It wasn’t always like this

A phone call for my husband. I call him, then go looking. He’s not in the den. Or the bedroom. A knock on the bathroom door gets only silence.

I realize he may be ignoring me, so I call: “Gary, it’s a phone call from your work.” If he thinks it’s someone important who wants him, he will answer. But still it’s quiet, so I look out the back window to see if he’s working in the yard. He was just here ten minutes ago. Still no Gary.

I look out the front door at the driveway. His car is gone. He has left again, without a word. Whether to the corner market to get a coke or on a three day trip, I am not to know. He may be back in minutes or hours. Telling me would mean castration.

I tell the caller he’s not available. The caller asks when would be a good time to call back. I tell him honestly that I don’t know. He tries again. Will my husband be home this evening? I tell him I have no idea. I am past pretending to the outside world that we have a lovely marriage. They can think what they like – and it will probably be true.

I hang up the phone. I have no idea how many sandwiches to make for lunch. I’ll make an extra just in case. He’ll be so mad if he comes back for lunch and there’s not a sandwich at his place. But who knows when we’ll get another loaf of bread. I also open another can of tomato soup, just in case. I watch the thick red globs of Campbell’s best ooze over the jagged can edge and drop into the pot.

I suddenly remember a time, years ago, when I made the two of us tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. We huddled in the living room in a blanket on the floor with our mugs and trays and watched “The Cat People,” laughing at the scary scenes. I could have stayed wrapped up in that blanket, with him, forever.

KAREN FALLEN-RHODES is a mental health therapist who believes that much of mental illness is, at its core, simply loneliness. Hence her ardent belief in community that she backs up with her lifestyle: living in an intentional community in a crumbling old mansion with ten other people. A former newspaper reporter, she is happy to still be writing in what is fast becoming a “post newspaper” age. This piece is an excerpt from a memoir Karen is writing of her twenty-year marriage.

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