by Gabriella Herkert‘At least tell me why. I deserve that much.’
‘Over is over, Ron.’ Liza folded her favorite red silk blouse and put it into the suitcase. The bedroom closet was still full of crisp white blouses and tailored slacks. She closed the half-full suitcase with a snap.
That’s all I get? Eight years and you walk out with some bullshit femi-nazi psychobabble?’ Ron grabbed her arm, his freckled face flaming. When was the last time she’d seen him that animated? The basketball playoffs? The garage door installation? She couldn’t remember.’It doesn’t matter.’
‘It sure as hell does. One day everything’s fine and the next you hit me with this. No explanation just ‘I’m leaving’ then bam,’ his clap echoed in the room. Liza flinched. His anger wasn’t unexpected. Ron didn’t like surprises. He didn’t like anything that pushed his neat world the slightest bit askew.
She should have left before he got home from work. She had known it. Somehow leaving a note had seemed too cowardly, too spineless. Liza didn’t want to carry that into her new life. She already had so much baggage. Now he spewed questions he wasn’t ready to hear the answer to even if she could articulate them. What did he want her to say? If I have to spend one more day with you I’m going to go totally, drool-down-my-chin insane? Did he really think he’d suddenly feel better if she started listing his faults in alphabetical order? Maybe she could make something up, an imaginary jealous lover who wouldn’t share. Then, Ron could call her a slut and tell himself he always knew. Everything would be back in its neat little box, all labeled and set. Liza pulled her arm free and went into the bathroom. Ron yapped at her heels, ‘unfair,’ blah blah blah, ‘disappoint the family,’ yack yack yack, and then, wait, yep, there it was.
‘You should be grateful.’
She knew the refrain by heart. A nice home. Security. Consistency. What would her life be without those moments of complete predictability? It was like the chime of the grandfather clock, the bells measuring the passage of her life moment by agonizingly slow moment.
Liza caught their reflection in the bathroom mirror. Ron’s face was familiar. After eight years, she’d mapped every line, memorized every expression. He hadn’t changed at all. It was her own face that seemed to belong to a stranger. The pinched lips, the dead eyes. She yanked on the mirror, revealing the medicine cabinet. She reached for the amber bottle.
Ron slapped it out of her hand into the sink. The lid flew off and the small white pills rolled madly around the porcelain toward the drain.
‘It’s this crap that’s making you crazy. Everything was fine before you decided that you had to start,’ he made air quotes, ‘finding yourself.’
She’d never said anything of the sort not that it mattered. If this was a crisis, it was her crisis.
‘Now your head’s full of all that talk show shit and suddenly you’re miserable,’ he said it snidely, hurtfully, which didn’t change the truth. She was miserable. And now she was out.
‘Why would you even want to be with someone like me?’ Liza honestly didn’t know. She could barely stand herself, boring and small and half-dead. She turned away from the sink, not bothering to clean up the mess. One mess at a time.
She picked up her suitcase. Ron strode to the bedroom door and blocked her way, glowering at her.
‘Just let me go, Ron.’ Liza said tiredly. She’d never been so tired. It was set deep in her bones.
Liza waited, not looking away. She had to hang on. Just a few more feet. Just a little while longer.
‘You’re my wife,’ he said.
She didn’t try to argue. There was no point. She was his wife, possessive pronoun emphasized. Maybe that’s all she was. Maybe that’s all she ever would be. She’d never know unless she made it out the door. He’d never understand. She couldn’t make him get it even if she wanted to and, if she were honest with herself, she didn’t care enough to try. She just wanted to go.
‘If you leave here tonight, don’t come back. I won’t take you back no matter how much you beg.’
Like all would be forgiven if she just came to her senses before the Jeopardy theme music ended. Ten seconds later, buzz, sorry ma’am but thanks for playing. Paralysis clawed at the edges of her mind. No going back. Like Cortez burning his ships upon reaching the New World. Hesitation brought agonizing pain. What if there was no new world? What then? Taking a deep breath, Liza chose conflagration.
‘I accept that,’ she whispered, tears stinging her eyes. She cleared the lump from her throat. ‘I won’t be back.’
‘I mean it,’ Ron growled.
‘Why?’ His face clouded. A bewildered child asking his mother to explain the unexplainable.
Liza shook her head, walking past him. Fifteen steps to the door, ten, five, the hard, cold knob in her hand. She looked back.
‘You probably won’t believe this, but I do hope you have a happy life,’ Liza said.
‘Spare me the make-yourself-feel-better platitudes,’ Ron snapped.
‘I don’t hate you. I’m not mad at you,’ she tried again.
‘It’s not about me. It doesn’t have anything to do with me. It’s about you, I know. Lucky me.’
His sarcasm slashed her. She didn’t want to go like this. She wasn’t trying to hurt him. He was a decent guy. He didn’t drink too much or run around or gamble away his paycheck. He’d never hit her and she knew he never would. If he had, it would be easier. She could go without a backward glance. But this, this thing, didn’t come with quick fixes. She was still two steps from gone. She turned the knob and opened the door.
She stepped over the threshold, closing her old life behind her. Outside the door, she hesitated, breathing hard, her heart pounding, her hands trembling. Now what? She made it out the door but NOW WHAT?
Liza was jolted back to the present, her hand flying to her mouth. Ron shook the empty can, the remote control clutched in his other hand, his eyes never leaving the television screen.
‘Would you get me another beer?’
She stared at him but he didn’t even glance her way. She dragged herself from the chair, straightening her crisp white shirt. He never saw a thing.