It’s August in Northern Virginia, hot and humid. I still haven’t showered from my morning trail run. I’m wearing my stay-at-home mom uniform — over-sized Marine Corps sweats, tshirt, Crocs flip flops, ponytail. I feel safe in this uniform. It doesn’t hug any part of my body, allowing me to hide my physical failures.
In this uniform I can pretend I’m acceptable, tolerable. It says I did something today, I tried. This look combined with toilets I scrubbed until they shine sends the message “I’m not a lazy pig, I’m valuable. Please keep me.” This uniform is enough to make up for my lack of lipstick and style. It walks the line between disgusting and acceptable.
So far, it’s been enough that my husband is still willing to initiate sex with me once a month. The kind of sex you have because you need to feel worthy. The kind that lets him know you need him. Unfulfilling but purposeful.
It’s dinner time, so I’m busy in the kitchen slicing tomatoes and onions on the cutting board that I was instructed was to be used exclusively with the very expensive Shun knives I received as a Christmas present.
He comes in from the deck with a plate of hot burgers.
My gut said something was off. I pursued because I’m the pursuer. I went to him, hugged him, stepped back, my hands still on his shoulders, looked in his eyes and said “Is everything okay? Are we okay?”
I know the answer. I always know the answer. I just didn’t know what it would be this time. Is this one forgivable? Can I patch it up again? It’s like a tire with a slow leak. You fill it with air and when it lasts longer than you expect, you just keep driving on it. But eventually the tire goes flat and you’re no longer able to get the car to the repair shop. This — us — cannot get to a place of fixing.
“I told myself I’d tell you if you asked.”
No. No. Please, no.
“There’s this woman from my past… We reconnected during our family trip to San Diego… I thought she’d brush me off again… We started talking… She makes me feel alive.”
I could feel the panic consume my body. I hate this place. It feels so shameful. I know I’ll do anything. I always do anything.