I wake up with a panic of someone who knows he’s overslept because the sun it too high and bright in the sky. I check the alarm and realize I have indeed overslept. I run my hand over my face and try to rub the sleep from my eyes. I force myself to sit up and it feels as if I’m underwater, struggling to surface.
Groggily, I push aside the comforter, swing my legs over the edge of the bed, and drop to the floor. I stumble around and over my trail of clothes I left on the floor and go into the bathroom. There I brush my teeth and throw cold water on my face. I walk out of the bedroom and the smell of brewing coffee wafts in the air.
Suddenly I realize I didn’t oversleep. Instead, Pam woke up with the kids and let me sleep in. This might seem mundane and insignificant, but it means so much to me right now. Although Pam and I have gone to couple’s counseling and gotten everything in the open, there is still this wall separating us. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s there, solid and unshakable. However, this simple gesture injects a dose of hope in me that she hasn’t totally given up yet.
I go downstairs and I’m immediately welcomed by Cece.
“Daddy!” She exclaims and stretches her arms in my direction.
Her excitement comically fades as she yawns really big. I look at her and smile. Her blond curls are piled on the left side of her head, her face is lined with pillow creases, and her eyelids have that heavy I-just-woke-up look. I pick her up and she circles her arms around my neck and tells me I have bunnies in my ears. I chuckle.
Cece is a silly heart and her goofiness is as heartwarming as is her big beautiful smile. I think she is a bit of a space cadet, with her little head in the stars and her little feet nowhere near the grounds of reality. Pam thinks her frequent flights to her own little world are a big indicator that she inherited mom’s introverted side. But don’t’ be fooled by her easygoing ways. When Cece has been wronged, when the object of her love has been besmirched, she will rise up and strike you down with the fury of one thousand Disney princesses. (Seriously, this little person will scratch, kick, and punch if you violate her space…we’re working on it…)
I walk over to Pam, who is puttering around the sink with Philip hoisted on her hip, and place a peck on both their cheeks.
“Good morning,” I say.
She gives me a tight lip smile and says, “Morning. There’s coffee and toast.”
“I appreciate you making coffee and toast,” I tell her.
She smiles again and returns her attention to the sink. “No problem.” She lowers Philip on the floor and this little guy hops to his feet, and sprints – Usain Bolt-style – across the kitchen, jumps 5 feet in the air, completes a double somersault with a twist, and lands next to his fire truck.
Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a little…maybe. But that’s how I see everything this little guy does. Philip is not one to sit back and watch the parade go by. No, no, no…that is simply not his style. He is rough and tumble, and the concept of fear is unknown to him. He will pitch himself off a roof top if I hold my arms out to him. Bu for most part, Phil is a happy-go-lucky, silly, funny kid. He is an awesome little man who is no way compares in temperament to a rabid jackel…most of the time. He is my son and the cause of many, many confounded shakes of our heads.
“Can you watch them while I go change?” Pam asks.
“Of course,” I tell her.
“Okay,” she says and wipes her hand on the dish towel. There is this awkward moment where I know she’s pondering if she should kiss me or not - like she used to whenever she left a room. But instead, she pats my shoulder as she shuffles past me towards the stairs.
I’ve always been suspicious about how people describe the dissolution of their marriage as something that happened overnight. How could you not know? How can you miss all the signs? Well, let me tell you how: you were so busy putting out a fire directly in front of you that you completely miss the inferno raging at your back.
When I was just a kid, my brothers and I played board games, and when either of us rolled the dice and it got stuck in the crease of the couch or rolled onto the floor we would call Do-over. And it was that easy to get a second chance. That’s what I want now: a do-over. Except, if I’m being honest with myself, I wouldn’t know where to start – I don’t know how to break through the wall of resentment and bitterness Pam cemented around herself. I actually think she doesn’t know how either.
Minutes later, Pam comes down the stairs, dressed for work and says, “Mom still isn’t here?”
“No,” I tell her. “Do you need to be at work early? Because I’ll stay with the kids and call a cab,” I offer.
She thinks about it and says, “I appreciate the offer, but I don’t need to be at work early.” Then she flashes a smile void of...everything and adds, “I will just give her a call.”
“Want me to get the kids cleaned up?” I offer.
“No, just go on and get ready. I’ll take care of them.”
“You sure? I appreciate the opportunity to wipe the oatmeal from their hair,” I joke.
Pam chuckles and I think I see a glimpse of a real smile, but as quickly as it appears it fades. She walks towards me and takes Cece from my arms. “Go on. As soon as my mom gets here we’ll go.”
“Okay,” I say and kiss her hair. She smells like lavender, not the dried-out, faint purple lavender that you find in closet sachets, but fresh, wild, sweet lavender, the kind that grows in gardens and scents the air with faint perfume. You can blindfold me and I would be able to pick Pam out from a crowd with my other senses. But the girl I fell in love with might look the same and speak the same and smell the same yet be completely different.
I suppose she could say that about me, too.
After Helene marches in the house, Pam and I march out. We make it to work and I realize I have exactly eight hours with Pam before I have to go back to Philly. So I try to make this day go by as smooth as possible. I want to be able to look back on this sunny Thursday and say that we took a step forward and not back.
But then I answer that danm phone call - such a stupid, stupid move on my part. It literally proved the point she made in couple’s counseling - that I put Athlead ahead of her. And just like that, instead of taking a step forward, we take a step back.
Before I go I tell her that yes, today was weird and hard, but we made progress. At least we are trying. I’m here. I’ve recognized my blame in all this and I’m fully committed to making major changes. We just have to keep at this. I can’t lose her. I know what is like to not have her, to see her and not be able to touch her. But the truth is… I feel she’s slipping away from me.
She says a simple ‘okay’ in agreement, but like everything else, it’s empty. Is the same ‘okay’ she would use if our son asked for juice.
I walk downstairs in complete anguish. No matter what I do, I keep hitting Pam’s protective wall. I get in the cab and my heart is so tightly wound that I almost can’t breathe. Just when I think I’m about to lose it, I hear Pam calling my name.
I get out of the cab clutching tightly to a bit of hope, but then I see her holding my umbrella.
She walks up to me and hands it over.
“Thanks,” I say trying to mask the disappointment in of my voice.
We do the hug-and-kiss goodbye as she says, “Alright, have a good trip,” and then she begins to walk way.
I can’t let her go.
“Hey,” I say and snatch her by the arm.
On our wedding day, Pam made me forget all the vows I’d written and diligently memorized. She was so incredibly beautiful and no words strung on to sentences could possibly hold all the feelings I wanted to present to her. Likewise, as I look her now, the words vaporize on my tongue. “I…” I try, but it’s futile. There aren’t words in this world that could verbalize the magnitude of my love for her.
So I circle my arms around her pull her to me as close as I possibly can. I just hold her. She doesn’t reciprocate and I don’t care. I’m committed to holding her until my arms fall off.
Just when the last little bit of hope begins to trickle away, I feel her move slightly beneath my hands and before I can cogitate what’s happening, I feel her arms circle around me, pulling me closer. The back of my eyes begins to burn the my heart beats so hard and so fast it seems it will tear itself clear out of my chest.
Then she cups my face and pulls me for a kiss. God, yes, I kiss her back. Pam and I haven’t kissed like this in a while. It like we’ve been away and this is the first time we are seeing each other after months apart. When out lips part she smiles at me and I feel like the sun has peeked out from behind the clouds. That is all it takes to break the wall surrounding her.
“I love you,” we say in sync.
I kiss her again and we hug.
Our problems are not at all solved. But as the metaphor goes, we are still climbing the mountain and probably will for a while, but the terrain seems to have leveled out a bit. The trees are beginning to clean and we can almost see the first of what is sure to be many summits on the path ahead.
I own nothing. All mistakes are mine.
Title is from P!nks's Just Give Me a Reason
Title is from P!nks's Just Give Me a Reason
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