When you’re with him, you could fly.
He’s the one who shored up your cracks in the daily facade, holding your darkness with his light. His voice was the bandage to your self-injury. You knew he’d always stand by you, day after day.
Until he couldn’t.
It came crashing down in police cars and visits on a payphone through a glass window, PTSD for a birthday present. Twenty years threatened by charges, witnesses and milestones of recovery. Twenty years threatened by twenty more.
You get used to it, people say you can get used to anything. The long drive to him. Talking in the presence of officers and others who lie in wait to pounce on weaknesses, trouble and a need for more therapy. Classes, meetings, and a sick feeling that nothing will ever be the same.
You struggle with job after job to keep yourself afloat while your marriage floats on a perilous separation. You sleep on the couch, unable to use the bed after that first night when you stayed up until 3 am in case it was a mistake. Waiting for him to come home.
He doesn’t come home.
You buy a daylight-controlled light bulb under the pretense of safety and a woman alone, but in truth, the candle is always lit so he can find his way back. You daydream constantly that nothing ever happened. They say being unable to focus on reality is a symptom of trauma, of having your life ripped away when you weren’t even there to see it.
Reality is over-rated.
You drive home alone, your mind convincing you that he’ll be there when you arrive. You look for a car in the parking lot that isn’t there. You wait for an opportunity to be held that doesn’t come. Laughs that fall to silence. An aching chasm that is ever-present, a shard of glass beneath your feet as you walk – but only sometimes does it shift and grind into the bone.
Twenty years is a long time
The candle stays lit.
Kristi studied creative writing as an alum at SUNY Brockport and at Converse College, and has been published in 805 literary magazine.