It wasn’t long after the holidays, when our “separation” took effect. It wasn’t legal, just physical and I had been holding out for the counseling sessions that we’d agreed to. It was winter and I remember the cold clearly because I could still see my breath in the air, even at night.
I was walking up the block, on my way home from work one day when I stopped dead at my front gate.
He’s here. I thought to myself.
My heart sank a little. He’d barely been out of the house three weeks.
When my husband decided to move out, something told me not to change the locks. When I talked to a friend who’s a lawyer, my intuition was correct. Not only would changing the locks be mean and vindictive, but because the house was also his legal residence…it’s illegal.
And realistically, he’d only left with a couple of suitcases, (I’m assuming by the full closets and drawers that he’d left behind, because I wasn’t actually present when he left), so it was inevitable that he would have to come back to the house for something.
But that day, I’d been working with a rather difficult client, who kept making time-consuming changes to a project but not moving their ship date, so in all honesty, all I wanted to do was get changed, gnaw on whatever was left in the fridge and plop down on the couch with some fan fiction until I fell asleep.
But that was not going to happen.
I felt uneasy as I unlocked the gate. First of all, I couldn’t actually see him from the window or anything, but I just knew he was there. I looked up and down my end of the block and although Brooklyn blocks tend to be very long, I saw no sight of his car.
If he drove, did he park where I couldn’t see the car? Why would he … I stopped myself before I started replaying CSI episodes in my head.
I took a breath, steeled my resolve, fixed my mask and stepped into the house.
Immediately the feeling of unease grew stronger. Both of the cats were sitting right by the door waiting for me. And the older one looked absolutely freaked-the-fuck out. (I mean like tail up, big eyes and all). The younger one, just kept looking back and forth from me to his stepbrother nervously.
I purposely didn’t say anything, I just hung up my coat and slowly removed my boots as I heard him walking from the living room, through the dining room to the edge of the kitchen stairs above me.
I made sure my face betrayed none of the fear and hurt I was feeling at the moment when I looked up the stairs to the landing to see my husband…just standing there like nothing was wrong.
For a fraction of a second, I thought maybe I dreamt it all.
Maybe I’d dreamt that he hadn’t left me and a pile of bills that was sitting next to me in a folder by the door.
Maybe I’d dreamt that he moved out on Christmas Eve.
Maybe I’d dreamt that when I asked him if he was still attracted to me that he didn’t answer.
I blinked slowly once.
What the hell are you doing here? I wanted to ask, but didn’t.
“Hey.” He said smiling. He smiled!
“I don’t know what’s up with them,” he gestured to the felines hiding behind me. “…I tried to feed them, but they won’t eat.”
That’s because animals can sense crazy, you dumbass.
Yeah, no. I didn’t say that either.
I just shook my head and went down the hall to the bedroom to change clothes, repeating the same phrase over and over like a mantra.
He is not going to stay here tonight. He is not going to stay here tonight. He is not going to stay here tonight.
Then I went upstairs to even more confusion.
As I peeked into the living room, there he was with a brand new computer and parts lying all over the place. When I stared at him bug-eyed in shock, he had the nerve to look like I had interrupted him!
“Um…so what’s all this?” I said calmly masking my anger.
don’t call me that, you lost the right to call me that when you left.
“…I told you earlier that I was helping the guys at the hardware store get their new computers and POS stuff installed and that I needed to stop by.”
“Yes. That was at four.” It was now 10 o’clock at night.
Never mind the fact that over a year ago when money was really getting tight, I had all but begged him to find work around the neighborhood. He’s really good with computers and as much as Geek Squad were charging for computer help, I figured he could make some good money on the side. He never followed up on that venture.
Now that he was no longer living with me, he had somehow found not one but two part-time jobs fixing computers at the local hardware store and the café. Which aggravated me to no end, because I was forced to drive to Home Depot or Dunkin’ Donuts whenever I needed something so I didn’t accidentally run into him.
But I digress.
“I told you that the computers for the hardware store were coming today.”
“Yes you did.” I agreed sincerely.
“Well, I don’t understand what the problem is then.” he was getting agitated.
“Well, I don’t understand why the computers are in my living room and not at the hardware store.”
“Because I ordered them to come here.”
None of it was making any sense. Why was he there? What did he really want? Because even I wasn’t dumb enough to think that he had to do tech support that night in my house. I was tired, frustrated, and really just wanted to go to bed. Normally, I would have just said Forget it and gone downstairs and got in the bed, or worked on something in my office.
But I couldn’t do that.
Because we were separated.
He didn’t live there anymore.
And I had two cats hiding in my bedroom, an agitated husband in my dining room and parts of a brand new iMac all over my living room.
It was going to be a long night.