Well, the honeymoon is over. The peaceful days after my release from the hospital are gone as I have been gradually weaned off most of my meds. That numb oblivion has been replaced by my harsh reality. I am coming back to the realization that my life is a mess and I have no idea how to fix it. But at least this time I am determined to try. I will not go back to the lie I was living before. It nearly killed me.
Joel has been pretty much all business with the exception of a few times when he snuck up to my room at night and lay next to me in my bed. He rarely says anything but sometimes he cries quietly beside me. When I try to talk to him his response is always the same, “Just get better.” I don’t have the heart to tell him that “getting better” is exactly what I am doing and I don’t think he is going to like it. His sadness weighs heavily on me nonetheless.
Jill is really my only girl friend. She makes me laugh and I feel hopeful when we are together. I am a social pariah pretty much anywhere else. One time I decided I was up for some company so I went with Nora to The Club to drop the kids off for their tiny-tot tennis lessons (because every pre-schooler needs to play tennis). I sat in the lounge for the few minutes it took her to get them where they needed to be and in that time not a single soul spoke to me. Those who knew me practically ran for the hills, averting their eyes and changing course so they wouldn’t have to pass me. Even the staff didn’t bother. Where in the past I would have a friendly and eager, “Good afternoon, Mrs.” as I entered or, “Can I get you anything, Mrs? Your non-fat latte?” Today there was just silence injected with a palpable nervous energy.
Obviously I haven’t gone back since.
Sometimes I spend time looking at myself in the mirror and I am surprised that I like what I see. I am skinny and my hair is long. It is now, mostly, its natural dull blonde with streaks of gray. I am pale. But in my jeans and t-shirt, hair in a ponytail, I see myself clearly for the first time ever. I may not look glamourous or rich but I look real. This gives me strength and comfort.
Sometimes on our Sunday visits Jill drops me off at a little coffee shop downtown. We don’t talk about it at all. It is against the rules but she does it for me. During that time I am myself for one whole hour. Occasionally I spend that hour alone but usually I don’t. Usually I walk in and back to the booth in the far corner where he is waiting for me. Jackson is tucked in with a coffee and scone and the weekend paper. I slip in beside him and I can breathe again. Some weeks he has brought me books or information on support groups or career counseling. Other weeks he holds me as I cry, unburdening myself and sorting through my complex feelings.
When it is time to leave I unravel my legs from his, kiss him softly on the cheek and stand tall and strong as I walk away.