What if…..

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“In the end I realized maybe we weren’t so different after all? Perhaps, our love could never feel whole, for as individuals we never had? A love torn and tattered by the fragmented hurts we had both suffered. One love trying to conquer a million of pieces of pain. Pain known only to the two of us. One boy and one girl. Two people, equally broken, in an equal number of pieces but for completely different reasons. Yes we were both broken. Broken for thousands of reasons, in thousands of different ways. Ways the other simply couldn’t understand, regardless of will or desire.”

Departures “Fake Calm”

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“Katy come to the table please its time for dinner,” I swear Jack she has selective hearing .” I again realize that I am talking to myself as he is never really listening to me about anything. “Jack, what are you doing?” “Oh, sorry nothing just trying to check in for my flight tomorrow.” I become instantly annoyed as he is always on his phone and although I know flying is his job and one that I used to believe he loved, it feels to me as if he is constantly planning his escape. An escape from all the things that I am neither afforded a retreat from yet equally so, things I felt blessed for the consistency and normalcy the mundane brought to my world.

Jack is always coming and going and more disturbing to me lately is the way in which he never seems happy or content regardless if he is home or on the road. When he is gone he sleeps for days at a time or at least that is what he tells me when I can not reach him time and time again. A habit of his that has annoyed and devastated me from the beginning. Especially, when Katy was a baby and I was all alone with no help and not even a life line of a husband an ocean away.

When he is on a trip and not sleeping then he is drinking. The only tolerable piece of that habit is the small window somewhere between the second to fourth drink, in which he seems loving, apologetic about the past, and hopeful for the future. In the first years we were together I told myself I was married to man who just wasn’t a good drunk and thus his behaviors explainable as they seemed for at least a little while to be drink induced. For in those days, although he was mean and nasty beyond what I could even depicted for my closest friends the next day out of sheer shame for the ways I allow him to treat me every time he picks up the bottle, there seemed to be a plausible explanation.

On many occasions more than I think I even allow myself to recall the verbal abuse escalates into physical. Yet, I still tell myself that each time is the last. However, then I grow to miss what was always best about Jack’s drinking. The moments when I actually feel he is interested. Interested in what is going on at home, with myself and my writing and with Katy and her school work.

He is inquisitive and even offers solutions to the problems that he usually can never be bothered with and hides behind his absences as an excuse to be detached rather then the reason he should be hyper-vigilant about all his daughter and I need. Needs that his career and his dream have placed upon our lives. Hardships that not only does he not independently see but even in the beginning of our marriage before I knew all that this would become, when I took the time to express all that I felt. When I made attempts and pleaded for him to see all he couldn’t because he was never there, he simply dismissed them all time and time again. He made it very clear that he could not and would not be bothered with anything he didn’t chose to be.

His ego would throw him into temper tantrums and fits of rage if I ever even hinted that his job made me suffer in the slightest of ways. Truths and realities that were common occurrences and acknowledged by most living a life in the field of aviation. Jack Harlow would hear none of it! He would tell me that I was nothing but ungrateful. He would tell me I was selfish and how blind I was for  all his job provided.  All of which  he never failed to point out was my entire life, as I was little more than a free baby-sitter with a part time passion for her hobby of writing.

So the moments and conversations in which a buzz or momentary peace bridged the gap between our worlds and Jack was willing and able to offers suggestions or even take the initiative to take something odd my plate. Tasks and responsibilities that I was always capable of answering on my own, for ninety-nine percent of the time I had no other choice but to be. Still his words of empathy and concern felt each time comfort I secretly and quietly longed for. For in those rare conversations of alcohol induced camaraderie, I found a place that resembled all that I imagined our life would be like if in fact a true partnership between us existed.

For if there was one emotion to describe the underlying reflection of my marriage to Jack it would be lonely. For even when we are all home together as a family or Jack and I away together on holiday it still always felt like the ocean that is between us when he is flying without fail follows him and I regardless of geography. An unspoken distance between two people who were and had always been living separate lives that came together for the sake of  of the life we both now were only pretending  to want.

In the upkeep of the ebb and flow of our lives, I asked again. “Jack, what time are you leaving tomorrow?” Not that I truly ever expect to be given an answer in which I could plan a day around much less my entire life. However, out of habit and hope, I ask so he can answer with varying degrees of truth and round and round we go.

“Seven thirty tomorrow night, so I will have to leave here around 4:00pm.” Math to me that never made sense as it was always a domestic flight from Seattle to Houston before going overseas.  Knowing he would be in uniform  or at least he was when he left our home and in wearing it he would breeze through security. However, I have grown tired of questioning the “facts” that when explained  I know now will only lead me to more questions rather than answers.

“OK”, I say while realizing Katy still has not come to the table and he is still lost in distraction to whatever life plagues him hidden behind the security code on his phone. A life I didn’t notice until it was too late and the only life we knew as Jack and Annie Harlow. A life first built around my naivety and unconditional love for a man I didn’t ever know and now one that my exhaustion and fear forces me to turn a blind eye to.

Katheryne come to the dinner table this minute!  God I hated the sound of my own voice lately. As all I ever felt to be saying was annoying stereotypical antidotes that fall from the mouths of each and every wife and mother, although I was beginning to understand why. I was in charge of keeping a sinking ship afloat and worse yet a ship that carried the weight of many and without the help of anyone aboard. The ridiculousness in my life had become so profound I was sickened daily by the time, effort and emotional toll it had on me and in which I gave to the days that went unnoticed,  and unappreciated.  I had spent the last twelve years supporting a man who was gone from my life for twenty one days at a time and yet he never failed to complain about the things he had to repair or the appointments I had scheduled when I could count on him being home. My life and sadly even now Katy’s were nothing more than impositions  and obligations “we” unfairly placed upon his time.

A begrudging and hurtful response given over and over by the man I loved and who I once believed loved me. Yet in the end  when I saw what it was that occupied and consumed his every waking moment the only peace I found was that it was the love and attention of a man who was never capable and his cruelty had never been due to the inadequacies I placed on myself. For never once did I ever seem to feel that Jack saw me as a good wife or even a good person for more than a few fleeting days here and there. For regardless of what or how I tried I just never could seem to do anything right much less make my husband happy nor proud.

Untruths that rather than dispute I grew to accept about myself and the weaker I became the bigger the wounds and scares I carried became. The ones he effortlessly  and in the end seemed to proudly leave upon my heart and soul. Jack broke my spirit until I no longer cared about having one much less  one that I years ago embraced and proudly fought in the name of. A free spirit writer once, now a broken housewife living in a tangled web of lies. Lies that I had no way of knowing just how tragically disturbing they would reveal themselves to be.

For Jack sucked the life out of me daily and shattered the dreams I once believed in and wore me down until I could little more than get through the days with a smile for my daughter’s sake. My own desperation became a mask to things so horrific and unimaginable that had I only taken it off sooner, the lives that were lost at the hand of my husband may have been saved.

For Jack killed me slowly but the others they lost their lives within hours of meeting the charming pilot from Seattle with a picture of the perfect family conveniently and purposely placed in his wallet. For not only did we provide the security that allowed Jack to do the evil things he did with the assurance of anonymity.

The family portrait, the one I insisted we take the spring after Katy was born, gave to countless women the security of a family man.  A security that even as the one next to him in the photo the one holding his daughter, a security I, myself never felt.

Pieces of “Fake Calm”

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I remember an argument that jack and I had on the way to the airport as I was dropping him off. A favorite part I suspect of his routine. The loving wife and beautiful daughter standing with tear filled eyes at the curbside check in while he kissed us goodbye and we waved until he was out of sight. A ritual I am sure was in actuality little more than camouflage for all he was about to leave us to do half way around the world. Yet to Katy and I for many years it was real. It was true sadness of the departure of the man we loved and hated living without.

On this particular day as we were driving, I asked him. “Jack, would you be happy if Katy married a man who treated her the way you treat me?” Instantly, I knew the question was much to accusatory  and rephrased and asked again before he had time to “Jesus Christ Annie me” or even worse ignore the fact that I had spoken. “I mean, if Katy had the marriage we have, would you be happy and supportive of her and her husband?”

His answers never failed to kill me each and every time he obliged me with a response to anything I asked more meaningful than what would you like for dinner or what’s on TV tonight?  He laughed his typical cold and callously dismissive laugh, and then as he always did, he answers my question with a question. “So, you think I’m a shitty husband Annie?”

Every ounce of my being wants to scream, “Yes!” “Yes. I do!” However, I know better than to start a war as he is walking out the door. For if I felt isolated and alone even when we parted on the best of terms, having him leave angry made the whole intolerable experience even worse.

I was shocked at his absolute denial of anything in our marriage that he would change in hindsight or wish to do over. More so his lack to admit that he wanted better for Katy was perhaps the first real “sign” that I wasn’t ever dealing with someone “normal”. Normal meaning capable of admitting faults, normal as someone who seeks to change and grow from past mistakes, and most heartbreaking normal as in someone who regardless of all he had tried to be to me would always want better for his daughter. I thought if I put his behavior in the perspective Katy and that rather than my tears and pain he envisioned hers he would somehow be softer more reflective? I was wrong.. I was always wrong when it came to believing that somewhere inside the man I had married and for far too many years loved unconditionally with love that was never returned equally that he was capable of more. He never was. However, what I first thought was a choice, a horrible sad choice he made time and time again when he seemed to be able to so easily hurt me, I learned in the end was not.

For a “sociopath” lacks the fundamental capacity to react and engage with others in what those of us who are not sick like Jack do and what is naturally our behavior from birth.

Jack got out of the car, as I cried and Katy began to cry from the backseat as she sensed the tension and sadness that must have felt so heavy in the car, and probably a weight that she too carried from the repercussions of my choices and my need to understand and love a man who saw none of it. Yet the more Jack pulled away the harder I tried. A futile attempt at loving someone so much if nothing else in the hopes that by extending and demonstrating love without end he would let down the walls within him. Walls that were constructed long before I met him and walls that would continue to stand strong even after my death.

I asked, Jack “where are you going?” “What are you doing?” “How can you leave like this?” He took one last look at Katy, never met my gaze and shouted “ Who knows Annie? But what I do know is I’m getting drunk tonight!” and slammed with all his might the car door and walked into the terminal and never once looked back. Never once acknowledged my tears, my hurt, my pain nor Katy’s as we sat parked on the curbside. My hysterical sobs prohibiting me from driving and my disbelief causing absolute confusion about where I even wanted to go?

I hated myself for every cruel word I let jack inflict upon me time and time again yet I was unable to leave. Unable to walk away! What was wrong with me? How could I know all the ways he was capable of hurting me and still standby him? As my distaste for my Jack and our life grew, ever bigger was the disgust I was building within towards myself. For I was living a lie and one I knew better but still did nothing. I was a hypocrite of the worst kind and the only innocent victim was my daughter, and still I stayed.

Still I answered his call twenty-four hours later when he called from somewhere in the world. His voice soft and kind and professing to miss me so much and how badly he wished he never had to leave us. Why did I even answer his calls? Why did I race to my phone each time it rang having just sworn to myself that if and when he did call I would not answer. I would give him a taste of his own medicine and make him see how it felt to be the one needing me. I of course was never strong enough to ignore a single call, a single text or even breakdown and call him first.

What was the weakness in me and the hold that Jack Harlow had over me? One that even when I thought to myself and even professed to my friends and when it was truly unbearable to my family, that I would not fall under, I did! Time and time again until I was sick of saying the words, and the people I loved although they never expressed it completely grew sick of hearing it all. They  became tired of lending their ears, offering advice, constructing solutions and making sacrifices of their own lives all in a wasted attempt to help me solve the problems in mine.

Jack not only made me feel horrible inside but he slowly isolated me from anything else that I loved or who loved me in my life. One by one my friends stopped calling. My family while always loving me stopped planning holidays with us and participating in the things that normal families did together. They rarely attended Katy’s school productions or sporting events and dance recitals when they knew Jack would be present. They never came to our home other than when he was for certain out of the country.

I was alone. I was always alone. Jack seemed to enjoy that for it bothered him so when he would be on a trip. Waking up in Paris and dining in Rome and yet if i hinted towards any enjoyment in my days, he became irritated and accused me of only being fun or not busy writing when he was gone. Jack was always the victim and I always the persecutor of his misery. I would explain that he had no right to pick and choose the activities and the life I tried to continue on while he was away. I told him that he couldn’t possibly blame me for the moments and memories he missed as the result of the job he chose and the career he wanted. He was never grateful for the support and the things I needed and went without because he was living his dream all the while killing mine and without care or concern.

He complained when I called him and cried about him being gone and told me for years that I made his life on the road a living hell. A living hell for my constant need and want of a simple telephone call or assurance that if there was ever an emergency he would answer my call.  He would tell me that it was unfair and unreasonably that I wanted him to be chained to his phone and forced to be waiting in his room just in case I ever needed anything. I used to send him messages when he didn’t answer my calls simply expressing the fact that Katy wanted to speak to him before bed and he would still ignore me. When I eventually would get a hold of him and I would be angry about the ease in which he displayed no care or concern of even Katy’s needs. He would again, say “I am across the ocean and there is nothing I can do for her.” Or tell me that if she saw him over the computer it would only make her cry for him and therefore he chose to ignore my calls as he was really doing both Katy and I favor.

Jack was always right, always the victim, always perfect in his actions and his words. If he ever even hinted at the tiniest bit of regret for the truly horrible times he treated me like garage or spoke to me in ways that even he felt would look bad if I repeated them he would blame me. He would try to convince me that if I had only excepted his messages to “stand the fuck by” while he was missing in action in the middle of the night in New York then every word that he spoke in retaliation for my relentless phone calls could and would have been avoided. If only I didn’t constantly check his emails or locate his flights then he wouldn’t have to change and lock up his every email account, bank account and have his mail sent to a PO box. If only, if only, if only……..

Words from my book….Departures *unedited but real

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Katy come to the table please its time for dinner,” I swear Jack she has selective hearing .” I again realize that I am talking to myself as he is never really listening to me about anything. “Jack, what are you doing?” “Oh, sorry nothing just trying to check in for my flight tomorrow.” I become instantly annoyed as he is always on his phone and although I know flying is his job and one that I used to believe he loved, it feels to me as if he is constantly planning his escape. An escape from all the things that I am neither afforded a retreat from  yet equally so I feel blessed for the consistency and normalcy the mundane bring to my world.

Jack is always coming and going and more disturbing to me lately is the way in which he never seems happy or content regardless if he is home or on the road. When he is gone he sleeps for days at a time or at least that is what he tells me when I can not reach him time and time again. A habit of his that has annoyed and devastated me from the beginning. Especially, when Katy was a baby and I was all alone with no help and not even a life line of a husband an ocean away. When he is on a trip and not sleeping then he is drinking. The only tolerable piece of that habit is the small window  somewhere between the second to fourth drink, in which he seems loving , apologetic, and hopeful . The best part about Jack’s drinking, and sadly I am a wife who is married to a man who is not a good drunk. Who becomes mean and nasty beyond what I could even depicted for my closest friends the next day out of sheer shame for the ways I allow him to treat me every time he picks up the bottle. On many occasions more than I think I even allow myself to recall the verbal abuse escalates into physical. Yet, I still tell myself that each time is the last. However, then I grow to miss what was always best about Jack’s drinking, The moments when I actually feel he is interested. Interested in what is going on at home, with myself and my writing and with Katy and her school work.

He is inquisitive and even offers solutions to the problems that he usually can never be bothered with and hides behind his absences as an excuse to be detached rather then the reason he should be hyper-vigilant about all his daughter and I need. Needs that his career and his dream have placed upon our lives. Hardships that not only does he not independently see but even in the beginning of our marriage before I knew all that this would become, when I took the time to express all that I felt. When I made attempts and pleaded for him to see all he couldn’t because he was never there, he simply dismissed them all time and time again. He made it very clear that he could not and would not be bothered with anything he didn’t chose to be.

His ego would throw him into temper tantrums and fits of rage if I ever even hinted that his job made me suffer in the slightest of ways. Truths and realities that were common occurrences and acknowledged by most living a life in the field of aviation. Jack Harlow would hear none of it! He would tell me that I was nothing but ungrateful. He would tell me I was selfish and how blind I was for  all his job provided.  All of which  he never failed to point out was my entire life, as I was little more than a free baby-sitter with a part time passion for her hobby of writing. 

So the moments and conversations in which a buzz or momentary peace bridged the gap between our worlds and Jack was willing and able to offers suggestions or even take the initiative to take something odd my plate. Tasks and responsibilities that I was always capable of answering on my own, for ninety-nine percent of the time I had no other choice but to be. Still his words of empathy and concern felt each time comfort I secretly and quietly longed for. For in those rare conversations of alcohol induced camaraderie, I found a place that resembled all that I imagined our life would be like if in fact a true partnership between us existed.

For if there was one emotion to describe the underlying reflection of my marriage to Jack it would be lonely. For even when we are all home together as a family or Jack and I away together on holiday it still always felt like the ocean that is between us when he is flying without fail follows him and I regardless of geography. An unspoken distance between two people who were and had always been living separate lives that came together for the sake of  of the life we both now were only pretending  to want.

In the upkeep of the ebb and flow of our lives, I asked again. “Jack, what time are you leaving tomorrow?” Not that I truly ever expect to be given an answer in which I could plan a day around much less my entire life. However, out of habit and hope, I ask so he can answer with varying degrees of truth and round and round we go.

“Seven thirty tomorrow night, so I will have to leave here around 4:00pm.” Math to me that never made sense as it was always a domestic flight  first to Atlanta or New York before an international one that would take him to Europe or the Middle East to pick up his company’s aircraft. Knowing he would be in uniform  or at least he was when he left our home and in wearing it he would breeze through security. However, I have grown tired of questioning the “facts” that when explained  I know now will only lead me to more questions rather than answers.

“Ok, I say while realizing Katy still has not come to the table and he is still lost in distraction to whatever life plagues him hidden behind the security code on his phone. A life I didn’t notice until it was too late and the only life we knew as Jack and Annie Harlow. A life first built around my naivety and unconditional love for a man I didn’t ever know and now one that my exhaustion and fear forces me to turn a blind eye to.

Katheryne  Ava Harlow come to the dinner table this minute!  God I hated the sound of my own voice lately. As all I ever felt to be saying was annoying stereotypical antidotes that fall from the mouths of each and every wife and mother, although I was beginning to understand why. I was in charge of keeping a sinking ship afloat and worse yet a ship that carried the weight of many and without the help of anyone aboard. The ridiculousness in my life had become so profound I was sickened daily by the time, effort and emotional toll it had on me and in which I gave to the days that went unnoticed,  and unappreciated.  I had spent the last twelve years supporting a man who was gone from my life for twenty one days at a time and yet he never failed to complain about the things he had to repair or the appointments I had scheduled when I could count on him being home. My life and sadly even now Katy’s were nothing more than impositions  and obligations “we” unfairly placed upon his time. A begrudging and hurtful response given over and over by the man I loved and who I once believed loved me. Yet in the end  when I saw what it was that occupied and consumed his every waking moment the only peace I found was that it was the love and attention of a man who was never capable and his cruelty had never been due to the inadequacies I placed on myself. For never once did I ever seem to feel that Jack saw me as a good wife or even a good person for more than a few fleeting days here and there. For regardless of what or how I tried I just never could seem to do anything right much less make my husband happy nor proud. Untruths that rather than dispute I grew to accept about myself and the weaker I became the bigger the wounds and scares I carried became. The ones he effortlessly  and in the end seemed to proudly leave upon my heart and soul. Jack broke my spirit until I no longer cared about having one much less  one that I years ago embraced and proudly fought in the name of. A free spirit writer once, now a broken housewife living in a tangled web of lies. Lies that I had no way of knowing just how tragically disturbing they would reveal themselves to be.

For Jack sucked the life out of me daily and shattered the dreams I once believed in and wore me down until I could little more than get through the days with a smile for my daughter’s sake. My own desperation became a mask to things so horrific and unimaginable that had I only taken it off sooner, the lives that were lost at the hand of my husband may have been saved. For Jack killed me slowly but the others they lost their lives within hours of meeting the charming pilot from Seattle with a picture of the perfect family conveniently and purposely placed in his wallet. For not only did we provide the security that allowed Jack to do the evil things he did with the assurance of anonymity . The family portrait, the one I insisted we take the spring after Katy was born, gave to countless women the security of a family man.  A security that even as the one next to him in the photo the one holding his daughter I never felt.