A widower’s tale
The grief sneaks out at the strangest times. Waking up in the morning and peering out the window over the body of the latest love interest. A king size bed in a cabin overlooking the ocean, 800 miles from home. Instead of being here with this amazing woman celebrating a reunion after most of a year apart the eyes peer out at the water and see nothing. Emptiness. There’s a shadow over his bright blue eyes.
She recognizes the look. And asks about it. But all he can say is “I don’t know”. She persists and he goes off on some tangent about spending money on something he didn’t want to buy. It doesn’t take long to ruin what should have been a magical day, on a magical week in Nova Scotia. The seeds of doubt are planted in her mind and she says so, rather unemotionally. They’ve been here before. It’s never ended well.
The next couple of days are on and off again tense but they manage to get home together and the relationship appears to have survived. He drives home for the night to get some much-needed sleep. They exchange a few terse texts. He drives down to smooth things over the next afternoon. Things appear to be on the mend.
They go shopping. Planning for their future together. It’s exciting. She’s practically bursting with joy at the thought of getting everything she’s ever wanted. She starts ticking things off. Let’s do this, and then that. Are you SURE you’re willing to do it? “Slow down babe. It’s gonna be a busy fall at work,” he says. “Okay,” she says, “but we can pick it up in January or February right?” He agrees. They leave the store and head home.
And somewhere between that store and her house he loses it. And he tells her, in detail, that he doesn’t want to be her handyman. That nobody wants to be her handyman. That she should just call someone. He cuts her with his words. Until she feels small and vulnerable. And then he tells her he’s done. That the relationship is over. And he doesn’t even know why he just did that. But he makes up a bunch of excuses and manages to make her feel smaller and smaller all the time.
Two days later, at the gym, it hits him. He’s giving her his pain. He’s stealing her dreams, just like his dreams were stolen nine years ago. This man, who had prided himself all his life on how good and kind he was, is dishing out emotional pain on a scale he never dreamed he was capable of doing. To a woman he loves. Because it’s only effective if it hurts that bad. He’s become a monster the likes of which he had never imagined existed. And he’s not only doing this to the woman he loves, but he’s self-immolating in some twisted sense of guilt over something he had no control over.
He’s no different than any other abuser she might have known. Circumstances may be different and the path to the abusive actions might be no one’s fault but it’s abuse nonetheless. And the realization is appalling to him. This is not a place he knows. This is not the person he is. At least it’s not the person he was. Can therapy fix this? Will he ever be able to love again? Or should every woman in the world just steer clear of this guy? And if that’s case, someone else died on that day nine years ago in addition to his wife.