A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Submitted for Contest #28 in response to: Write about someone (or something) you loved that you shouldn’t have.... view prompt

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Submitted on 02/07/2020

Categories: Creative Nonfiction

I married a dumbass. Unfortunately, I’d become acutely aware of how much of a dumbass he was several months before the nuptials, but please don’t judge me too harshly. The ball was rolling down hill and there didn’t seem to be any way to stop the wedding. Relatives from my side had already booked their transcontinental flights and my fiancé’s father was a public figure, so scores of people whose social status eclipsed ours by thousands of miles made the final cut of our invite list. My mother was having the time of her life planning the ceremony, the reception, the cake, the flowers and her bespoke mother-of-the-bride dress.

There was no way I was going to be able to prairie dog my head up in this scenario and say, “Oops, never mind.”  So, yeah, I married him. Turns out I should have led with familial humiliation instead. 

After we returned from a 3-day honeymoon to the oh-so-romantic New York City, I embarked on my noble mission to be a good wife and picked up a 6-pack of beer at the supermarket on my weekly grocery runs. But I soon noticed my husband was drinking a beer every night, which quickly led to two beers every night. Then three. At that point that I stopped buying it altogether. And that was when he started buying 6-packs himself. Every. Single. Day. 

I looked the other way and tried to pretend it wasn’t happening, which was pretty hard to do when he stayed up drinking every night until he passed out on the couch, while in the next room I found myself all alone in our king-size bed. This was not even close to my childhood fantasy of how my marriage, someday off in the distant future, was going to look.

By the time I was a teenager, my inner vision board was well laid out. My future husband and I would get good, high-paying jobs right after we graduated from college. Then we’d have two perfect kids (first a boy, then two years later, a girl) and I’d become a stay-at-home mom until the kids were in school. My husband would get a big promotion and I’d work part-time doing something glamourous like interior design. We’d live in a great big white house with black shutters and a black front door, and it would be set way back from our tree-lined rural road in Virginia’s horse country. It would sport a perfectly manicured lawn of rolling hills, outlined by a white picket fence, with matching his and hers Range Rovers in the driveway and an adorable golden retriever scampering in the yard. Obviously, I had a VERY specific idea of how my life was going to turn out.

Life sure can play some dirty rotten tricks. 

With that, perhaps you’ve heard the idiom, “A day late, and a dollar short”? Regrettably, that was me the day I put forth a male heir into the world. And my shocking epiphany, mere seconds after his birth is not exactly a moment of personal pride. I’d like to think I have a modicum of control over my brain’s inner workings, but in all honesty, that’s simply not possible.

Amidst all the chaotic activity swirling around me in the delivery room, in my inner silence, I had come to a stunned and horrified conclusion—I was the only person on the planet who was responsible enough, resourceful enough, and determined enough to find the means and the will to care for and raise this child. 

I’m at a total loss for why these thoughts had eluded me before I’d found myself pregnant, considering I had gotten myself into that state on purpose. For years, I’d been fighting the possibility of ever having to identify as a ‘divorcee’ (always whispered in very hushed tones), so I figured if I wanted to have a child, I was going to have to do so with my dumbass alcoholic husband.

And, in that post-partum moment, I was now fully awake to the reality that raising this child was going to be my life, and mine alone, for the next 30 years, give or take. And it took less than 24 hours for me to get irrefutable confirmation.  

Just moments after said epiphany, I was wheeled on a gurney, totally disheveled, exhausted and practically comatose; with that tiny newborn baby drooping in my arms. I was exposed, in wide-open hallways to a LOT of people, who all stared at me as I was whisked by them. An ethereal sea of smiling faces. Me? Utter mortification that all these people were seeing me in just a hospital gown five sizes too big, which was falling off my shoulders and rendering me half naked. Is my boob showing? Probably. Do I care? I can’t tell any more. It was bad enough that I hadn’t showered or done my hair and makeup in a solid 36 hours. I had yet to learn this would be my new normal.

But what happened next. I. Can’t. Even. 

The ‘sperm donor,’ aka my husband, left the hospital to drive my mother back to our condo so she could recoup some of the sleep she had donated to the cause the night before. The distance between the hospital and home was roughly ten miles. But I didn’t see the man again for a good seven hours. SEVEN hours. And so, I sat, all alone, in my drafty gown, in a hospital bed, as the sun set on the day and the room grew dark, with nurses literally throwing things at me and absconding with my baby. And where in the hell was my husband? 

Finally, he made a grand entrance, strutting into the hospital room, rip-roaring drunk, with a brown paper bag wound so tightly around a bottle of scotch there could be no denying what it was. Not that he would even try.

Now call me crazy, but in my little internal fantasy world—which we’ve already established is wildly unrealistic—when a woman has gone through the process of giving birth to a child that is the product of two people, one of those people being, say, a man, then by God that man stays by that woman’s side until she comes home from the hospital. And that man presents to that woman some thoughtful token of his appreciation for her allowing her body to nearly split in two, never to be the same again, in order to produce his offspring.  

The very least he could do is smuggle in some damn tacos. I mean, what woman wouldn’t swoon at the sight of her man hauling in a greasy bag of Mexican food after she has performed, on his behalf, the ultimate feat of female endurance?

But no. All he brought back was that bottle of scotch which, for the record, wasn’t intended for sharing. And upon sauntering into the room, he completed a very sloppy, slurred story about how he had showered, changed, and then went to have himself a nice meal and a few glasses of wine at a lovely little restaurant just a few miles down the road from the hospital. Good for him. What about me? Where was my food? Did he even think to order something that I might like and bring it back in a cardboard box with a plastic fork? Like I said…I married a dumbass.

But let’s get back to that hospital room, where the man was completely, 100% oblivious that he might have just possibly, maybe, have done something wrong.  It was mere moments before he got into an altercation with a nurse, engaging in an extremely loud and very nasty argument about where the hell she thought she was taking HIS baby.

Embarrassed, and unable to listen to another word, I dodged into the bathroom to escape. I’m in the bathroom, two, maybe three minutes, tops. It had quieted down out there and it sounded like it might be safe, so I headed back out. Turning off the bathroom light and walking out the bathroom door, I was starting to speak, but froze mid-sentence upon my discovery that the man was lying on my hospital bed with his eyes closed. And he wasn’t just resting. He was passed out cold and snoring. And there was only one bed in the room.  He’s dead to the world and at that point I’m wishing he literally was…dead. It would’ve saved me a whole lot of trouble going forward. But that was not the story I was going to get.

At this juncture, I did the most sensible thing I could conjure up considering not sleeping in nearly 48 hours and my resulting limited mental faculties. I picked my newborn up, laid him between my body and the armrest on the stupid and hard-as-a-rock fold-out chair they have in hospital rooms that are intended for Dads, all while doing my best to make sure the poor little guy wouldn’t roll onto the floor. I should have just yelled “asshat” very loudly and rolled the drunk onto the floor, but instead, I chose civility. 

So, my boy and I were curled up on the chair-bed. We looked each other up and down for a good hour, with a, “What the hell are we going to do now?” mind-meld. I’m telling you, that little baby already had it all figured out. “What the fuck were you thinking picking that dumbass to be my father?” was written all over his face. Oh yeah, my baby already knew how to swear. I was quite the proud little mommy. And I had a really good feeling the two of us would figure it all out eventually.

 



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