The soles of my shoes had turned from leather to vellum, but I kept walking. I was walking myself to death, but I didn’t quite realize it yet.Let’s back up a bit.
I was born into a nice, middle-class, white family in the suburbs, entrenched solidly in what politicians like to refer to as “Main Street America”. Didn’t excel in high school, didn’t really play sports - though I tried out for a couple - got in to a decent local college and got a degree in journalism. Not that any of that was of any help as I entered the job world - temp gigs, call centers, and the occasional stint in food service were all that kept the student loan folks off my back.
I’d never had much luck with women, but I met a nice girl through my roommate. I thought my luck had changed after a few months with her and I was partially right - it went from bad to worse.
Everything started out easily enough - we both knew I was a bit of a “fixer-upper” and she did her best to correct this. I started drinking less, stopped smoking, and lost a little weight, all at her suggestion. Life was getting better for me, so I didn’ mind sharing my passwords or her keeping track of my whereabouts minute to minute. I got a steady gig as a peon in a law firm and had health care for the first time since college. Everything was great.
Little issues - and it’s always the little things - started to crop up. If I came home and didn’t buy milk, she got mad at me. If I bought milk, she’d go off that it was “too expensive” or “we have plenty already”. Women, right? Then it was gas - whichever choice I made, it was the wrong one. Shit started to build, slowly but steadily.
She got a great job in a new city and my options were either move with her or lose her. I still thought she was the best thing in my life, so I left my friends and family to be with her. It was tough to find a new job after the move, but we were okay financially. When I was unemployed, I’d work around the apartment - efforts unnoticed, of course - so I was “lazy” and a “non-contributor”. When I did find a job, I “never helped around the house” and was “never around” to be with her. Vacations home were rare - it seemed that planned vacations were overridden by a weekend emergency at work. But when I had something to attend in town for work, volunteering or ever recreation, she was suddenly free and needed the car for a two-day trip that I was “welcome to attend” if I “didn’t have anything else going on” - code for “you’d better attend and endure my complaining about you to your face or I’ll make your life miserable when I get back”.
I was caught. I had no friends, my family was hundreds of miles away, and everything I had was tied up in a joint account with her.
I was miserable. I was beat. I only existed to please her - she was the only thing I “had” and I was totally devoted. If she came home late, drunk, I’d stay up for her. When she went out to spend time with other guys, I didn’t even register it. When she bitched about me gaining weight, balding, and being depressed, I accepted it as my fault.
On the night of our five year anniversary, I’d prepared a special dinner - some wine, candles for the mood, and her favorite dish of grilled salmon and string beans. I waited for hours for her to come home. When she did, she was drunk and went straight to bed without even an acknowledgement of my dinner. I was devastated. I suppose that’s why I looked at her phone.
I guess I always knew, but I’d just shut my eyes to the truth. But that truth now glowed at me from the small rectangle in my hand. Texts, pics, even a couple short videos sent by a third - or should I say fourth - party at the various proceedings.
My stomach turned into a pretzel. My hands went numb. I did the only thing I could think of: I walked away.
And I walked.
And I don’t know where I’m going, but I hope I’m gone before I get there.