the sack. Not one of her proudest moments, though pride didn’t really have anything to do with it when she’d invited him back for an encore a year later. Emily wanted him. Badly. She’d lusted after him for 8 years and finally, shamefully, she had him, justifying her actions as his being grandfathered in. Of course she was so nervous at finally sleeping with the man of her dreams that neither of their encounters led to a satisfying finish for her. She must have fantasized over him for too long, and a part of her even started to love him. Some things just have to be let go. Emily sighed, smiling. Mr. Finger-of-Fun, The Poser, both stories that belonged to her other girlfriends or their friends. She shook her head at the wrongness of their names and the stories that accompanied them. Mr. Gotta-touch-it was her best friend Sara’s story. He was adorable. Dumb as a box of rocks and looked like Matthew Lillard. They’d taken a trip to Las Vegas, and Mr. Gotta-touch-it had his hands on anything and everything he could. By the trips end Sara was exhausted. He too was married. I guess we girls just can’t resist.
The Slave, was one of Emily’s more horrifying experiences. This one had tried to convince her that she had a dominatrix hiding somewhere inside of her that needed to be liberated, so she strapped up her hottest lace up knee high boots and squeezed herself into a black satin lined corset, then gave him a call. Once he arrived they talked about some of the experiences he’d enjoyed in the past, since this would be her first time. He shared details of encounters he’d had that made her physically ill. What he needed, she could never be a part of; violence, degradation, humiliation, torture. She could wear the shoes, but it was a much better idea than a reality.
She ached for the solidarity she found in her friends, but settled for remembering right this moment what it was like to be with them, laughing so hard she’d nearly pee herself; to feel real again. In her closest contacts, these kindred spirits offered Emily a warm camaraderie in a world that would only call her a whore.
Then, Emily decided to get married, and single-dom, flirting and sex with the flavor of the week and the hot stories that naturally accompanied became a thing of the past. Not that she missed it all that much; it just seemed she lost her passion in her decision to marry the wrong man.
So here she sat, knees aching from sitting in low chairs made for people of average height, drinking hot, thick coffee, thinking about what had transpired these last few weeks that left her feeling so empty, so ugly inside that a part of her would go so far as to wish her husband would die during surgery, but still she sat and waited.
Emily had been rocking gently back and forth in the patio chair on her mother’s extended porch. Her foot propped up on the pale heat baked slate tiles surrounding the edges of the fire pit seldom used in Arizona outside of the winter holidays.
Jack shoved the papers into her hand as if demanding her concern for the content. The thick wad of paper was heavy and still moist having soaked up the sweat from his ass on the drive over from his meeting with the surgeon.
She carefully unfurled the soggy pages cautious to hide her disgust; she resisted the desire to shake it open, away from her body with the tips of her fingers. As if she really wanted to provide him more ammunition for yet another argument. She would deal with the nasty paper she decided. She could pool her reserves and quell her revulsion long enough to handle it for a few minutes. Besides, she could always wash her hands later.
The once crisp documentation now humid and limp in her hands held the specific details of what preparations Jack was to take prior to surgery for the week before and up to the day of the procedure to repair the damaged disks in his back.
Emily lifted the sodden pages to read them, though her years of adeptness of the task was dismissed by Jack’s impatience as he paced back and forth, loudly declaring his own summation of the doctor’s instructions.
Emily restrained her eye rolling and the urge to blurt out expletives as she inhaled slowly, feeling her right eye twitching at the corner from her effort.
He’d chipped away at her patience at least twenty times since this morning. Their arguing words amplified off the brick walls in the mostly empty bedroom they shared. She regretted that the children could hear the shouting. They deserved so much better than that. Emily had tried not to fight back, to not feed into his anger, but she was human. She had buttons that could be pushed too, and he had a way of flipping her bitch-switch. She folded the ass-sweat dampened packet of information and set it in her lap feigning patience.
“I have to have back surgery,” he started, stating the obvious. Emily nodded as if he hadn’t shared this information with her at least once a day since he finally received a valid reason to take the pain medications he needed so badly. It seemed that the Percocet and whatever other drugs he decided he required now were deteriorating his already damaged short term memory.
Jack grew up in LA and at 14, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time resulting in half his brains spilled out on the grimy heat blasted concrete after a gang banger introduced a bat to the back of his head in the midst of a late night block party. He’d spent four months in a coma and was lucky to be alive albeit any functional cognition or tactile skills intact.
Though Jack seemed to be having more problems with his memory as of late, retention had always been an issue and Emily often wondered if he used the attack as an excuse to conveniently forget holidays, birthdays and appointments. She had the feeling that he also had some emotional disabilities as a result of the trauma, and was perhaps suffering progressive damage as a result.
His logic and reasoning skills especially seemed to suffer, as if he had a true case of arrested development. His behavior was similar to a perpetual teenager’s which came with a lot of crude humor, a lack of manners, and a limited vocabulary. It seemed he just didn’t understand the subtlety of sarcasm. His level of appropriateness was off the mark and lately she grew more concerned with his conversations with their daughter Mandy. He would tell Mandy the details of an argument despite her being too young to process much of the information he tried to share. Mandy was impressionable and already she had learned how to defend her father; no matter what he had done. Mandy was afraid that her daddy would abandon her, for two years again or forever it seemed her tender little heart was breaking a little more every day.
Emily heard the chatter of his ramblings and tuned him out to listen to her own inner dialogue, What the hell was I thinking? Jacks’ blather turned to a soft drone that fell into rhythm with the ever present chant in her head as she continued to rock back and forth. I want a divorce, I want a divorce, I want a divorce, Jack was so egocentric that he hadn’t the spatial sense to notice if she was actually listening or not.
She could tell him now she thought. Just open her mouth and say it; mean it this time. She almost didn’t care if he blew a few fuses and finally lost it crossing the line from verbal to physical abuse. She was tired of him, tired of living in fear, tired of wondering when he’d get arrested for the illegal sale and purchase of narcotic drugs. She wondered if she’d go to jail too, if they’d take her kids away. God she hated him for that. Bile rose up in the back of her mouth. She would not lose her kids, not for his mistakes.
“I could die,” he whispered pathetically. “Or I could become paralyzed. I’ve only got a 70% chance of full recovery. Do you see what the doctor put there on the paper?” Emily sat silently as she regarded the soggy pages in her lap.
“If the surgery is not successful, they will fuse my disks together and I may still be in pain for the rest of my life. That means pain medication for the rest of my life,” Jack said morosely.
Emily remained silent, contemplating what Jack might need to hear in order to just shut the hell up. She felt no urge to cry, not an ounce of fear or concern for him. She let her mind wander and the entertaining image of a ping pong ball making its happy-hollow noise as it hit the equally vacant sides of her heart. Ping...ping... She felt nothing, except for perhaps a bit of madness, and fear that she might not feel anything at all until she got out of this relationship.
“Well?” Jack prompted. Devastated, he expected his wife to respond in kind, or at least say something. He was frantic, “I could die and you’re not even going to say anything?”
Emily tilted her head to the side, and looked him in the eye. Am I broken? She blinked at him, her blank stare masking what may or may not be there, “I don’t know yet.” That wasn’t entirely true, she supposed. She wished, in that moment, that he would die. Just die and be gone from her and the children forever, leaving only sad memories of long departed dreams of a happy future together that they might have had someday. Emily kept her mouth shut. She decided she didn’t want Jack to snap after all. Not here, someone could get hurt, and he had already caused enough damage.
Jack flopped into the rocking chair across from her and lit a cigarette. The sharp inhale of breath filled his lungs, smoke thickening off the end of the full-flavored. “What do you mean you don’t know yet?” A rough exhale of lung filtered toxins seeped into the air around them; she breathed it in, the swirling tendrils surrounding her, teasing her.
Twenty years of smoking this shit and the smell was still enough to trigger her addictive response. Her mouth began to water as she reached for the pack of Marlboro Lights and lighter next to her.
“This is my life we’re talking about,” he said begging a response.
Lost in her own ritual, Emily said nothing. Her hand reached for the box, and she opened it up. She counted the number remaining; seven. She closed the box, flicked the Bic, closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. The gentle burn tingling the back of her throat and coating her lungs and tongue in tempting swirls of caramelized tar making it all go away for a moment. “Ahh,” she didn’t realize she’d said it out loud until he cleared his throat, waiting.
Emily’s sister broke the tension by coming outside for her seat in the smoking section. “What’s going on?” Karah asked oblivious.
Grateful for a new audience, Jack was enthusiastic about filling Karah in on the glamorous details of his surgery preparations.
Familiar with Jack’s ramblings, Karah glared at Emily from her seat across the fire pit and Emily gave a slight smirk as if to say, “You asked for it."
Karah returned the look with one of her own that said simply, “Bitch,” and scratched at her nose with her middle finger, obviously telling Emily that she could fuck off.
Ignorant to their well practiced non-verbal communication, Jack continued on making it clear that he was feeling sorry for himself. Emily took Karah’s presence as a reprieve. She snuffed out her half smoked cigarette and went into her mother’s house to get the children ready to go home.
Being a one car household sucked. It seemed Jack could never keep a job long enough to for them to get ahead. He was more concerned about his pride than a paycheck. In their on- again- off- again ten year long relationship Jack held only one job for almost two years. Everything Emily owned, she had bought and paid for herself, including her $5000 wedding ring, and she was going to be paying on that thing for a long time to come.
The longest they’d been separated had been two years, not seeing one another in all that time. Jack had told his friends and family that Emily was keeping his daughter from him, and he claimed to have no idea where they were. Emily had put the word out to one of Jack’s more dramatic friends that she was going to look into stripping Jack of his rights for abandoning his daughter for two years. It was clear that he didn’t want to have those parental rights taken from him. Not while he was clean, and not without his say-so. He’d found her easily enough then, and sent her a message on a social networking site.
After a week of coming up with conditions, and three months of seeing him in a stable job, and sober, Emily had decided that the relationship was worth it, if Jack kept his act together. He claimed he’d decided to get clean in the last year of their two year separation. Now reunited, they dated for two more years, and finally Emily felt secure enough in the relationship that she decided she was ready to get married.
Then, a few months before the wedding, his head started hurting. He claimed the pressure from the cadaver skull cap they’d implanted was too much to bear and he started taking pain medication.
His “headache attacks” as Jack referred to them, were infrequent enough to start with that Emily wasn’t too concerned with addiction rearing its ugly head again until her grandmother was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma.
Ella was healthy and incredibly active eighty-two and had never smoked a cigarette. Second only to her children, she was the center of Emily’s world. The cancer had taken over as the woman Emily had seen nearly every day since birth faded away into the pain. The day Ella lost her life to lung cancer, her remaining pain medications came up missing. Oddly enough, Emily never wondered where they had gone, deep down she knew, but she was debilitated by her grief, too exhausted, and too sick in her sixth month of pregnancy to wholeheartedly confront him, so the topic remained unsettled.
Jack grew more dependent on the pain medication and often would take too much before bed, slurring his words, and falling asleep at the dinner table. Once, he actually nodded off and dumped his plate of spaghetti into his lap. Mandy and Emily eyed him as he sat slumped over, snoring deeply while a pile of red coated noodles fell into a tangled mess on his lap. Emily had to scream at him to wake him up and drag him up out of his seat just to get him to bed. Mandy didn’t like it when her daddy took his medicine. She wasn’t the only one.
The arguing picked up then, and grew worse as his poor judgment continued its steady decline. Mornings were the worst. She couldn’t talk to him at all or try to wake him. If she did, he would sit up and scream in her face setting the tone for her day. Worse still he would target their daughter Mandy and lose his temper over menial issues. Emily would hover when he was in one of his “moods” and defend Mandy before he had a chance to get even further out of hand.
Emily decided that he had tread too closely to the line of verbal abuse with Mandy and demanded that Jack attend parenting classes, which led to further arguments, and her audacity of questioning his parenting skills. She decided that he was on his last leg already, and it wouldn’t take much to convince her to end it. It was one thing to raise his voice to Emily, who had the means of which to defend herself, but Mandy? Oh, no. Not going to happen.
The ride home from her mother’s house was blissfully silent for all of three minutes, before Jack’s yammering began. Emily sat silent, waiting patiently for him to close his mouth. She must have completely tuned him out because before she even realized she’d done it, she turned on the car radio and began singing softly to herself. Jack reached over and turned the knob to off. “Hello? I was talking to you,” he said, “that means we don’t turn on the radio when someone else is talking. It’s just rude.” God she wanted to smack his face into the steering wheel. Asshole. He began talking again.
“Have you ever thought about comfortable silence?” she interrupted.
Jack was off his guard. “Wha-”
“Yeah, you know just being quiet or listening to the sound of the car as you drive.”
“Are you trying to tell me to shut up?”
Of course she was. “No,” she laughed as though he were missing the point entirely. “I’m asking because I wonder if you ever think about being quiet for the sake of being quiet,” she gestured with her hands dramatically taking in a deep breath, “just enjoying a comfortable silence.”
“I didn’t know there were designated quiet times.”
“Sure there are,” she began. “When I’m on the phone, when I’m having a conversation with someone, or while I’m sleeping,” she began to count off on her fingers, “Or if I’m reading, or singing, or doing my homework, or helping Mandy with her homework,” she spouted off carelessly. This was just too good. He’d either get pissed off or miss the point entirely. It seemed Jack chose both as the car began to accelerate. “You know all the things I’m doing when you conveniently find something in your world that is drastically more important than what I am in the middle of? Yeah, those are designated quiet times.”
His ears flamed and she could hear the sound of his mouth snapping shut. He gripped the steering wheel. Emily sat and smirked as the engine gunned and the car lurched forward. He took a deep breath and Emily prepared to hear the worst, or watch as he drove them all into a ditch, but nothing came. He didn’t respond and his foot eased off the accelerator.
Tonight it is, she decided.
The baby began fussing in the back, anxious from the arguing going in the front seats. The distraction gave Emily pause to wonder at all the different ways she could tell Jack to leave. She trusted the opportunity would present itself, so she sat back and waited for it.
An hour later as Emily was trying to focus on her homework, Jack was all over Mandy, belittling her about her chores and mocking her.
The baby was in the bedroom resting and Emily tore into the kitchen screaming at him the entire way, “Don’t you EVER talk to her like that! Do you hear me Jack? Get the hell away from her right now.”
Jack sputtered out slurred apologies. Mandy stood frozen in the kitchen. Emily went to her side and held her.
“Do not try to make excuses for that. She’s a human being, or are you so doped up that you forgot that? Get your shit and get the hell out of my house.”
She wished that making him leave could be so easy. They were married now, and that meant you had to try to work things out. Which translated into you have to put up with a boatload of shit that you never saw coming when you were single.
There was no way she could hold out the two weeks to his surgery, but she would have to wait until tomorrow.
Jack tried to talk to her that night, and the next morning. Emily knew better than to try and engage in much conversation with him.
“You will not take my kids from me.”
“I’ll do whatever I need to to make sure that they’re safe, Jack. Even if that means I have to keep them from you.”
His tone was mildly threatening ,“ You will not take my kids from me.”
“You’re an idiot,” she scoffed, “If you think you can threaten me in my house and get away with it.”
This time his eyes were flat, emotionless, “You will not take my kids from me.”
“You’re right Jack, I won’t take your kids from you if you can get clean and quit acting like a moron trying to threaten me. It’s bad enough that you verbally abused our daughter and now you’re standing here threatening me in my home?” Emily told Jack that he needed to leave, and had an hour to find a way there.
“You’re abandoning me when I need you the most. I have to have surgery in two weeks,” he complained.
Emily took reflected on the responsibilities that were coming her way. Single mom, two kids, one an infant and one a ten year old drama queen, and 5th grade homework, a disaster of a house she couldn’t afford to rent, thousands in debt she couldn’t afford to pay, a horrible shift that limited her time with her family, school part time, and one less Jack. Yeah, she could do that; it would be easy by comparison.
“You know Jack; I really think this relationship would work so much better for you if we weren’t in it. I quit,” and Emily took her first deep breath in months.
She took another deep breath and shifted in the uncomfortable chair offered in the hospitals waiting area. The surgeon approached her and told her that Jack was fine. His x-ray showed 6 screws in his back. She thanked him politely and he left her to sit and wait for Jack to get to the recovery area.
Finally Jack was wheeled out and now conscious, full of complaints. She brushed that off and followed as he complained on the way to his room. She left him with his personal effects, cellphone, charger, watch, jewelry, and told him that she wouldn’t be coming back during his stay at the hospital. “What happened last night was a mistake. What we had is gone Jack. It’s not coming back. You hurt our kid, badly. You can’t take that back, and I can’t take you back. It’s my job to keep them safe, even if it’s from you.” Emily left the hospital and started breathing deeply again.
Angela Ivie’s love for writing started at the age of eight when she began to create poetry based on her personal experiences. She writes from her heart and her creative mind which can be seen in her poetry, journals, and short stories. In the last few years, she has tried her hand at fiction writing, which has presented a new and exciting challenge.
Angela currently works with an Insurance company, and previously spent an enriching eight years working for a non-profit organization getting her “degree in hard knocks.” Angela is working toward her Associates degree with a focus on Creative Writing. She participates in classes through the Creative Writing Program at Chandler-Gilbert Community College where she is challenged and encouraged to write even more.
Angela has two children, ages ten years and almost one year. Angela believes that her children and her close knit familial menagerie continue to provide endless entertainment and priceless material for stories. Angela is inspired by her spiritual beliefs, and all things fantastic and “sparkly” including Disney movies, fairies, children’s fairy tales, folk tales, scary stories, and monsters, both real and imagined.