For the rest of October, I will donate $2.00 of every book sale to a local shelter that provides for women and children. This is a cause for which I am deeply passionate. Let’s keep the world safe for our kids and their caregivers. Suede: A Collection of Poetry is available through Friesen Press, at amazon.com or you can email me for a signed copy at Cindy Hollenbeck.
Eight years ago, my husband Eric and I bought a house. He wanted the perfect place in the package, already put together. I wanted the old place with potential that we could create. Because he was too busy finishing college, I looked at homes with the Realtor. When I walked into the harvest gold living room with hard wood floors on 870 Orchard Ave, I attempted my best poker face. This would be our house. There was no garage, and it had an itty, bitty tiny kitchen, but we had off-street parking and a pantry in a great neighborhood.
Our son turned one in this house, and we had a huge party with family and friends. Eric and I painted the rooms the way we wanted, fixed up the basement room, put a compost barrel in the backyard, and even got TP’d one year. We took gorgeous photos of our three kids backdropped by trees, held Easter egg hunts and trick-or-treated in our neighborhood. I found a great job, and Eric started graduate school. We were well on our way to living what many call the American Dream.
Eric and I had been together nine years, and he had seen me through my bouts of depression stemming from childhood abuse: emotional, physical and sexual. Talk therapy was a huge part of my life. I believe Eric didn’t understand what I went through daily, but he listened and hugged me. After I had our son, my postpartum depression lasted more than a year, and I went on antidepressants, which helped enormously. A few years later, when I turned the big 4-0, I thought, I had never felt happier. But danger loomed on the horizon.
By our son’s fifth birthday, I confessed to Eric that I’d had a three-week affair with a coworker months earlier. It took me five months to confess. Some friends say it was a selfish choice to tell him, but I assure you, no marriage counselor would see me unless I did. I wanted to work things out, not split up. And I guessed the affair was a symptom of my past abuse rearing its ugliness into my wonderful present as it had done before. Never with Eric, but in other healthy relationships. Eric saw my explanation as an excuse for me to “have fun” with my coworker “Leif.”
Eric called Leif’s wife and told her about the affair. Then in a drunken rant, he told our daughters. And the next thing I knew, my life spiraled into complete pandemonium. A state of disarray that my therapists warned I was a master at creating. People who grow up in chaotic environments need to learn to like the quiet.
Within six months, I asked Eric to leave our house because he was drinking and being abusive. He filed for divorce on the grounds of infidelity. He destroyed me financially. I quit my job. I tried to seek comfort from Leif, but realized he was only interested in the forbidden wife. My elder daughter lost respect for me. My middle daughter, who was going through puberty, started cutting. And my son said he wished Mommy and Daddy would stop fighting.
My daughters are grown. I am living alone in this huge house, my son coming half time. Leif is a dirty word. I am so guilt ridden about the affair that I cannot have a normal conversation with Eric. He is still angry, and it’s been five years. Our divorce has been final for two and neither one of us can move on. Me, because no one holds a candle to my ex-husband, whom I am still in love with. And him, because he’s bitter. He has a new home, a job he likes. We live blocks from each other. Our son is nine and is well adjusted and tender-hearted.
Tonight, I am signing papers to put our house on the market. I cried for the first two weeks after I realized I had to sell it. I can’t look anywhere without seeing Eric and the kids. Eric playing X-box in the living room. The girls playing Rock Band. All of us having dinner in the sun room. Drinking coffee in the itty, bitty tiny little kitchen. Raking leaves in the back yard. Tearing down the toilet paper in the front yard.
Many of my friends ask, Why are you and Eric not back together? It all depends on how you look at it.
My daddy died, says the four-year-old girl—
squishing and smashing lilac salt dough
into sea stars and snowmen at the daycare
craft table. She licks her fingers. Don’t eat the dough,
the caregiver says. A boy in a blue and green
striped shirt stacks blocks. The girl eyes
other kids’ paintings of mommies, daddies,
kids and dogs. My daddy died, she repeats,
looking around. The boy turns his stringy-haired
head her way, eyes her from her wavy bangs
to her purple fingers. I don’t have a dad, he offers.
Never met him. The caregiver tilts her head,
half-smiles. The boy rests the last block on the stack,
watches the tower weave before it falls to the table
with a boom and clack. He runs to the boy’s room.
The girl lifts a rounded mound of salt dough,
makes sure no one is watching, takes a bite.