Another Pleasant Valley Sunday?
It was 10 AM on Sunday. My husband stood combing his hair in front of the bathroom mirror. He called to me from an adjacent room,
“Hey, you wanna go poke around?”
“Sure!” I replied with a grin.
The two of us made up the term ‘poke around’. It meant going out with no plan and not being on anyone’s schedule. Whenever we spent the day ‘poking around,’ we’d be hanging out as sweethearts, running our errands, and visiting our favorite date place: Lowe’s.
It might seem mundane to others, but we looked forward to our trips to Lowe’s together.
We browsed the aisles and got inspired to do various renovations and upgrades. We were forever adding to our ‘someday I’ll’ list. It was relaxing to price new cabinets, pick out blinds, debate light fixtures, and vote on the selection of doors, decking materials, etc. — all for projects we knew we’d never start.
Nonetheless, it was a relaxing diversion for two people who worked more hours than they should.
An Unexpected Turn Of Events
Our trip to Lowe’s that Sunday was like any other — until. Until the love of my life pulled the car over into a grocery store parking lot, turned the engine off, and went into total hysterics.
To say that I was blindsided and shocked would be an understatement. I hadn’t a clue what could be causing what looked like a complete mental breakdown with this man. He’d been fine until that point.
I wanted to show my respect and allow him time to collect himself, so I sat there and said nothing. After a moment of silence, I reached over and placed my hand on the back of his neck.
I patted him lovingly between his shoulder blades. Seeing that an explanation was not forthcoming, I sweetly asked what was troubling him. He wailed and replied: “I just don’t know if anything will ever make me happy.”
My first reaction was that he may be starting to slip into a depression. His employer was closing their brick-and-mortar operations and moving to an online-only presence. This upcoming change meant he would soon be part of the downsizing. (But to scream and cry like that?!)
I proceeded with caution.
Again, I caressed him, telling him, “Honey, whatever it is, we’ll get through it together. You know that I’m always here for you.”
All Aboard The Crazy Train
All my life experiences had not prepared me for what was about to happen next. Rather than my words comforting him as I expected, it triggered him, sending him off the mental reservation, or so it seemed.
He wailed and cried even louder, as if a loved one had died.
After a while, he finally calmed himself enough to muster a response. He was snubbing like a baby who’d been left all alone to cry until exhausted.
Through his snubbing, he dramatically enunciated his short, angry message — one word at a time.
Through gritted teeth he hatefully screamed, pausing between each word “Your … Love … For … Me … Is… Not … ENOUGH!”
Wait? What did he just say?!
Stunned, I stopped patting his back. I looked down and folded my hands in my lap. I’d seen a lot of stressful situations in my life, but I didn’t know what to make of that out-of-the-blue display of hysteria and angst.
Alternate Reality Or A Parallel Universe?
Then, as if lightning had struck him, he twittered his head and batted his eyes the way a person does when snapped out of a hypnotic trance.
He looked stunned — even surprised —as if he had no idea what just happened. Following that—as if someone pushed The Happy Button—he cocked his head to the side, looked at me, smiled, and in a very giddy, playful tone said: “I’m hungry. You hungry? Cause I’m thinking salmon!”
I was aware that he’d asked me a question, and I knew he expected an answer, but I was still trying to make sense of the crazy that was going down here.
All I could do was nod my head and muster a short “Yes, that sounds good.”
He responded in a jovial tone of voice, “Okay then. You stay here. I’ll run in and get it.”
And with that, he pushed open the car door, got out, and walked with a bounce in his step into the grocery store.
As I watched the automatic doors closing behind him, I wondered what in the world was that was about?!
Soon, he returned to the car with freshly-wrapped salmon from the deli and a package of romaine lettuce for our Caesar salad. He pitched the items on my lap and turned on the ignition.
We drove home — in silence.
The Last Supper
Back at the house, I placed the items on the kitchen table, and he began rummaging through the cabinets to find the broiler pan. As was our custom, he preheated the oven and started preparing the salmon with garlic butter seasonings. As usual, I washed and cut the lettuce and prepared the salad.
We sat at the kitchen table together and ate (still in silence) when we completed the meal prep. My husband was the first to finish his meal.
He promptly walked to the sink, rinsed his plate and utensils, and placed them neatly in the empty dishwasher. He then turned and walked upstairs to his man-cave without a word.
After I finished eating, I straightened up the kitchen. Deep in thought, I bent over and as I put my plate in the dishwasher, I asked myself, “What is going on here?!”
Having no answer, I closed the dishwasher door and dried my hands. I hung the towel on the stove handle and set out to do more investigating. As I ascended the stairs, I could see him as the door to his room not quite closed. He was sitting, head down, staring at the computer sitting on his lap.
“Honey, would you like for me to sit and watch the game with you?” I asked.
“Suit yourself,” he replied, never bothering to look up from his laptop.
The curtness of his tone was like a harsh kick in the gut.
Lesson Learned: Beware When Only One Person Is Talking
Throughout our marriage, he’d never been one to talk much. I never pressed him to communicate, assuming e would share his thoughts when he felt like it. Today I could see that that this strategy wasn’t working so well for me.
Perhaps it was arrogant of me, but I always assumed that he appreciated this about me.
I also assumed that he knew that this was my way of showing him respect. In hindsight, I see that I was wrong about this — and a lot of other things as it turns out. He’d always been a man of few words — but his lack of communication on this day was different.
The still small voice, my intuition, was screaming. As I walked away, I couldn’t shake that undeniable knot in my gut; I knew there was more to this story. I had to find out what it was.
Disturbed by the remark, “Your love is not enough for me” that he made in the car — and now the curt “Suit yourself!” he made here at home — I nixed any further hesitation.
Halfway down the stairs, I turned and went back up and fully opened the door. Apparently, he heard me make the abrupt u-turn on the stairway because this time when I walked in he was looking up from his laptop.
Don’t ask me how I knew to ask this, but I blurted out the fateful question: “Honey, you’re wanting to leave, aren’t you?”
Re-queue The Crazy
He once again flipped on the hysterics. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” he said while simultaneously flinging his laptop onto the couch and jumping to his feet. Within seconds, he had a duffel bag in hand and was packing his things.
In a blur of frantic motion, he sped around the house like a frightened animal. He yanked clothing from the closets so hard that hangers flew everywhere. He snatched random things out of dresser drawers, scooped things off shelves, and dragged things out from under our bed.
One of those things was a metal suitcase where he kept his stash of gold coins he’d been accumulating.
More Gaslighting, Act II
His motives were out in the open now, so there was no need for him to mince words or waste any more time. He proceeded to open his briefcase and activate his series of launch codes. The next order of business was to totally destabilize my emotions by devaluing everything about the life we’d built together on his way out.
He was desperate–but not original. He hit me with the age-old (intelligence-insulting) cliche, “I love you, but I am not ‘in love’ with you anymore.” I have to admit; all I heard was, “I don’t love you anymore.”
The sound of those words caused my visual and auditory perception to flip over into slow motion.
My thought processes were unaffected so my survival instincts took over. At warp speed, I replayed every conversation I could remember us having in recent years — searching for any clues I may have missed.
I found none.
I braced myself for what might come next. The announcement of another woman, perhaps?
Something’s Not Adding Up
How could this be happening? I wondered. There had been no perceptible warning signs … we’d had no arguments, and there were no disagreements of any significance.
I could think of nothing that even remotely signaled his discontent. Until this moment, I’d seen nothing that telegraphed a man unhappy in his marriage. As a matter of fact, a week earlier, he was showering me with gifts and and we were celebrating our anniversary.
The Machiavellian element of surprise made everything surreal. Perhaps this was just a dream, and I’d wake up, I thought. To test this this theory, I opened and closed my eyes several times, hoping to clear my visual field–hoping to see anything other than what I was seeing.
It didn’t work.
Had someone dropped me onto the set of a twisted, sick psychodrama in production?
If so, no one bothered to provide me with the script. I tried assuring myself that nothing this strange could ever be happening in real life.
But it was happening — and it was happening to me.
A Very Cinematic Exit
Once my husband concluded his abbreviated packing frenzy, he decided to gaslight me one more time for good measure.
The man who’d slept beside me for 10,592 days — and with whom I’d never had a significant disagreement — walked over, hugged me, and muttered, “Wow. I know I must be crazy. I can’t believe I’m doing this to someone who is the nicest person in the world.” (Who says that when they’re leaving someone?!)
With that admission, he turned and walked down the sidewalk to his awaiting car — remotely started for ease of getaway.
As he reached the vehicle, he placed his hand on the door-handle, and looked back at me one last time. He forced a smile, nodded like they do in the movies, got into his vehicle, and pulled away.
I felt numb — as if someone had electrocuted me. Looking down at my hands, I could see that I was still alive. I could still think — but I could not verbalize or cry. I was unable to move, speak, or even take in a deep breath.
All I could do was watch in stunned silence as his car made its way out of the subdivision. It was only when the faintest trail of red tail lights disappeared from my sight that I was able to move again.
I then turned and looked around the house in eeery silence, hoping to understand what had just happened.
How could this be? My life with my husband vaporized in under an hour — yet inanimate objects remained intact. Our once-loving home had been imploded — yet it looked exactly like it did before. Something catastrophic had occurred here — yet ESPN still blared in the adjacent room as before.
I was sure of one thing. Something evil had blown through the space.
A powerful, vacuum-like sensation left an uncomfortable chill in all the rooms. In an instant, all the energy and life force had been instantly sucked out of what had once been a home.
I struggled to comprehend how the physical structure and contents of the house remained unchanged and intact after such a cataclysm.
Then it hit me: I had just witnessed a detonation of a neutron bomb.