Standing in the kitchen I eyed the dishes that were unable to fit into our portable dishwasher, they had been piling up for a week. The dishes stood there, a silent symbol of the chaos and confusion that is caused by two adults and five children living in a three bedroom, single wide mobile home. To top that off, we were as dysfunctional as any textbook could relate.
Leaving the kitchen I returned to the living room where the five children were playing quietly. The dishes had defeated me and I hadn’t even lifted a hand toward them. Sitting in my rocking chair I pulled out a Shel Silverstein book to read aloud to the gaggle of children. Reading together was our favorite past-time when my boyfriend wasn’t home, and the children and I loved to laugh at Shel’s creative poetry.
A car pulled into the driveway, its lack of exhaust system alerting us to the arrival of the man of the house. I stopped reading in mid-poem as I realized that all five children had retreated to their rooms.
I quickly walked through the laundry room to the door to greet him and his oldest daughter, whom I was meeting for the first time. He entered first and the smile meant as a greeting for his daughter quickly escaped my face as I saw that he was angry. No words were needed, he was always angry, and his long awaited reunion with his daughter did nothing to alter that.
“Hello,” I said, quietly, fearfully.
“Hi,” was Ashley’s disgruntled response as she passed me and headed right to the children’s rooms to greet her half and step siblings.
I didn’t ask my boyfriend any questions, he just offered up his terrible experience at trying to pick up his daughter. I should have known, from all his interactions with others, what a jerk he was, but I thought it was me, I was the problem and if only I could be a better person he wouldn’t have to hurt me.
Moving to the living room I allowed my boyfriend to continue his bellyaching about what a horrible day he had. As he finished up Ashley returned to the living room and I decided it best to play housewife and get off my butt to do those dishes.
From the living room he watched as I emptied the sink to make room to fill it with warm, soapy water. For once I was looking forward to the chore, a symbolic washing of my hands as I did the dishes, if only I could wash my heart this easily.
He rose his voice, “Come sit with me, Ashley can do those dishes.”
My response was quick and thoughtless, “Nah, they’ve been sitting here for a week, it’s not her job.”
He quickly stood and closed the gap between us, “I said, ‘Let Ashley do them!’ She does the dishes at her mother’s house, she can do them here too.”
I stood my ground. “No, she hasn’t been here in at least seven months, she didn’t make these dishes, so she shouldn’t wash them!”
Grabbing my arm he yanked me into our bedroom, just off the kitchen. Throwing me onto the bed, I lay, bewildered at how fast I went from one room to the next and found myself in the only place he ever made me feel loved.
I continued my protest, “But, she only comes here about once a year. Why should she spend her time doing our dishes?”
Reaching for a pillow I slid aside so that he could lay next to me to discuss the issue. But with one slick move my world went dark, the pillow now roughly covering my face. I heard his muffled voice, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying as I tried to claw at him with the little nails I’d bitten to the quick in one of many nervous renderings of the life I’d chosen.
Gasping for oxygen I only felt the pillow case enter my mouth. Closing my mouth I caught the case in my lips and tried to take air through my nose, I squirmed harder as the cloth closed the tiny airway to my nostrils. Head pounding and body quivering in an involuntary manner I decided to give up. There was nothing more to fight for, he was talking, but I couldn’t hear a word he said, his voice growing more distant with each missed breath.
I prayed to be taken that very moment, to end this insanity, to alter my future, to bury me six feet under with not a care in the world. Just when I became resolute in the fact that he had won he lifted the pillow, and in a rush of adrenaline I raised my weary body and thanked God for not answering today’s prayer.
When he returned to the kitchen I heard him tell Ashley to do the dishes. He may have one this battle, but the war rages on.