If people had hearts like ponies have cutie marks, what would mine look like, Mom?
Bright pink with a band of pure gold, I told her. That’s what your heart would look like.
She liked that. Yours would be black, she told me. But with diamonds.
“It was probably pink when you were little, though.”
And because Littlest was a very insightful kindergartener I thought,
Yup, sounds about right.
After all, I was about two months sober, and getting sober means crawling away from things that stain your heart, except that inky stainy stuff coats the walls of the very narrow tunnel you’re at the wrong end of, so you’re going to get a lot dirtier before you reach light.
But it’s not bad. There are diamonds in that tunnel.
I found the very first diamond one year ago today. I woke up and didn’t know where I was, which wasn’t particularly strange because this abrupt sort of time travel tended to happen about once a week. Lucky for me, I was in my own bed, which also wasn’t particularly strange because I have someone who remembers about me better than he remembers about anything else. Fear and dread were there as well, waiting to drop bowling balls on my chest, which was also usual on a Sunday morning.
“Honey,” I whispered, “I know I fucked up, but I can’t remember how.”
I knew he was beside me because I could hear him breathing but I was too sick to open my eyes.
From experience, there were a few different ways the morning could play out but I could sense he wasn’t going to laugh and pour us a beer and clam for a hangover lunch, so I must have done something really dumb or said something really mean. He was probably going to tell me off. In that case, my options were to hear every humiliating detail my blackout mercifully protected me from, or come up with an act in which I had reason to be angry with him, because it’s often much easier to be angry than it is to be sorry.
I know, terrible.
However, that morning I was far too sick to be anything but honest. I’d just listen, and beg forgiveness, and probably cry, and then he’d be nice to me again.
But this time he wouldn’t play that game. HE GOT OUT OF BED.
I crawled over the mattress and tried to pull him back under the covers except – nope, that didn’t really happen, I just imagined it in real time because I was still freakin’ swimming. In reality, I was laying on my back, still in all my clothes from the night before, including a shapewear tank top that had bunched around my middle and cut a thick purple line into my belly. I heard him dig through the pockets of the jeans he had left on the floor by the side of his bed and I squinted just in time to see my own phone bounce by the pillow.
“Don’t talk to me again until you’ve watched the videos.”
And then he was gone.
And I both felt like shit, and like a really shitty person.
Drifting in and out of consciousness, I started thinking about how I probably couldn’t get through this day, and how even if I did, what would be the point?
I thought about my kids, sleeping over at a friend’s house. I thought about how they deserved so much better.
I thought about my replacement. She’s totally imaginary, but she’s also a petite blonde dental hygienist who smiles a megawatt smile after early morning power yoga classes while slowly eating very small amounts of yogurt in a clean, sunlit kitchen. She’s THE BEST. If I would just get out of the way, she or someone like her could come into this life and fall in love with Husband and take over raising the kids, because obviously my job was just to bring these perfect people together and into the world and then GTFO because they are all way too precious for a person like me to handle. It would be best for everyone, really. And when you’re a mother, you know all that matters are the kids.
(Yeah, I wasn’t thinking very clearly, but is this thought pattern really so far from what we tell women on the daily?)
So I started thinking of ways I could check out of this awful, painful day. And then I thought if I really needed a push over the edge, whatever videos were on my phone would probably do the trick.
So I opened my photo’s folder, and there she was:
A little girl, crying in the dark. She was sitting on the stairs, all knees and elbows and wide-open mouth calling out to no one, pain and fear ignored. She was so scared and so alone. So forgotten. Unloved.
In my house? A little child crying alone in the dark in my house? No! Who did this? It was unacceptable. It was horrid. Who left this child? How dare they! Where was she now?
(You think this is all, like, symbolic, but it actually took a few moments before I realized)
The kid on the stairs was me, and I had left her.
No one else could take over or help,
and I couldn’t leave her again.
That was my first diamond.
It has led to so many more.
Now, I know it’s weird to write about this heavy stuff, and it’s pretty scary, too, but I know I’m not alone. Because besides being a good mom, I am also a good watcher, and in my watching I see that most people have at least one thing that they struggle to crawl away from, at least one thing that makes them feel like a shitty person or like someone else could live their lives better than they are. I also know from my experience as a writer-for-hire, that many people can’t write like this, so if I don’t take the weirdo bullet, who will? And lastly, I know comments like I don’t know why she has to write about this, are just sneaky ways for people to ask, why can’t she just be more like me? to which I’d have to answer,
I don’t know why. I guess we’re just in different tunnels. What color is yours?
Because my baby tells me mine’s a sparkling black, which is a mix of all of the colours, so maybe if I display this stained heart, people will see their own hues reflected back.
And maybe they’ll be relieved to know,
We’re all just a bunch of funky shades
and we get to dig for diamonds.