The Fight

Irene turned at the door and screamed so ferociously that bloody spittle flew from her mouth, chasing the words. “You’re a bitter old hag, and I hate you!” She slammed the door and threw herself on her bed, sobbing her heart out.

Her mother, Diane, sat serenely on the middle of the couch, leaving the cushions to either side of her undisturbed. She blinked in the direction of Irene’s room, but that was the only indication she gave of having witnessed the outburst.

After a moment, she uncrossed her ankles, rose from the sofa, and walked swiftly to her own room, where she lay on her back and crossed her arms over her chest. A single tear tracked a line through the layers of makeup coating her skin.

While Diane lay calmly in her bed, Irene’s rage grew and grew. Distressing thoughts began to intrude on her, and she couldn’t push them away this time, like she’d always been able to do before.

Thoughts of pain. Thoughts of vengeance. Thoughts of murder.

Eventually, each of the women fell asleep in their beds. The silence echoed through the house all night long until the morning, when it was broken by the alarm on Irene’s phone.

Irene dragged herself out of bed and to her bathroom where she regarded her swollen eyes with anguish. It would never do to show this face in public. She quickly texted her best friend that she wouldn’t be at school, and she went back to bed without waiting for a response.

The school would call her mother, true, but Diane probably wouldn’t answer her phone anyway. Irene knew that she was well under the limit of unexcused absences, and she also knew that she wouldn’t see her mother for at least three days. The older woman always hid after a fight of that magnitude.

Irene thought back to the words she couldn’t take back: I’m not worthless, you are. You would be nothing without me. You won’t even walk to the mailbox, so you can’t even send out checks to pay the bills. They tasted flavorful enough, but they could have used a bit more seasoning.

After all, what is the proper response when one’s own mother calls her only daughter, a straight-A student, a worthless imbecile with the wrong priorities, someone who will never amount to anything in life no matter how hard she tries? Irene felt that words a little stronger would have been quite in order.


Drinking Without Driving

Greg looked out the window in disgust. There was nothing for him inside except the booze. He blindly reached to the table beside him, feeling around until his fingertips brushed the smooth glass of the bottle that he so desperately needed. He took a long swig and set it back down, the drops of liquor glistening in his mustache. He swiped the back of his hand across his mouth and dropped it back to his lap.

The only sound in the room was his heartbeat, echoing in his ears.

A thought struck him, and he stood up abruptly, swinging his arm around to grasp the neck of the bottle. He took it with him downstairs.

One of her high heels was abandoned in the stairwell. She used to be so fashionable, before she had the breakdown. He kicked the shoe through the railing and continued down until he hit the bottom, in more ways than one.

The cab he hadn’t thought to call was waiting outside the front door. Must have belonged to a neighbor, but Greg got in anyway. They could call another one.

“Fourteenth and Marks,” he said, and tipped the bottle up to his mouth again.

“No drinking in the cab, buddy,” the cabbie announced, watching in the rear view mirror.

Greg shrugged and finished off the bottle before opening the door just enough to toss the empty out to shatter on the sidewalk.

The cabbie shook his head, but drove off.

When they arrived at the junkyard, Greg threw twice the fare at the cab driver and got out without a word.

He wandered through the broken cars, the pieces of lives gone awry somewhere, somewhen. The tall grass that grew up within the longest abandoned machines whispered against rusted panels, waving softly in the wind.

Greg sat down on the hood of an old, once-blue Plymouth with the right rear fender smashed beyond recognizability and wished that he still had that bottle.



Sounding Off

And now I’m glad I saved this prompt from The Blog Propellant.

This morning I got to work–let me back up.

Last week, before the manager went on vacation, he asked me to call tech support because the engraver wouldn’t work on 1. I got busy that night and didn’t, so I called Monday. I explained the problem and they said they’d send a new z axis controller and make an appointment for someone to come install it.

Now, it works fine on the other settings, just not 1. Well, almost fine; even after recentering, it’s off half a millimeter.

Anyway, Tuesday I was off. The assistant manager called me to ask what was wrong with the engraver because tech support had called to say they were sending a new machine. I told her it didn’t work on 1–which she should have known had she been doing her engraving properly. I told her what they’d told me, and she expected that they told her that no one was coming they they were sending a new machine. Fine, whatever, I’m just an associate. I don’t care. I show up and I do my job and I go home. I enjoy being out of a management position, because I don’t have to deal with crap like this.

But here’s the 25-year assistant manager treating me like I’m her boss. Look, lady, I didn’t even have to answer my phone–it’s my day off, and I’m not management

I still have no idea what she expected me to do with this information.

Wednesday, late afternoon, she called and texted multiple times while I was taking a nap. The new machine just got here. I don’t know how to set it up. It’s not working right. 

When I woke up, I texted back that I’d been asleep. She never responded. Whatever.

This morning, I delivered my papers and went to work afterwards. The kiosk was a wreck. 

There’s a note up that says April, this is all that’s left to engrave, we didn’t get the machine working until 630.

It’s a wedding set that was ordered on Tuesday, and has to be shipped no later than today. It was ordered on Tuesday. I opened up shop and checked the computer.

The assistant manager didn’t sell a single thing yesterday until 630. She had all day to engrave this. And she didn’t. She only had four sales Tuesday. Five sales in seventeen hours.

While I was looking that up, I also learned that she was also supposed to remove three 5×7 signs, put out twelve 5×7 signs, an 8×10 sign, and change the big ole easel sign to advertise the sale that started Wednesday. She didn’t even print the signs, even though she’d read the four emails detailing the signage and sale instructions. I know she read them, because once you’ve read something in our company email, you can’t change that it’s marked as read. 

I wanted to kick something. Maybe a puppy. Okay, not a puppy.

Now, I’m a reasonable person. If you’re busy all day, I don’t mind picking up the slack the next shift. But if you went eight and a half hours straight without a sale, you can damn well do your fucking job. The emails came at 130. The engraver came at 430–and if you don’t know how to install it, let it sit in the box

This woman is the reason I have personally had to install two of the four new/refurbished printers we’ve gone through this year. The manager did the other two.

I texted the manager, first with an apology to bother him on vacation. I gave him the quick and dirty version of all this, and he told me to get mad when she came in this afternoon, because he wouldn’t see her for over a week; he comes back from vacation and she starts hers. He emphasized really mad. I said that wouldn’t be a problem.

I cleaned up the mess.

At 220, she called to tell me she was stuck in traffic; she was scheduled at 3. I got off the phone as quickly as I could, because just hearing her voice was pissing me off again, and I had a customer.

She lives ten minutes from the mall.

She showed up at 312, and immediately started complaining about installing the new engraver and how the district manager made his surprise visit yesterday.

I pointed out that she didn’t have any sales and she didn’t complete the sign changes. She feigned ignorance.

I pointed out that she read the emails. She claimed they were late.

I pointed out that they came at 130, which is pretty early for signage change emails. She argued with me that they did not.

I left, while she was still talking.

I was too mad to even get into the wedding set left from Tuesday.

I guess there goes my Christmas present from her this year.


Bob Marley asked: “Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?” How would you answer him?

I copy/pasta’d the quote last night, and at that time I had a firm, ready answer: yes. I was satisfied. Not necessarily happy, certainly not ecstatic, but the life I’m living was something I could definitely handle. It was satisfactory. Not filet mignon, but a bologna sandwich.

I try. I do. I don’t know who I’m trying to convince that I’m trying, but I try. I welcome a logical, ordered progression of choices and events. As long as it makes sense somewhere, it makes sense. It fits the part of me that needs a perfect domino effect.

I chose to stay married after Ian cheated on me. Ian chose to stay married after he cheated on me. We are a team; when one of us has a problem, it’s our problem. Except for one.

I’m not done being angry. Or hurt, or betrayed, or sad, or jealous, or neglected, or ineffectual, or any number of other feelings that all stem from that one illogical, unordered, nonsensical choice. I won’t let this be our problem. It’s mine, and I can’t let my death grip on it loosen.

It’s the same bullshit brainwashing of ‘you can do anything.’ Oh, it takes two to five years to recover from an affair? I can work harder at it than anyone, I’ll blow that number out of the water. But I can’t. I can’t do that when I have to keep starting over. Sometimes I feel like I can’t make any progress, in spite of knowing that’s not true.

Today the lawyer emailed us a copy of the ruling for approval before she submitted it to the judge. I asked Ian about one paragraph, and that opened the floodgates. One thing led to another, and finally I screamed that I was upset about having to read a document that wouldn’t exist if my husband hadn’t cheated on me.

I screamed at him to leave me alone, and I’ve been lying in bed in the dark ever since.

I signed up for NaBloPoMo to get me through September. I don’t know if it’s helping. I don’t know if I would feel better or worse if I didn’t have ‘homework’ to focus on every day, to break up the daily grind of time marching on.

I want to quit everything. Take me off the NaBloPoMo list, cancel my doctor appointment tomorrow, cancel the marriage counselor appointment tomorrow, tell my boss to fuck off, and just run away alone and empty handed.

No, Bob Marley, I’m not satisfied. Not today.

What can I do? What can I change? I can define problems and find answers, so I don’t have to keep asking the same questions that hurt me so much. I can look for a way to accept that some questions will never have answers and that some feelings will never entirely disappear. I can take the time for myself that I need, instead of feeling guilty about it.

But those rare days, like today, when it seems like everything has been for nothing, are dark, scary pits. If I fall in again, I feel like I’ll be screaming forever.


I decided to have a look through my drafts, to see what needed to be finished and published. I found this, from June 15, two days after I started this incarnation of my blog.

    If only everyone wore signs, like ‘God’s planner’ or ‘poor advice giver’ or, rarest of the rare, ‘will support you no matter what.’ It’s impossible to judge how people will react to your bad news. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if there’s an opportunity to recommend a course of action, you will get recommendations. That’s not the bad thing in itself, it’s when you follow the course that you do choose it will inevitably be the opposite of what some think to should do. I isolated myself by staying married, from almost everyone, including my husband, because so few truly understood how I felt about what had happened.

I left the title; I don’t remember where I was going with this, what the irony was, but it stays.

Yesterday Mo posted her return to Group Therapy Thursdays. The last submission, about infidelity and wanting to make a marriage work, obviously struck a chord with me, so I responded with my take.

Later, there were a few more choruses of, as I expected, ‘leave him.’ But one was a little more vehement than most. And I was deeply offended.

I was offended because she made those generalizations that I talked about the other day, but this time, I bit back. Respectfully, because I don’t want to be that girl, especially on Mo’s blog, but sincerely, because I felt like her words were a personal attack on my choices.

I chose my marriage. I chose my husband. That’s not just saying I chose marriage over divorce, or Ian over anyone else.

I chose my marriage over my family’s objections. Thankfully, the ones I care about have accepted that, and Ian and Abby, with open arms.

I chose my marriage over my friends’ objections. I can safely say that I have exactly one friend left.

I chose my marriage over my job. A job I loved, but I went through hell every single day because of the choice I made. Since all three of us worked for the same company, and I was the only one left there after I found out, everyone knew. At first it was just ‘other fish in the sea’ comments, but when they found out about her pregnancy, I became an idiot, completely undeserving of sympathy or common courtesy.

Ian made the same choice, and in some ways, has suffered a lot more. His mother refuses to speak to him because she thinks I don’t want him to have anything to do with Abby (serious WTFs going on there). He doesn’t go hang out with friends like he used to. And it’s pretty hard to find a job when your former boss has been doing this for twenty years, knows everyone, and gives a bad reference out of spite.

My point is not ‘oh, feel sorry for me.’ My point is that this choice is hard enough to make. Being bombarded with ‘it’ll never work’ and ‘he’ll just do it again’ only makes it worse, because nobody knows whether or not it’ll work. Nobody knows whether or not he’ll do it again.

The question isn’t ‘do I want to make this work?’ The question is ‘how much of my old life am I willing to lose, since I’ve already lost the marriage I had?’ But it’s still a very personal question, that only one person can answer.

When someone asks for advice, it’s because there are choices. Just because you have advice to give doesn’t mean you’re aware of all the choices. Just because you have one side of the story doesn’t mean you know everything about it, or even enough to make an informed decision.

When someone asks for advice about a situation as horrendous as this, choose your words carefully. If you advise leaving and she stays, you can’t take back calling her husband a cheating piece of shit. You can’t take back ‘bastard doesn’t deserve you’ and ‘you can do better.’ If she stays, your negative words reflect on her. It’s one thing for me to scream them at Ian, but another for you to tell me I’m making the stupidest mistake of my life.

And you know what? I did scream those things, and I meant them, and look at us now. We are the cutest couple alive. We are happy, we are in love, and we value and appreciate each other. So much for ‘it never works.’

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