I pass by the store where you work on my way home. I have been crying since I got your final text. We are over. We are over. We are over.
My wife, Holly, and I get home at the same time. We ride in the elevator together. She says nothing. Inside, she goes to the bathroom. She closes the door. We don’t usually close the door when we go to the bathroom.
I sit on the couch, and put a pillow in my lap. She sits on the other end of the couch. She looks at me. I start to talk. Our story unspools rapidly and not in chronological order. I can’t remember when you met my son, Avery, and how often you hung out with Avery and when I told you I loved you and when we stopped using condoms and when I started thinking your drug use was out of control, and the stories keep coming, and I keep unraveling, and Holly is quiet until she starts to cry, and I keep talking until I have nothing left to say.
Help me, I say. You’re the only one who can help me.
Help you what?, she asks.
Write him. Tell him I’m sorry. Tell him that I didn’t mean to hurt him. You know me best of all, Holly. You and he know me. You can get through to him. He will listen to you. You can tell him what being in a relationship with me is like.
I know I’m asking her something I have no right to ask her, but I don’t know what else to do.
I know he loves me, I say. I love him.
She is still crying.
I will think about it, she says. I give her your e-mail address and phone number.
We have to get divorced, she says, not because you fell in love with someone else, but because you deserve to have the next man who wants to marry you, or who you want to marry, work out.
Would you consider staying married until after our child is born?, I ask.
Yes, she says.
I think I am in shock. I think Holly is in shock.
She goes to the bathroom. I know she is going to the bathroom to cry. She doesn’t want me to see how hurt she is. When she comes out, she has taken off her engagement and wedding rings. She has never taken off her wedding ring, not even when Avery was born. She has taken off her engagement ring plenty of times when she has been angry at me. I see she has taken off her rings, and I take off my wedding ring. Even though I had taken off my ring when I was with you, my finger now feels strange without my ring, or maybe I feel strange sitting with Holly without our rings on.
What did he know about me?, she asks.
I never told him we were married.
She walks into our bedroom and sits on the bed. She comes back into the living room, sits at the computer, and composes an e-mail to you. I don’t have to ask to know what she is doing. She loves me, probably more than I deserve, and because she loves me, and because she wants me to be happy, she is doing what no other wife would do.
Holly leaves to see a friend. You have not responded to the e-mail. Before I get Avery from daycare, I call the Hawthorne Hotel and cancel our reservation. I can’t return the swan boat tickets. On my way to Avery’s daycare, I stop at a Walgreens. I go inside, not for anything specific, but in the sleep-aid aisle I pick up a box of Motrin PM. I am tired. I need to sleep. I think the cashier knows what I am going to do later with the pills I hadn’t known I went into Walgreens to buy.
I get Avery. I hug him tightly. He says, daddy, down, down, daddy down. I put him down. He holds my hand as we walk across the parking lot to my car. Ummies daddy?, he asks. I have some crackers in my car, and I give them to him. At home, I put macaroni and cheese on a plate and put it on the kitchen table. I put cookies and crackers on a table in the living room. I fill three sippy cups with juice, and I leave them where Avery can reach. I lock the top lock of the front door so Avery can’t get out. I fill a small glass with some white wine. I open the Motrin PM box. I put the box in the bag I carry to work. I don’t want Holly to see the box in the garbage can. I open the bottle, look at the pills, tilt the bottle toward my mouth, and I dump in as many pills as I can fit in my mouth. I swallow them with a little white wine. I swallow the rest of the pills in the bottle, and I finish the white wine I have in the cup.
I check Facebook. You and your friends have blocked me. I have no Facebook friends. They had all been your friends. Using Holly’s account, I look for your profile. You have changed your relationship status to single. I send an e-mail to your mother. I thank her for caring for me and for Avery. I apologize for hurting you. I tell her I hadn’t meant to hurt you. I tell her I wish I had gotten the chance to know her better. I send an e-mail to one of your friends I had met at the party. She, I had thought, was the nicest. I tell her I hadn’t meant to hurt you. I tell her I wish I had had the chance to know her better.
I lay on the couch. I look at our text message history. Nearly 27,000 text messages. These texts are our history, everything we had been. I delete the chain of text messages. How easy to delete our life together. Less than a minute after hitting delete, everything is gone. I cannot delete the pictures of you, and of you and Avery, and even the few I have of me with you or of the three of us. I cannot delete our AIM history, because that is how we first communicated, and that is how you told me you needed to talk to me the night you asked me to date it out. Deleting everything means you are totally gone.
The Motrin PM won’t be enough, I think. I get the Melatonin out of the bathroom, and I take what is left, about 30 pills or so. I just don’t want to feel. I want to never feel again.
I go into the bathroom, turn on the faucet at the sink, and begin to shave, but the razor is mostly dull from Holly using it to shave her legs. I shave in awkward strokes. I cut myself. I cannot feel my hands. When I am done, I know there are patches of hair left, but I need to sit down. Someone else will finish, I think.
I call my brother, mostly to say goodbye, but also because he has called and texted several times. What’s going on?, he asks. When you blocked me on Facebook, you also blocked him.
I tell him what happened. While I talk to him, I feel myself begin to fade. I feel myself disappear at the edges. I cannot feel my head. I feel the phone drop out of my hand. I cannot reach for it. I still hear Avery playing with his cars. I wonder if he will remember me, or if he will only remember me as the man in the pictures with him.
I think you have already moved on. I think you have already slept with someone. Maybe more than one someone. I think you have already traded necklaces with someone, and asked them to go steady.
I call Holly. I need you to come home, I say.
Later, she says. I’ll be home later.
I sleep. Holly finds me on the couch. Avery is asleep on top of me. She changes his diaper and puts him to bed. Are you OK?, she asks.
I’m fine, I say. I am slurring. I just need to sleep, I say. I am so tired. Let me sleep.
What did you take?, she asks.
Just some Melatonin, I say.
How much?, she asks.
Just three pills, I say.
She looks for the bottle, but I have hidden it since it is empty. You took more than three pills, she says.
Maybe four, I say.
You need to go to the hospital, she says.
No, I say, I’m fine. I’m going to be fine. Just let me sleep.
She tries to get me to agree to go to the hospital. I tell her I am fine. I lay down. She goes to bed in the bed we used to share. I think that I will probably wake up later. I don’t want to wake up later.
In the morning, I think I have failed. I cannot even kill myself. I do not feel like myself. Everything today is different. I have been changed in the night. I am not the same this morning as I was yesterday morning. But if I’m not the same, then who am I? A great question. Who am I?
I am unsteady on my feet. In the bathroom, I finish shaving. I tell Holly I cannot go to work. I call my boss and tell her I am sick.
Holly, Avery, and I spend the day together mostly in silence. Holly doesn’t want to talk to me, and I don’t know what to say to get her to understand. She talks to her parents, but does it in the bathroom. She texts several friends. The word is spreading. There is no containing what I have done. I have now been outed. There is no retreating into the world Holly and I once occupied. I am gay. No take backs.
I think I could try pills again, but decide that later, after Holly and Avery are asleep, I will sneak out – as I have grown expert at doing – and I will drive to a nearby bridge and jump off. Jumping off this bridge makes perfect sense. All I have to do is leap. I’ve spent the last six-and-a-half months leaping away from everything I’ve known, and leaping toward everything I’ve wanted to know. Leaping off of a bridge should be easy. Only later do I think that neither suicide attempt was because of you. I was afraid of what living as an openly gay man meant. I was afraid of losing Avery. I was afraid of never feeling for another man how much I felt when I was with you.
Holly takes Avery out into the hall to play. While they are gone, I record a suicide video. Of course I record a suicide video. Everyone records a suicide video. A way to say goodbye. A way to explain.
I had been taught at an early age to hate myself. Don’t be gay, I heard over and over. Gay men aren’t happy. Gay men can’t have children. Gay men aren’t faithful. Over and over. Taught to hate myself. Never knew how to like myself. Never knew that I was looking for someone to like me, to teach me how to love myself.
I thought you were the one.
You told me you were the one. You told me I was the one.
I promised to love you unconditionally. But I guess I lied. I only wanted you to get sober. How could I tie myself to a man who gets high every night, and then lies to me about it? How could you expect that that was the future in which I wanted to invest?
I eat a piece of your birthday cake for dinner. I had not eaten yesterday. From the couch in the living room, I watch the sun set. I think this sunset will be my last. Sunsets are wonderful, when you’re feeling sad.
I’m tired, Holly says. Will you be safe if I go to sleep?
Can I sleep in bed with you and Avery tonight?, I ask.
Yes, she says.
I will stay on my side, I say.
I watch Avery struggle to fall asleep, and then he falls to sleep. Holly eventually falls to sleep too. I whisper her name. She doesn’t respond. I put on my shoes. There is no other way, I think. My head hurts. I just need to stop hurting. I never thought about the end during our beginning. I never thought our beginning would end.
Outside, I look at the sky and the stars, and as I had thought on the Fourth of July, I think you are also under these stars, probably with someone, probably high. I think in time you will be consoled, because everyone, eventually, is consoled. I hope in time you are happy to have known and loved me.
Once I’m dead — because I cannot think about the actual act of dying — but once I’m dead, I can sleep. I will not know another day without you. I will not have to see the way Holly looks at me: Disappointment. Sadness. Hate. Pity.
On the bridge, I look for the best place to stop. I turn off my engine. I put on my hazards. I open the driver’s side door and get out. I see headlights behind me. Another car. I get back in the car, wait for the car to pass, drive a few feet further, get out again, and this time I close the door behind me. The bridge feels unsteady under my feet. The bridge sways. Gravity holds me to the bridge. I am trying to fight gravity. I no longer want to fight gravity. You had pulled me out of my orbit. I no longer know which end is up. I think that love is like falling, and falling is like this, and my heart feels like it is gone, and all I have to do is jump, and then I will fall, and then everything will be done.
What is left behind seems so broken. I cannot think of myself as a person. Our when-not-if future will not happen. I have been erased. I am going out altogether like a candle. I wonder what I will be like then. I have not seen what the flame of a candle looks like after the candle is blown out.
More headlights. More cars. I get back in my car and keep driving and then I’m past the point where I think the fall will kill me, and I decide I will turn around and jump from the other side. I pass the Charles River and the playground where you and I had played with Avery five days ago. I don’t want to die, but I don’t know how to live anymore. I’m crying. I call Holly. I need help, I say.
Where are you?, she asks.
I’m at the Tobin Bridge. I was going to jump. I don’t want to die.
Come home, she says. We can get you help. Come home.
OK, I say. I’m coming home.
Do you need me to stay on the line with you until you get here?
No, I say. I’m still crying.
Just come home, she says. Everything is going to be OK.
And she was right.
© 2012 William Henderson