Fiction Sad

This story contains sensitive content

***This story contains sensitive information regarding infant loss and substance abuse.***

They sat on opposite ends of the blue couch. Arms crossed. Eyes laser focused straight ahead. “We’re just too different,” he said.

I laughed. Out loud. I didn’t mean to, and it was terribly unprofessional, but hearing these words while staring at two people so alike that they even pouted the same way was some sort of seriously whacked out therapy irony.

Her brow furrowed and her eyes narrowed, offended by my laugh.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “It’s just that if you two could sit over here and see yourselves from my perspective, you’d probably realize how much more you have in common than you could possibly know.”

Now she laughed. “Trust me, Doctor, I have spent YEARS trying to see any possible way I could be anything like him.”

I knew a lost cause when I saw one. So many of the couples who came to my office truly wanted to make it work. But couples like this, man, they were going to hate each other until eternity, just because they could.

I shared some thoughts on ways they could connect over the next week, knowing full-well we’d be back to square one next time they sat here, and then rolled my eyes to myself after closing the office door behind them. I loved my job, but sessions like this always made me wonder why I tried so dang hard.

I jotted down my session notes, turned off my computer screen, and grabbed my purse. I took a deep breath and opened the door, headed home to my own healing just a few blocks away.

My husband and I married just two years ago, but the years had been challenging. It was a quick wedding, pulled together just shortly after the stick I held in my shaking hand showed two pink lines. We’d only been dating for three months. I was a firm believer in pro-choice but always knew that if it happened and I was able, I would have the child. He came from a family so Catholic I’m surprised his great great great grandmother didn’t birth the Pope. So needless to say, this was happening.

Our sweet angel girl arrived as just that, an angel, stillborn and silent, with the most beautiful cheeks and toes I’d ever seen. We were both wrecked, and for a short time we cared for each other in ways unlike some couples who had been married for decades. We were each other’s rocks, determined to fight this storm, to break this horrible horrible wave together.

Things were ok for a few months. We grieved, learned each other, and bonded fiercely. As we processed, I pulled from my years of schooling, not only working with my own therapist, but using the tools I so often encouraged my clients to use as well, both for myself and for him.

Grief however, often has a mind of its own, and soon the tools became a blanket, only covering up the feelings that were so deep inside both of us. He began to drink. And then he became angry. I was angry too, but his anger was next level (I have the patches on the wall, buried beneath fresh paint, to show for it). I tried so hard to work with him, to help him, to guide him through his pain, but knew that ultimately it had to come from within him, and also knew that by focusing on his pain, I was not tackling my own.

And so, I buried myself in my work. I took on more clients than I had ever had in my life, filling my schedule from 8am to 8pm, day after day, making sure I would come home too tired to fight, to process, to feel. I lived vicariously through the pain of my clients, and allowed myself to feel for them rather than acknowledge the hole I had so deep in my chest for both my daughter and my husband. It’s basically therapy 101 - don’t take the work home with you, but the work was the only thing that kept me going.

It all came to a head last Tuesday. It was 7:58pm when I flicked off my office light and walked the three blocks to our condo. The porch light was just coming on as I approached, with the sun setting quickly behind the trees out back. I could smell the neighbor’s steak on the grill. I could hear laughter and music. When was the last time we sat, ate a real meal, and….laughed? I couldn’t remember.

It was eerily quiet when I walked in the door. Relief washed over me, as every interaction was more of a chance for an argument. I noticed the bottles on the kitchen counter. Seven. It had been a rough one. He was probably passed out in the basement, “his space” as he liked to call it.

I opened the basement door and listened. No tv. No noise at all. The stench of a joint filled my nose. A doubleheader night. The worst kind.

Just go down. I thought to myself. Just make sure he’s asleep, give him a kiss on the forehead, tuck him in. Be a good wife. Take care of him.

I took a deep breath, closed the door, and headed upstairs to bed. Take care of him. Take care of him. Who takes care of me?

As I changed into my sweats and t-shirt, my sadness began to turn to anger. I looked at our bed - a four-poster king sized bed that we picked out together once we found out we were having a girl. “Every girl wants a four-post bed,” he had said at the furniture store that day. I smirked, because it was true. “How about we show our little girl that it’s possible from the moment she enters the world.” We left that day with the bed, and about ten fluffy pillows, a set of king-sized sheets, and a fluffy comforter. “A bed fit for a princess,” he had said, those magical eyes of his sparkling, as he kissed my forehead before driving us home.

I picked up the pillows and threw them. Hard. I knocked over my jewelry box, his pile of belts. I grabbed one from the floor and smashed it against the mirror. I slammed it around one of the posts. I screamed. Loud. That should wake him. Make him CARE. Make him see me. Make him see us.

I fell in a heap in on the bed. I watched the bedroom door. It didn’t open. It never did. We were just so different. I may have spent my time stuffing the emotions, but I NEEDED to feel them - needed to grieve her. To grieve us. I need him to give me permission to feel. But he couldn’t get there, not for him. Not for me.

I woke up in the morning, still alone. I grabbed my glasses from the nightstand and trudged downstairs, expecting to see him grumbling over his coffee as he did most days. Yet, the kitchen was empty, the bottles still on the counter. My husband may not want to feel, but he did like to be clean. Leaving a mess was incredibly uncharacteristic of him.

I peeked out the front window and saw his car. Worry began to set in. It happened like that a lot since we lost her. Anything “off” or anything different - I was sure someone was in trouble.

I opened the basement stairs and started down. The couch was empty. The stench of last night had dissipated.

I tried his cell, but no answer. I walked around out back. Nothing. He just went for a walk.I told myself. Maybe it will do him some good. Go to work. He’ll be here soon. Not like you’ll talk with him anyway.

I grabbed my coffee, showered and got ready for my day. By the time I re-emerged downstairs he still had not returned. My hands shook, my heart raced. My self-therapy began to fail me. The panic set in.

I headed to the office and prepared to start my day. I pulled client notes and sat down to prep, but my mind was spinning. Why did I care? It’s not like we really spoke before work anyway. Having him out of the house early should improve my day, right? But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get past my worry. I called my first few clients of the day, told them I had a family emergency, and headed out the door.

I always loved the entrance to the cemetery. Tall birch trees flanked both sides of the iron posts, both of which were always adorned with fresh flowers on top. This morning was particularly beautiful - a soft fog rolled amongst the trees as the sun started to peek out through the clouds. I liked to think that had she survived, she’d appreciate the ways the light moved as much as I always did.

I was almost to her small stone when I saw him. He was sitting with her, head bowed over his legs. I couldn’t hear him, but the way he rocked back and forth told me he was crying. As I approached, I could see they were full on sobs, full of angst and grief.

For all the time I had spent here with her, he hadn’t joined since the early days. I was caught off guard by his presence, but pulled towards him in a way I hadn’t felt in months.

He didn’t look up as my footsteps approached, just rocked back and forth, unable to console himself. I sat on the ground next to him, the damp grass soaking my work pants. I looked ahead, afraid to watch, afraid to touch, afraid to break this moment of feeling that had evaded him for so long.

After several moments the sobbing subsided and he finally looked at me - turning his head slowly, leaning on his shaky legs and arms. I caught his bloodshot eyes, and I noticed the new wrinkles around and under them, and the sadness in his cheeks and lips. And for the first time in a very very long time I remembered that person that I fell in love with not too long ago - full of love, heart, and hope. He was still there, just a little more distant than he was when we first met.

He leaned towards me and kissed me. Deep and full. I felt the his tears land on my cheeks, combining with my own. We didn’t speak, we just felt. We sat with our heads touching for I don’t know how long - our emotions finally becoming one, our paths rejoining through our touch.

The fog began to clear, and the sun began to shine upon us and warm the day. We stood up, held hands, and walked away from our daughter’s grave, with our wet eyes and soggy pants. We were finally ready. Ready to feel, ready to heal. Ready to live.

February 03, 2023 01:05

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Wendy Kaminski
00:16 Feb 06, 2023

This was beautiful, Mazie. I am so relieved at the happy ending (well, promisingly is a better word). I really liked the narrator in this, particularly all of the humor at the start: - hearing these words while staring at two people so alike that they even pouted the same way was some sort of seriously whacked out therapy irony. - a family so Catholic I’m surprised his great great great grandmother didn’t birth the Pope Also her lines like "But couples like this, man," were a great guide as to her inner monologue and also helped to make h...


Mazie Maris
00:26 Feb 06, 2023

Thank you, Wendy! It was definitely fun to write in this voice and I'm happy you enjoyed the humorous moments in an otherwise sad story. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment!


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Justin Williams
01:36 Feb 09, 2023

I absolutely loved the immersive opener, Mazie. The whole story flowed and played much like a movie. I can't wait to read what is next!


Mazie Maris
18:58 Feb 09, 2023

Thank you Justin! I really appreciate your comment and am glad you enjoyed the story!


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