the night he did not come home
I hung up the phone, then stared at the 8 digit number. I’d just filed a missing person’s report. On my own husband. It all seemed very wrong. M artin’s deep devotion to his family meant that he always came home to me straight from work. Until that evening. I told myself that I’d wait until midnight before I filed a missing person’s report with the VPD. I’d gone to the DTES twice this evening to see if I could find him. I’d called all the hospitals earlier: no one there by that name. I’d even called his employer, the owner of the construction company where he worked, and left a message asking Martin to call home when he got to work. Martin had such a strong work ethic – he’d have to be dead before missing work.
appealed I decided there were four reasons Martin did not come home: (1) critically injured or dead; (2) fucking some other girl; (3) careless and air-headed – just lost track of time; (4) not coming back because he doesn’t fucking feel like it. None of these options to me, though I must confess, I hoped for the first option because it would eliminate the very real possibility that Martin did not want to come home to me. Wow, did you just go there? Yes, I believed I’d rather face his death than receive his rejection. How do you even pass for human?
Puerile outrage screamed inside my head, where are you? how could you do this to me? I let out a howl. I didn’t care if the upstairs neighbours heard. I howled and howled. I howled until it hurt to howl. Stifling fear and sick desperation seeped into the pit of my gut: an osmosis of the worse kind. I wrapped a red wool blanket around my shoulders and went outside, where I stood in the middle of the road for a long time. I watched. I waited. As if this would hasten Martin’s return, or trigger some switch that would cause him to apparate. He did not come home.
I indulged my rage, of course. I found all the cigarettes Martin had stashed around the house, and I cut them up. Not just in half, in small pieces that he couldn’t easily patch together. Then I spread the mangled tobacco sticks across his side of the bed. As I studied my handiwork, I giggled out loud. I imagined Martin, sitting on the sofa, smoking a patched-up cigarette. I wondered if he’d patch these. Or, maybe, he’d just disembowel the remains and re-roll the tobacco. Yes, he’d definitely do that. Pathological smoker and recycling freak that he was, he’d definitely do that. And so I giggled out loud, at length, as thought I’d gotten some kind of bizarre revenge. It felt good.
It felt good until I remembered that Martin might not ever return. I decided that, regardless of whether or not he came home, I would refrain from sleeping in the bed. I contemplated all the things that I’d have to do, if indeed, he did not return to me. I wondered how I’d gain access to his paycheque and bank account if he had come to some harm or died. This made me want to go downtown one more time to look for him.
By the time I got to the ‘hood, every one of the grimy, crumbling downtown pubs looked closed for the night. My watch showed the time as well past one am ~ not a time anyone typically lurked about the infamous corner of Hasting and Main unless in the market for something illegal, mind altering and potentially fatal. I spotted three cop cars in the alley near Carnegie Centre. I watched rats the size of cats stealing across the sidewalk, and into one of the many boarded-up businesses that lined Hastings, near Cambie. Also, a scattering of strung out, high junkies floating about the sidewalk, and at times, flailing right in the middle of Hastings Street. I saw several familiar drug dealers, each hustling their product. I saw no one that resembled my guy, however. I wondered why other wives didn’t have these sorts of experiences. I wondered how wives of police officers, fire fighters and soldiers struggled with the possibility that their man may not ever return home to them. How does one live with that real possibility? No one who has lost a loved one ever expected it, did they?
I kept trying to convince myself that everything would be alright ~ Martin would return to me. Each time I went looking for him, I’d tell myself ‘he’ll be there when I get home this time, I just know it.’ Yet, each time I returned from my search, my heart would sink to find the house just the way I’d left it: empty, except for the cat- that lovely gray cat Martin would, later that year, drown in the bathtub in a fit of spiteful jealousy. I returned home from my third and final search trip at just past two am.
What if Martin never came home? I wanted to feel prepared, prepared for this worst possibility. I began making a mental list of what I needed to do if he was indeed dead, when I heard a key turn in the lock, just before three am. A deluge of emotion flooded my brain, threatening to short circuit it. My head felt like it would explode. I tried to play it low key, to hide my rage at his disappearance.
“Wow. I was so worried! I’d begun to think something terrible happened to you. I called all the hospitals, even filed a missing persons report. You could’ve called to say you’d be late. Where were you, anyway?”
“I know. I’m sorry. I was at a friend’s place.”
I wondered how I should react. Do I believe him? Do I ask what he was doing at that friend’s place? What difference would it make? None. I only have his word. Besides, details mean nothing. They’re like that part of the onion we discard, when preparing dinner. More than anything, the things which drive those details matter. Intention. I knew that everything means something. And this – staying out almost all night – definitely meant something. Saying not another word, Martin went into the bedroom and promptly passed out.
I fell asleep just after 4 am on the red velvet couch , and woke up 1 hour and 45 minutes later so as to wake my truant husband up to go to work. As he walked out the door, about a half-hour later, I stopped him.
He paused, his hand on the doorknob, and then turned to face me.
“Please come back to me. Please.”
He smiled, a slight and painful smile, and then left without saying a thing. I spent the morning weighing in my mind what exactly happened last night. Never, ever, had Martin done that before. It meant something, something I felt sure I didn’t want to face. I felt compelled to do what I always do when faced with reality I could not face– make it all about me and run away . I fantasized about going to Winnipeg to see my parents. Just like that, going without saying anything. You can’t afford it, remember ? Phffft! Besides, it seemed like an example of the behaviour – Martin’s – I had only just decidedly found unacceptable and form of torment. Which is likely why taking such action appealed to me, I suppose. Strike back.
I fantasized about changing the locks. Or issuing some dramatic ultimatum. Counter-productive. Bitchy and childish. Solves nothing. Besides, you can’t afford it, remember? What I would do, if I possessed the financial capacity to leave? Would I? The temptation would urge me, for sure. But, what about the consequences of indulging one’s own desire for vengeance? And, what about honouring the marriage vow I made, the choice to which I committed myself, years ago? All this thinking like a grown-up hurt my brain. I didn’t like it. I decided to roll a joint.
As I cut up the weed and wrapped it inside the rolling paper, I thought of something my friend Susan wrote about, in her blog a while back, “life is not about my happiness …” and I understood what she felt, in that moment. I could make a difference by changing the way I reacted to things. But, didn’t all my temper tantrums and hissy fits, all the name calling, the belittling, manipulating and raging histrionics, achieve the results I wanted them to? In the end, I always got my way: Martin always gave into me, he could never resist me. This time, he had the hissy fit. He was entitled, too, right? So, as I smoked my joint and tried to think of where Martin was hiding the rent money this month, I decided that having sex with him for a few nights in a row would appease him enough and make everything okay and normal again.
-this is an excerpt from a larger piece I began writing several years ago-