Finally … he snored blissfully, his back to me on the mattress. I eased myself carefully out of bed and tiptoed to my office. Gently I closed — and locked — the door behind me. In the pitch blackness, I settled into my chair, donned my headphones and felt for the ‘play’ button.
I used to think that I could not go on — and life was nothing but an awful song …
And as they had every night for nearly two years, the sobbing — as quietly as I could manage — droned on while the tears rushed freely past my face, drenching my breasts below. The song tried desperately to convince me that all I had to do was believe, spread my wings and fly. I so wished it was that easy. I’d been mired in this union’s tarry pit for nearly a third of my life and each day it tightened its grip on my spirit and pulled, dragging me further into its imprisonment, as it vacuumed what was left of life from my body. Each successive breath was a labor more taxing than its predecessor. A wet, gray flannel blanket enveloped my heart and threatened to slowly crush it into motionlessness. I wished it had. Then I’d have been free.
I believe I can fly; I believe I can touch the sky.
I think about it every night and day — spread my wings and fly away.
I believe I can soar. I see me running through that open door.
Oh, God, I wanted to escape so very badly — any way I possibly could. But my choices were far from plentiful — and I’d carefully considered them both. I could file for divorce, but I’d lose half of everything I owned — and I’d have to pay attorneys most of what was left. I’d worked so long and so hard to build this; I was too old to start over again. But there was another downside. As much as I hated my life with him, I loved him. And I didn’t want to hurt him; I just wanted to stop hurting me. My other — more objectionable as well as more permanent — choice was to simply get my affairs in order, say my good-byes and check out. Fortunately, he was not the only one who’d have been hurt by this alternative — and I didn’t want to do that to those who actually loved me …
WHAT THE FUCK!?
Wait a minute! Rewind!! Do-over!!!
Excuse me, but there’s clearly something wrong with this picture! Yes, I wanted to be free — but preferably alive to enjoy it! And I certainly didn’t want that jackass to have his freedom, my house, my business and my life insurance proceeds! Hmmm … this was not the most brilliant of plans. He’d be fat, happy and rich — and I’d be … uh, dead?
Damn! I hadn’t thought about it in quite those terms before! Oh, hell no! And in that moment, after years of agonizing and hand-wringing, it was on! I spread my wings and, while I didn’t fly, all his shit certainly did, right through that open door, with his fat ass flying closely behind it!
Why, when we follow our hearts, do we not listen to our heads? And why, when that pursuit propels us head-first into a brick wall, do we choose to not go around the wall, climb over it or claw our way under it? What causes us to ram our heads into those bricks and then back up and charge them again — and again?
I first bashed my head into that wall less than four years after we crushed that wine glass amid a chorus of mazel tovs. I’d recently had a mastectomy — and was in the middle of a course of chemotherapy — when I sat in my surgeon’s office begging him to let me go, bald and puking, back to work. My other half couldn’t get a job because — according to him — if he did so, he’d have lost his unemployment benefits. Now, at that point, instead of just jobless, he should also have been homeless. And wifeless. Perhaps even lifeless. But my heart was firmly in control and my head had been exiled to a hell deep in a toilet bowl somewhere.
The wall and I clashed again a couple of years later when my significantly less significant other — a yet again unemployed commercial artist — was offered an opportunity most men with even a modicum of sanity would have thought unrefusable. He was clearly not cut out to be an employee, so his father offered to buy him — after all, he was his only son and his biggest failure — an advertising agency and to pump capital into it until he could make it profitable enough to provide a comfortable living. Apparently, I was mistaken; that smidgen of sanity onto which I thought he still clung had obviously slipped his grip. He refused it.
Well, I hadn’t even chipped that wall, but my cranium had obviously developed a crack that rivaled the San Andreas fault some years later when Baby Huey (one of my mother’s oft used pet names for her favorite — okay, her only — son-in-law) was offered health insurance by his — hold your breath … wait for it … employer! However, The-Sonofabitch-My-Daughter-Married (obviously, another mom-ism) declined this $10,000 a year benefit because he didn’t want that coverage. Since I was already paying for insurance, why change? When I pointed out that this would help us tremendously as, by my calculation, I’d paid roughly $130,000 in premiums during our marriage, Waste-of-a-Good-Fuck (Ms Dee’s favorite — and most frequently uttered — soubriquet) responded rather nonchalantly: “Oh well.”
So tell me: why the hell did I stay? What on earth was I thinking? Was I indeed thinking at all? Any one of these should have been enough for me to tell him not to let the doorknob hit him on the way out. Was I waiting for a sign from God — you know, maybe a little bolt of lightning or something? Was I waiting for hell to be chosen as the venue for the Winter Olympics? Was I waiting for the proverbial camel to collapse onto his belly in the desert sand?
Perhaps. But maybe, on the other hand, I was simply waiting for me to finally love, choose — and believe in — me.
(I Believe I Can Fly written, performed and produced by R Kelly 1996)