The hot water splatters on my scalp. It hurts, but feels familiar. I stand in the shower stall. Tears burn my sick eyes. I married him.
When I was pregnant, I’d wake at 6:00 am, shower, and eat. I’d start the car in the driveway, then waddle back to pack my lunch. I’d tiptoe across the floor and try not to wake him.
Water isn’t hot enough. All he has to do is call the plumber for a new hot water tank.
I cried when we moved from Kentucky, for our life felt good. I was sick when we abandoned Delaware, for it felt wrong. I had handed him the job on a Wednesday evening, freshly printed and stapled together from the website. “It’s practically Canada. Looks cold.” I recycled the pages without any more discussion. On Saturday he had fished out the papers, and placed them on the kitchen table where I was eating. “You should apply.”
In Delaware he said one kid was a lot. In North Dakota, far from all support and family and friends, he said we ought to make another.
I sat up in bed and took a deep breath through the extra 45 pounds. “My mother used to wake up every morning and get my Dad to work.”
“Oh, yeah?” he said.
“She’d make his breakfast and pack his lunch. Every work day.”
“Yeah, but you see how that turned out,” he snickered about their divorce. He covered himself up to his neck with the comforter and closed his eyes to return to sleep.
I turn the shower to warmer again. I love our kids. They were all I wanted to do with my time. He took that from me. And at the same time was terribly mediocre at the job, adding salt to the wound. It was almost nine by the time they were in bed. The lack of schedule enforcement was wreaking havoc on my sleep and my sanity. I was nervous as he returned from putting them to bed.
“So,” I had smiled. “I’m excited! Penn State offered me a job,” I blurted. He kept his gaze on the TV, and his elbow on the armrest. He didn’t move or speak. I felt nauseous.
Damn. Out of hot water.
I jerk the knob clockwise.
I have no way but the right way.
I wrap my towel around my head.
Failure is not an option.
I slide my arms into my robe. I lean into the mirror, dry skin peeling off my nose. Thirty-five and still blemished. I put my glasses on, and turn sideways to view my profile.
I cannot take that job with the tuition benefit, nor sell this house and end our debt. No. He will stay home and I’ll continue the job 25 miles away from my kids. I’ll lower expectations – then be happy.
I look at myself one last time as my image fogs over and I am barely discernible. I pivot away from myself and walk to the bathroom door. I place my hand on the metal door knob and turn.