Stuck in a loop is an understatement. You could consider me stuck in a box. I try, I make progress, then I hit a wall. Once I have found that wall to be hard and near impossible to get around, I turn then try again.
I’m stuck in a very boxy loop.
Let me start from the beginning; I was once in a happy, fulfilling, and genuine marriage. A marriage I- along with everyone we knew- reveled in, but that was a few months ago back when I thought that nothing could shake us. Then something small happened, a pebble hidden in the road sent us reeling and swerving until we ended up in a ditch.
Now here we sit on a lumpy, old couch that has been covered with old tapestries. Most likely to cover up the tear stains of previous clients. At the end of the couch is my lovely wife, Elaine. Across from us our therapist is talking trying to engage both of us, but I’m having a hard time hearing what she is saying.
All I can seem to focus on is my wife. There is a ringing in my ears from the bombshell I just dropped, and I am sure she is hearing it too. Just say something, I plead in my head, but she won't look at me.
“John? Do you agree?” Alarm bells go off in my head as Dr. Laurie uncrosses and crosses her legs staring right at me waiting for a response. “John, I noticed that you have both been disassociating and Elaine I can see you’re considering what's been said so I recommend that we reconvene when you have both had time to process. Do you agree?”
“Uh- Yes please,” I feel a relief wash over me, “unless you have something to discuss further, babe?” I look to my wife.
Fire. Her gaze is so hot and angry I feel it burn my skin under its intensity. I feel the anxiety of what could possibly be behind those eyes ripping the muscles off of my bones. There is no way she could ever forgive me, and I can’t blame her. I must look like a fraud to her. Like this life we’ve built has crumbled because of the false foundation I’ve laid down for her.
Yet I also see her fiery gaze waiver. I see what I can only assume is sorrow but something else. I pray that waiver was the memory of the good times and the love we have always shared.
“No. I want to process this alone. I need a little bit of time,” she whispers softly.
“I’m bi-sexual. I have been attracted to men for quite some time and I would never do anything about my attraction because I love my wife very much, but I can't deny it anymore! I love my wife,” bombshell drops. “I love you, Elaine. I would never break our vows, but I don’t want to live a lie anymore.” Bombshell has landed. The look on Elaine’s face is nearly impossible to decipher so I fill in the blanks.
Why did I do that. I should have just kept my mouth shut and done the usual husband in couples' therapy; nodded, add things in where I needed to, and then let my wife vent while I listened.
The drive home is quiet. I drive because she has never liked driving when I can. Normally I don’t mind, but this evening after I dropped this on her the anxiety wrapping around my bones and threatening to shove off all of my muscle has not left me for a moment. I feel weak and powerless.
“I would love-”
“I don’t want to talk right now,” she cuts through my words like a hot knife.
“I can't blame you for that. I’ll be here when you’re ready.”
I contemplate reaching for her hand, but even though neither of us have lain a harmful finger on the other I am afraid. I am afraid that she’ll bite it off or stab it with a hidden knife that I have never seen before.
All the way home I think about how hard it would be to slip into a different world. Could I find a way to jump into an alternate universe where I never said those things or even felt this way? I would do any of those things in a heartbeat to keep my best friend.
That evening Elaine gave the kids a bath, while I did the dishes left over from our quiet dinner. She cleaned up the toys in the living room, while I tucked the kids into bed. Both of them are still too young to know what tension feels like or what to do with it and I praise them silently for it. I pray they never have to feel tension or discomfort as I shut their door and make my way to the living room.
I stop halfway there and turn toward our bedroom. I should give her some space so I go take a shower and consider what she might be thinking.
When I was a teenager, I was a flirt. My parents sat me down and gave me ‘The Talk.’ No, not the ‘Birds and Bees' talk’ it was more like ‘don’t flirt with boys or you’ll be beat not only by the boy but by us as well’ talk. Ever since that talk I have been petrified by the thought of feeling anything towards my gender. Until our neighbor and his husband moved in together. We always knew they were serious, but I never imagined them living next door together.
The first thing I felt was discomfort, but then I realized I was possibly jealous.
Jealous not because I want that life, but because they are transparent with each other and the world outside their door. Since that moment of realization, I felt like I was hiding from Elaine. She must have felt it too because she threw a therapist’s card on the counter next to my breakfast one morning a few weeks later. She had written, 'Every Thursday at 5:30pm.'
Three sessions in and I blew up our marriage.
Elaine throws open the bathroom door as I finish getting dressed for bed. “Get in the car. I need to go somewhere with you,” she says as she walks toward the front door.
“Wait- What about the kids?” I grab my shoes and the keys to her car as I hurry after her.
As I pass the living room to the front door, I see her mother reading a book on the sofa. That question gets answered quickly by the sight of her there.
I hear the car turn on as I close the front door then shove her keys in my pocket as I shuffle towards my truck. Elaine is in the driver's seat- already a bad sign- so I jump into the passenger's seat.
“Elaine, where are we going?”
“I don’t know yet, but we’ll find out.”
I feel an energy I haven’t felt since we were in college, but I am too nervous to admire it for too long.
After driving in silence for ten minutes she whips the truck into the Waffle House we’ve passed a dozen times to and from therapy since it opened a few months ago. I never knew she even noticed it until we were sitting in a booth inside. She ordered two cups of coffee and two plates of Waffles from the waitress.
Finally, she looks at me. For the first time all night she looks right at me with all of the emotions I had felt all afternoon. Fear, anxiety, horror, but also love and compassion. I feel myself crumple beneath her gaze not from heat or shame, but connection, understanding.
“I need to know something,” she says as she stares into her coffee cup.
“I need to know that I won't lose my best friend. That our children won’t be left behind because you don’t want me anymore.”
I feel the pit in my stomach release and the anxiety wrapped around my bones ease, but now my heart breaks for not reassuring her earlier. I didn’t even consider leaving her so it never crossed my mind that she would think that’s what I wanted.
“I’m not leaving you. I couldn’t ever leave you. My god, I wouldn’t last a day without waking up to you,” I reach across the table for both of her hands no longer afraid. She needs me and I didn’t see it until now. “Elaine, this whole afternoon I thought I was losing you. I thought you’d leave me and never let the kids near me again.”
She wipes her tears as the waffles arrive.
I scoot mine to hit her plate as she dumps syrup on both of our plates as she has always done since we went on our first date, Waffles at the Waffle House after a late night of studying.
“Elaine, I would never leave you. I would never break our vows. I don’t want to be with anyone else, I just wanted you to see what I have been hiding for years. Since I was a teenager. I feel horrible that I haven’t told you before, that I have been misleading you and I don’t want to hide it any longer. I wanted you to see me.” Tears are welling up in both of our eyes as I finish my plea to her.
“I’m glad you told me. I always thought there may have been something you were keeping from me, but I wanted you to feel ready to tell me.” Elaine smiles as the tears fall down her cheeks. “I love you; John and I will love you no matter how big the bomb you drop on us will be.”
“Who knew a bomb would be just what we needed to get closer.” I say as I move over to her side of the booth and wrap my arm around her shoulders. She leans into me and lets me wrap both of my arms around her. The box’s walls have fallen.
“You’ll never know unless you try.”
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I really enjoyed this and found it very moving. My only note is that ending on the line 'you'll never know if you don't try' got me a little confused. Which of them is saying it and what about? It can seem silly sometimes, especially when its just two characters speaking to each other, but it is best to be clear and write Elaine said or I said after each line of dialogue.
Thank you for that note ☺️ I’ll be sure to keep that in mind in my next stories!
This was a wonderful story!
Hello Shelby! I loved this, it's so well written. The descriptions were evocative, I especially liked "Now here we sit on a lumpy, old couch that has been covered with old tapestries. Most likely to cover up the tear stains of previous clients. " There's quite a few lines I liked, the intro was cool too. A couple of things I noticed: "Yet I also see her fiery gaze wavier. " - typo 'waiver' “No. I want to process this alone. I need a little bit of time.” She whispers softly. “Get in the car. I need to go somewhere with you.” She says as sh...
Thank you! I love posting my stories here and getting help from fellow writers! I made some of those changes. Let me know if you see anything else I can work on. I will keep those edits in mind the next time I write as well! :)
Hi, Shelby, this was beautiful! Great job! I can't wait to see more from you! Also, have you by any chance heard of Shelbie Rose the singer? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSkBAH_v4Yo
Thank you 😊 I have not! I was lucky enough to marry into my name but I love it just the same!
You're welcome 😊 She's really good! Oh, that's really cool! The second I saw that you followed me, I saw your name and it reminded me of her.