Disclaimer: all names have been changed, and relevant parties granted me prior permission to publish their likeness.
At the edge of a dark time, I came to the conclusion that heaven and hell exist on earth as high and low moments. They’re places or dimensions moreover, occupied by love versus selfishness.
That’s what I’ll tell my spiritually intellectual friends... if they ask. I’ve been trying to do more listening lately, anyway. The people I commit my time to are all so passionate. They inspire me.
But they sometimes escalate my mania.
I experience demons as physical manifestations of bad energy. It can be extremely difficult to move forward in a world full of demons.
But He grants me peace.
I joke that he’s a healer. I felt it as soon as I met him. My mind works quickly – too quickly – but somehow, he always manages to calm me down.
“No relationship is perfect” I tell Carly, who lives with the father of her children, unmarried. I sip my fourth refill of water. We’ve been at this restaurant all night.
“There’s just no point in marriage if it’s not recognized by the church." She counters, "If he doesn’t believe in it, it’s like, neither does God, so it wouldn’t even count.”
Her faith system is so important to her. As is mine, but I don’t mention it. It’s unorthodox.
It’s funny though… I think… What religion is normal? The typical answer would be Carly’s, supposedly. It just seems so alarmingly fallacious.
“If he doesn’t accept God in marriage,” she continues, “I can’t have sex with him.”
“Carly, you have kids with him!” Jill interjects, laughing.
“Yeah, okay! And I love them, of course. But I messed up, and I repented. I haven’t had sex for months.”
That’s so… interesting… I think. This is a great listening exercise. Jill continues to grill our friend on the tangibility of her practices.
Carly explains that she’s torn about her relationship, because unfortunately, her man won’t be going to heaven with her. He will be going to hell.
“How can you say that?” Jill scoffs, “What even is hell, honestly?”
“I think hell is, physically, just the absence of the sun.” Carly consistently answers with the most fascinating theories. Amazing… I think… how we can disagree on so much, but still end up on the same page.
“Then why is it always depicted as fire?” Jill interrogates.
“Because you get so cold, you feel like you’re burning.”
We realize we’re delving a bit deep. Girl’s night is supposed to be lighthearted fun, right?
But we are having fun. We’re just talking life and relationships, as girls do. (Right?)
Jill mentions her ex, who had commitment issues.
The waitress overhears our conversation, and stops to vent at our table-side for a full five minutes, at least.
Her boyfriend (who allegedly is totally hot) recently suggested an open relationship, and she adamantly rejected the notion. He ended up apologizing and deciding against it as well.
As soon as the girl steps away, Carly whispers “oh my god… she needs to dump him.”
Jill agrees, “He’s obviously going to cheat on her. Poor thing.”
I finally chime in. “If I had any inkling of my man wanting another woman... I wouldn’t be with him. But I’ve literally never, ever, felt that with him. He loves me so much.” I’m not trying to brag, but it’s true and it’s relevant. “I trust him with my whole heart… which is so crazy, because I’ve been hurt and betrayed so many times before.”
Jill turns to me, grinning. “If he asked you to marry him today, what would you say?”
“I’d say yes.” I respond without hesitation. “But we’re not ready… like, financially and stuff, you know? And I wouldn’t want to be engaged for years or anything like that.”
I get home so late. He’s asleep. I look for his phone. I want to make sure it’s charged, and that his alarm is set. He has work in the morning.
Ah, it’s on the nightstand, as usual.
I’m standing in the warmth of our bedroom, surrounded by all the art we’ve hung together, lit by seasonably ambiguous string bulbs.
A terrible feeling creeps into the pit of my stomach. At first, I ignore it.
His alarm is on… good. I continue to stare at the device in my hand.
Suddenly, an intrusive thought: remember how he never came home on Wednesday night?
I begin a conversation in my head: Yeah… he passed out at Matt’s, as he sometimes does. Bartender friends occasionally get drinks after a long shift. Normal. I’m glad he didn’t drink and drive.
But why didn’t he at least text you to let you know?
Because he knew I’d be asleep anyway… It’s fine.
But he’s been weird the past couple days… hasn’t he?
He’s stressed about school and work. As am I. It’s fine.
I feel like I need to throw up.
I look over at my dreaming partner. The feeling intensifies in my throat.
Just make sure.
But I trust him!
This is not peace of mind.
I swipe to unlock. I almost forgot his password… I never use it. You know I never use it, because he knows I know it, yet would never change it, even if he had something to hide.
I click “Text Messages” and skip over the blurbs I’d sent him within the hour. Hey bean! I’m headed home! Can’t wait to cuddle you, even if you’re asleep! LOL!
I see an unfamiliar female name.
No reason to panic. She’s probably a coworker. Normal.
But it’s from Thursday morning. *Click*
My anxiety escalates as I consume word-by-word. I continue making excuses for him.
Woah… flirty. But maybe it’s an inside joke or something. No reason to panic.
Okay, so he was with her Wednesday night… But she’s definitely, probably, a coworker. He probably gave her a ride home. No reason to panic.
“Remember you by?” So maybe she’s not a coworker. But still… no reason to panic.
Well… she’s definitely flirting back… but that’s her. No reason to panic…
Wait… does that say…
PANIC! PANIC! PANIC!!!
I drop the cell, sprint to the bathroom, and projectile vomit just as I reach the toilet.
So much for that expensive dinner.
I kneel for a few minutes, heaving. I look at my hands. They’re trembling. I look up at the mirror. I’m crying. My mind is racing. My initial thought is: “It’s over”. Fuck. I don’t curse much, but fuck is all I can mumble aloud.
I try to think of some alternative meanings for what I read. I can’t. I am panicking. Fuck, fuck fuck…
I crawl towards my phone.
I struggle to dial Jill. She’s definitely still awake… she just dropped me off.
I don’t know how she understands me through the hushed bawling and wheezing.
She tells me to throw his phone at his face. No! I’m trying really hard to be rational right now!!! “Well, wake him up! What the fuck?!” I can already hear him stirring. I’m in fetal position on the floor. I reach for the space heater…
I’m so cold.
I consider packing up and leaving immediately, but its almost 5 AM and there’s no way I can fit my entire life in my Fiat. Plus, he’ll wake up if I rummage around. How do I prepare for this?
Jill talks me through some deep breathing before I press “end call”.
I feel weak, but I pull myself up beside our half-empty bed. I hesitate before tapping him awake. As he turns over, I cross my arms.
“Do you have something to tell me?” I look straight into his hazy blue eyes
“What? No…” He’s groggy.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes! What are you talking about?”
I let out a little huff. I already can’t help but find the situation slightly humorous. That’s a defense mechanism, obviously.
“Tell me again what you did on Wednesday night.”
“What? Why? I told you… I passed out at Matt’s.” He groans and sits up.
“What did you guys do?” At this point… it’s fairly obvious I’m onto him. Or so you’d think.
“We literally drank and passed out.”
“Who else were you with?”
Now, I’m starting to feel like a stereotypical “crazy girlfriend”. But then I remember, I could’ve started this argument on Thursday morning, but I trusted him. And besides… the “crazy girlfriend” motif is just a cop-out for people who refuse to acknowledge the reasons behind “crazy” behavior.
“Um… we were with Monica… you’ve met her… and her friend.”
“Okay, I see how that looks bad, but nothing happened… calm down.”
I stare at him in silence for a while before turning away. I cannot believe he’s still lying. I walk through the room, dumbfounded.
I pull on a sweatshirt, point the heater towards the futon, and wrap myself in an extra blanket. I attempt to get comfortable on this old piece of furniture, which we moved from my childhood bedroom to our humble new abode. I’m shivering, watching him from across the room.
He tries on assorted masks of confusion.
I finally present my case: “I suggest you read your texts from Thursday morning, and then tell me, again, what happened on Wednesday night.”
A few clicks, and his face glows ice blue from the tiny screen.
Barely a moment passes before three words grace my ears: “I fucked up.”
I don’t look at him. “I’m leaving in the morning.”
I glance around the room. I think about how every single item in my panorama of vision is in its current place because of us.
Within moments, three more words emerge: “I’m so sorry…”
I feel wet streaks on my face, but I ignore them.
I hear three sounds: A fuck. A gulp. A bellow.
And he turns into a waterfall.
Finally, among sharp gasps, I hear three more shaky words: “I love you.”
I am silent.
Soon, the sun rises.
Years ago, we’d stay up past the moon every chance we got, occupying each other’s space, both too shy to make a move. So we’d bare our souls and share all the things that no one else ever knew.
We’d talk about our families, friends, and the people who left. I remember telling him I’d never trust again.
We’d talk about the past, present, and future, as if we knew all three were bound to include each other.
In an instant, “then” and “now” are simultaneous. The precious, physical element is once again absent. We are one – only in our minds – as we were, and as we shall remain.
How it began is how it ends.
And how it ends is with a new sun.
He grants me peace.
© 2017 JULIET FESSEL ALL RIGHTS RESERVED