I sit here watching you sleep, memorizing the features of your face. This may be the last time I see you this way. Calm and peaceful, I lay my head on your chest. The smell of you surrounds me and I fight to keep my composure. I let myself be vulnerable just one more time. I allow myself to truly feel the love I have for you.
Tomorrow will be different. You will feel it in the way I tense when you try to hold me. My words will be harsh and my manner cold. All the while my heart is hammering with such force it’s a wonder I can walk away upright, that I can escape without my ribs broken and bruised.
I have loved you fiercely. The fire has at times burned so hot that I have felt pieces of myself melting away. They slide down to pool at my feet until they are unrecognizable.
For some reason, whenever faced with the possibility of losing you, I can only remember the good things. I remember how your smile lights up your entire face. I remember your hands. So worn from manual labor and the sun, yet they felt like velvet when they touched my skin. I remember the love you have for my children.
The infidelity dissipates as if it were just a terrible nightmare. The words spoken in anger and resentment are gone. I forget the threats and the fear. The way my whole body trembled in the morning, not knowing which version of you to expect.
You are the real-life Jekyll and Hyde. Split with surgical precision straight down the middle and sewn back together seamlessly. He is you, and you are him. Somehow, each is unaware of the other. One spews vile words while the other promises love and peace.
I remember the way you look at our son. How amazed you are at his existence. Not the venomous words spoken to my daughter, or the look of embarrassment and shame on her face afterwards.
Only you could convince me that bicycles in the kitchen and ice cream before bed on a school night were an essential combination for a happy child. The girls grieve for the man who taught them to fish and play catch. They long for the father that taught them to be both classy and country flawlessly.
Half of you contradicts the other completely. So completely, in fact, that I question my sanity as a result. How can someone be so callous and cruel, and also so kind and courteous? How can the highs be so high, and the lows so low?
I grieve for the man I wish you were. For the half of you that I love so completely. The man with the infectious laugh, and irresistible smile. The man who will drop anything to take a moonlit ride on horseback.
The children miss you with an intensity that radiates from the tips of their toes to the tops of their heads. Every day is another endless interrogation resulting in a weariness I swear reaches straight to the bone. Excuses are made, you have work or you’re out of town for the week. At times I give in, as much for the children as for myself.
It’s amazing how easily we all get back on the merry-go-round. Things may change temporarily, but inevitably we always end up right back where we started. That same terrible music you wish to God would change, but you know never will. How do you make a decision with such finality that you know will rip out the hearts of yourself and your children? For now, we will all walk the proverbial tightrope. Balancing delicately between what we want and what we know is best. We will let there be love and boundaries.
I will quietly hope for change, but I will not rely on it. Creating a cement foundation free of cracks for my children, regardless of which version of “you” we get from day to day, is a promise I have made to myself. We want you, but I will not allow us to need you.
You are both the man I’ve always dreamed of, and the man I have always feared. And as all dreams must end, you will forever be my favorite. The man trapped with the monster. I hope I can still see you in my dreams. I hope that we can meet on horseback under the stars, where the monster can’t find us. In the quiet countryside under the full moon with nothing but silent adoration and peace.