I have no memory of leaving my key.
I must have done so – I can name the locks accessed by every key in my possession and my ex-husband’s front door is in no way among them – but my mind is a total blank when I try to recall the actual moment of forfeiting my right to enter that home.
Did I leave it on the kitchen counter? Did I set it on the desk? Or did I, god forbid, actually hand it to him and say “here you go” or something equally inane and inadequate?
I don’t remember. But then again, it’s been over half a decade.
I’m not sure why I thought about that this evening, driving home from my daughter’s house. I stopped by a fast food drive-thru, next to the place my kids used to have skate parties – a place that naturally reminds me of the years when we were an actual family – and for a brief flash of irrationality wondered what it would be like to turn left instead of right, head east instead of west, maneuver my car through the dark silent streets of his suburban neighborhood, press the button on my remote and watch the garage door jerk spasmodically upward, shove myself upright and nudge the car door softly closed.
The shelves were always packed with miscellaneous crap – camping gear, tools he never used, outgrown bicycle helmets, broken sprinkler parts he wouldn’t throw away – and the old dresser shoved against the garage wall made it difficult to squeeze past and into the house.
Then,once inside, right instead of left, to the sanctuary that once was my office but became my bedroom for the last year-and-a-half of our marriage (if you can call it that).
He’d be asleep upstairs, and I’d be relieved not to encounter him, not to have to exchange the awkward pleasantries of those agonized months when we knew it was dead but for a variety of reasons couldn’t take the next step.
I see now what my silly heart yearned for.
Not the safety of marriage, not the comfort of arms that never warmed me. No. I wanted the place of ignorance, before I knew what these five years of singlehood would hold.
Sadder but wiser, that’s what I am.
And, if I’m honest with myself, I knew. I knew, even stated these exact words to a friend, that I was trading one set of problems for another. I knew it would be hard to manage the finances, to deal unsupported with the issues of parenting, to bear a psyche – already exhausted – that now had to remember every detail of everyday life, from oil changes for the car to air filters for the A/C unit.
I’ve done it. The bills are current; the car had a tune up just a couple months ago; there isn’t a lawn to worry about; and when the A/C went on the blink last summer, I climbed up on the roof to figure out the problem. I’ve learned to install screen doors, to repair damaged dry wall, to unclog a drain, to replace a kitchen faucet, to adjust the chain on the garage door opener, to fight for the life and future of a young-adult child ensnared in meth’s sadistic illusion, to move the piano without help, to cook for one, to connect the home stereo system to the TV, to improvise a shelf in the closet when the budget doesn’t allow for the purchase of an organizer. Somewhere along the way I even acquired a power drill.
But, god, I’m tired.
I revel in every accomplishment. I pride myself in having no regrets. If I’d known then what I know today – yes, yes, a thousand times yes – I’d still leave. I’d still strike out on my own, unsure of what the years would hold, but absolutely certain I couldn’t live another day in the profound loneliness of a dead marriage.
So why, tonight, did I yearn – just for a moment – to turn left instead of right, head east instead of west?
For the same reason I sometimes long to chuck it all and show up unannounced on my parents’ doorstep, just crawl into their guest room and sleep.
And, in spite of the successes, there are times I’d give anything just to lay it all down in someone else’s lap. But there is no one else. I made my choices, and I’m the one in charge.
So I turned right instead of left, west instead of east. I pressed a button on my remote, watched a door jerk open, passed unobstructed through a dark garage, and used a flat silver key to open the door to safety and solitude.
This is home.
No tension. No bullshit. No regrets.
Marie Parc has worked as a banker, graphic designer, real estate agent, bartender, dental assistant, and office manager – all to support her lifelong word-tweaking habit. Her first full-length play was produced at a local venue, and her fiction has been published in All Things Girl. In her spare time, she enjoys taking random classes, catching up with her adult kids, indulging her delusions of piano virtuosity, and documenting her attempts at the perfect flavored martini.
© 2013, Marie Parc