While helping Talia get ready for school…
Talia: Your hair is a disaster.
Me: *giggling* thanks Talia.
Talia: That means your hair looks horrible.
Me: got it babe, thanks.
Talia: You’re welcome.
While helping Talia get ready for school…
Talia: Your hair is a disaster.
Me: *giggling* thanks Talia.
Talia: That means your hair looks horrible.
Me: got it babe, thanks.
Talia: You’re welcome.
The sun softly blinks into our bedroom to let us know it’s almost time. Then she slowly makes her way inside, sprawling out gently on our bed. I blink back and see a beautiful pair of brown eyes smiling into mine.
“Good morning my beautiful Jaan,” he says with his throaty Sunday morning voice. “Great morning my beautiful Ji,” I say back, lifting my hand to brush his scruffy beard. I breathe in the scent of his body and let my eyelids fall back down. Happiness exudes through each exhale as we both inhale the other. The universe has been good to us and we are therefore in a good place. Living in our dream home, all of us, together, in a gentle and calm neighbourhood. What makes this place a dream is not the purchase price of it or the square footage, but the simple fact that we are all in it and we were able to make these walls, shingles and bricks into a home.
The economy is booming, we both love what we do, the weather isn’t scary anymore. The stars have really aligned. Of course, nothing is perfect, because that ideology no longer exists. Social media now serves as a support system for all human beings who may need it. Materialism, fake lives, narcissism, that’s all over. No one compares and despairs anymore. Even corrupt government has been abolished. World news is mostly headlined with the good that continues to circulate from country to country. War is a thing of the past. As is most suffering.
As I inhale him, I also breathe in the aroma of the roses he gifted me last night. Red roses, so cliche, but my absolute favourite. Flowers are still the universal symbol for love. And he gives them to me all the time without reason or obligation. Just because. We are best friends; mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and there is no one else on this planet that can break such a powerful form of devotion. We are not insecure, we have no doubts. There are no questions. We worship one another. We are who we are and we are us. We are true.
I used to believe that marriage was a facade, an evil institution that society placed on a pedestal to bring humanity down. Weddings, money and monogamy were always celebrated and everything else was questioned. Most humans hid behind the shadows of their marriages as liars, cheaters, cowards and fake hashtags. They were missing honest to goodness truth and purity. Now I believe that love is real, it’s tangible, it’s not a facade. It is life. It is the very air I breathe. And I am breathing him in, into my lungs, stomach, brain. Even my fingertips.
Our daughters dance into the bedroom with our fluffy, jovial puppy and the eldest says, “good morning mom and dad! Shouldn’t we get breakfast started?” The youngest one jumps onto the bed in between us, squealing and snorting with laughter.
Today, like every Sunday, we take our food truck to the local park and feed as many hungry bellies as we can. He cooks, of course. I’ve used my creative skills to design everything, from marketing to menus. The girls love helping out and being part of the team. Giving back, sending gratitude into the universe in spades. We also speak to youth in different schools about addiction and mental health, every month. Which reminds me, I really need to organize this month’s talk: learning how to love yourself.
As our daughters and pup pile themselves onto the bed and into our arms, I think back to a time when all I could see was darkness, and all I could feel was pain. But the sun always has a way of shining through even the thickest, bleakest, heaviest wall of despondency. She extends her rays of light around all of us as we embrace each other, leaving me with the warmest, most delicious delight I have ever felt.
He’s in the shower. My mouth and throat are like sandpaper. My hands are clammy. My eyes are stinging. I was up late last night writing my final letter to him. The pounding in my chest is harder than usual. Or is that my head? The baby starts to cry in her high chair. Oh, shit. The cereal. The water has been boiling, what’s wrong with me?
“Mommy’s coming, baby! Here comes your num-num!” I tell her, as I mix the Gerber baby cereal with her little pink spoon.
“Foh me too, mama, foh me too?” my toddler’s voice is suddenly looping around the kitchen. “Of course, sweetie!” I tell her, grabbing another bowl. This stuff smells so good, it reminds me of when my mom used to make cream of wheat for us. The thought of eating now makes me nauseous. I hear the bathroom door open. He’s coming out. I rush out of the kitchen and into the living room, which is also our dining area.
I’m blowing on the cereal softly and can see him from the corner of my eye, stepping into the bedroom, and shutting the door. Baby is opening her mouth, waiting for her breakfast. Toddler’s got her eyes fixed on the TV, watching what’s-her-face on Treehouse. Dory? No. Dora. Do you have to explore so loud today, Dora? Shut up!
“Sweetie, remember to eat your breakfast!” I tell her in my trying-to-be-calm-but-not-actually-calm voice. I can’t believe this will be our last time eating breakfast here. My phone buzzes. New message. I turn it over. My throat feels even drier. Do I even have any saliva left? The bedroom door opens. Fuck, he’s coming.
“Yummy, num-num, baby!” I say in my sing-song voice, spoon going in. Baby smiles, cereal all over her little pink gums. Am I really ready for this? Yes. Yes, obviously, you cando this and you willdo this. I hear the jingle of his keys. He’s getting ready to leave.
“Sweetie,” I whisper to toddler, “go say bye to daddy.” She obediently gets up from the mini-table that he built for her, and runs to the den. “Byyyyeeeeeeeeee dadddaaaaaaa!” He’s lifting her up, hugging her. She gives him a kiss. My vision gets a little blurry, but I blink it away. He comes around to kiss baby’s head. As always, I’m invisible. The front door closes, and the lock turns.
I quickly pick up my phone and type: ‘He just left. Come up in ten minutes to be safe.’ Should be enough time so they don’t pass each other in the elevator. I hop over to the bedroom and open the closet door to start grabbing empty bags and see his long-sleeve, collared shirts hanging there. I’m transfixed on them when I hear the lock on the door turning again. Oh no. I scramble back to my chair next to baby and pick up the cereal bowl with trembling hands. He’s back. He marches into the living room.
“Where’s the car seats?” he asks, looking directly at me now.
“Oh,” I manage to say. I never was a good liar. “I brought them up to clean last night. There were milk stains,” I say, trying to maintain eye contact with him. He doesn’t seem convinced. What if he knows? Please just leave.
As if he hears my thoughts, he walks back towards the door without another word. Leaving a trail of fire behind him that I cannot put out. Not this time. I grab my phone again. New message: ‘I’m here. What do I do?’
I respond back: ‘Wait a few minutes. He came back.’ Now I rush over to the window to see his blue Nissan leave the parking lot for the last time.
Trying to remember to breath, I open the front door and look towards the elevators down the corridor. She’s here.
My mom looks terrified. She quickly walks over to our unit, pushing a trolley of empty suitcases. We’re too nervous to even hug each other. Once she’s inside, she hugs and kisses the girls.
“Do you think he’s going to come back again?” she asks me, quietly. I shake my head. “I don’t think so. I hope not. Let’s get going.”
Within a few hours, we’ve managed to pack up the pots and pans, some dishes, all of our clothes, and the girls’ toys and books. I had already packed shoes and other things over the past few weeks and hid the boxes, knowing we wouldn’t have much time today.
“Whey we goin’, mama?” little toddler asks, looking around the condo unit as it quickly gets emptied out. “Just on a little trip,” I tell her, “just us girls!”
“Yay!” she cheers, hugging her stuffy to her chest.
Once the movers have taken the last of the luggage, I sneak into the bedroom and place the letter on the dresser. I take my engagement ring, and then my wedding band, off my finger and place them next to the letter.
“What? You’re not keeping your rings?” mom exclaims.
“No,” I tell her, exhaling for the first time in a long time, “not keeping them.”
I can still hear his voice, slithering into my ear, telling me, “as long as that ring is on your finger, I can do what I want to you.”
Definitely not keeping the rings.
At long last, we are leaving. I look around and exhale again. I’m breathing. I’m actually breathing. As I lock up, I realize that I didn’t get around to cooking dinner. Oh well. He’s got something else waiting for him tonight.
Annabella: Mama, are you upset?
Me: No baby, I’m just tired.
Annabella: I really hope you get some rest!
Me: Thanks, Bella! If only there were two of me….(sighs)
Annabella: (eyes wide) Two of you!?
Me: Well, if I could make a clone of myself, I would.
Annabella: (giggling) You can’t do that!
Me: But then I wouldn’t be alone.
Annabella: You’re not alone, mama, you have US.
Me: (heart glowing) I know, my love. I just mean I need another grown up to help me out sometimes.
Annabella: (embracing me tightly) You don’t need anyone but us, mama.
Me: (heart glowing. tightens the embrace. doesn’t let go.)
Day 382 of depression, round 5.
I’m sitting on a tall, cold, wooden chair. My feet don’t touch the floor, not even close. I’m facing a very large window, so I can actually see a bit of civilization. The sky is beautifully blue, and the clouds appear to be swimming slowly across it, like watching a snail slide across the pavement.
The wind is blowing the leaves on the branches of the trees quite forcefully, but it isn’t cold. I walked all the way here, so I know. Even with the wind, the sun felt warm on my back. I feel content about this, because I truly despise winter. Summer is almost over and soon it will be fall, and everything will be cold again. At least right now there are still colourful flowers in bloom. The leaves are still bright green. Nothing is fading yet.
I was fading for a while. A long while.
There was a generous sprinkling of magic over the summer which lifted me out of that heavy fog. Surrounding myself with family members, keeping a busy schedule, not allowing myself to stop. Always on the go. I was present. I was there for everything. I took my daughters everywhere I could. They have the photos to prove it.
Most importantly, I opened myself up to someone. After almost four years of solitude, I lifted myself up out of that dark hole and into a bit of light. And once I had a taste of that light, I began to soak it up. Every ounce of it. It was like coming out of years of underground hiding and finally feeling the rays of the sun again. Thinking, was it always this bright?
For almost a year, I’ve been kept myself wrapped in silence. In my own cocoon, only I wasn’t anticipating a butterfly transformation. One day, I decided to risk it. Break out of the cocoon and maybe, just maybe, I’ll survive out there.
I did it. I survived the summer out of my cocoon. I was a butterfly. I had wings. Every weekend, I opened myself up a little bit more than the last. I wasn’t numb anymore. There was feeling inside of me, all over me. In my veins, on my skin, in the strands of my hair.
Today is the first Saturday in many that I am alone. I sat on the futon. I wrapped myself up. I listened to the silence. Until all I could hear was the thumping of my heart under my fuzzy, pink robe. I needed to get out. So, I put on some clothes, brushed my teeth, placed my fuchsia ear buds in my ears, slung my floral bag across my back, looked at myself in the mirror, sighed loudly, and headed out.
So here I am. Avoiding silence and loneliness. Desperate for human contact, for voices other than the one in my head. The one that keeps telling me, “the light is going out, Taneet. It’s not going to last.”
Sometimes I believe all the noise in the world wouldn’t drown out that evil voice.
Three weeks ago, I looked at my reflection in the steamy mirror, got really close to it (I didn’t have my eyeglasses on) and said, “everything is fine. You are okay. Everything will be okay.” I said it out loud. I felt silly. But I did it. I figured maybe the voice coming out of my mouth will shut down the voice between my ears.
But it’s back. Or maybe it just never went away.
My hands were trembling earlier. Maybe because of my anxiety, maybe because of the meds. I just needed to get away from myself.
What would I hear if I could jump into this coffee cup? Would it only be the swirling and the swooshing of the warm liquid? Would I drown and blend into the sweetness, with only the powdered grains of cinnamon melting their way into me? Would it be silence?
Would someone place a lid on the cup? Taking away any hope of light? Making me go under? Unable to resurface?
My hands are trembling again. Its starting to get cold.
“Tell your father he needs to stop drinking,”
the mother told her daughter.
The daughter wrote a note to her father
and taped it to a bottle of rum.
It read, ‘daddy, please stop drinking.’
When the little girl checked the bottle
the very next day,
the note had been torn off —
only the corners with tape remaining.
“Tell your daughter-in law to take out her husband food,”
the father in-law said to the mother in-law.
The daughter in-law placed her husband’s food
on the table, and asked him to eat.
The husband ignored her
Dropping cubes of ice into his glass —
the rum poured over the ice,
into the soda
Swirling into the same shade of brown
Behind the mist in her eyes.
“Tell us mommy,” the daughters said, “is daddy sick?”
The mommy looked at the daddy
laying asleep on the bed,
skin thin and yellow —
a papery sheet over his diseased liver.
She looked back at her little girls,
Into their curious, warm, brown
And saw herself in them.
She reached out,
extended her arms and embraced her children
for a long, long time.
I’m screaming. I can see his face in front of me; lips blue, skin gone a pale yellowish. Like it would fall off his bones if I touched it. His eyes are wide open, but he doesn’t see me. He’s dead.
I wake up with a jolt, gasping for air. My throat is parched and my forehead is wet. As I slowly lift the comforter from my legs, I see a figure in the doorway, standing still, watching me.
“Mama?” a voice comes from the shadows, “are you okay?” it’s asking. I realize it’s the sweet voice of my six year old daughter. “Mama is okay,” I tell her, “just a bad dream.”
“Oh, I’m sorry mama,” she says hugging me. She looks up and asks, “Would you like some water?”
I kiss her forehead. What would I do without my little angels? My four year old daughter is still sleeping, surprisingly. “Thank you, sweetheart. But you should get back to bed, before your sister wakes up,” I respond, our arms still wrapped around each other.
“Okay,” she complies. “Good night, mama. I hope you dream about unicorns!”
I wish I could dream about unicorns, I think, as I make my way to the kitchen. I need cold water. And some Advil. My head is pounding. I’m leaning against the counter staring at the prescription bottles lined up. I pick up the Wellbutrin and open it. I pour the little blue pills into the palm of my hands. Such a beautiful blue. Reminds me of the ocean in Cuba. The water looks so blue, it almost seems fake. My mind is taking me back, lost in my reverie, to that day. That horrible, terrifying day.
We were sitting on the beach, the most beautiful one I had ever seen. Light and deep blue waves hugged each other, melting into that stellar crystal blue. The sand was velvety soft, a creamy white. The girls were in plain view, one jumping into the waves and the other with her little blue bucket, collecting the porcelain-like seashells. It was all so delicious. I was savoring every moment.
I couldn’t see my husband anywhere, which was even better. It was only the first day of our first-ever family vacation, and he was already being a complete nightmare. I was regretting inviting him on this trip, being well acquainted with his alcoholism, which is why I had taken my daughters away from him two years ago. But everyone deserves second chances, and I wanted more than anything to give our children memories of us being a family together. Memories that would stay with them forever.
There he was. I spotted him walking towards me, dragging his feet in the sand, and holding two cups. He set them down next to his lounge chair. I guess he realized I was glaring at him and he said, “Oh, did you want a drink?” Of course – both drinks were for him. God, it was still morning. He had barely eaten since we left for the airport the day before. I turned my attention to my girls, getting up from my chair. Their blue and pink bathing suits covered in sand. I wouldn’t let him ruin this for us.
Later, that evening, the girls and I got dolled up, deciding we would roam around the resort and take some family photos before dinner. We put on our cute dresses, I even wore make-up and opted for contact lenses instead of my oversized glasses. The maid had left pretty red flowers on the bed, butterfly flower or Mariposa, I think they were called. We placed them in our hair, tucking them securely behind our ears.
While doing a final check to make sure I was camera-ready, I saw my husband’s face in the mirror. I thought he was looking at me, and decided to do a little twirl for him.
“Doesn’t mommy look pretty, daddy? You look so pretty!” our eldest exclaimed. But he didn’t respond. He had a blank look in his eyes and his mouth looked like a bulldog’s – a very exaggerated upside down smile. He was sitting in front of us, but he wasn’t really there. I remembered he hadn’t eaten much of lunch, similar to breakfast, and dinner the night before. There was more rum in him than anything else.
“Are you okay?” I asked him. Again, he didn’t respond. He just slowly nodded his head. I sighed, and we all made our way out of the air conditioned room. We walked down the humid hallway towards the stairs leading out of the blue bungalow. Our eldest was in front of us, and our youngest next to me, holding my hand. Their daddy was close behind us, and I could see him from the corner of my right eye. As we descended down the stairs, he seemed to be doing a twirl of his own, a much bigger one. Turning around, like he was letting the warm breeze move him in a different direction. Did he look up at the blue sky? I called his name, but he didn’t respond.
He collapsed on to the concrete. I screamed his name.
“Daddy!!” the girls cried, “daddy, daddy!!”
His entire body was curling in, convulsing. His arms, hands and fingers folding in towards his body. His face was contorted; mouth slack on one side. I fell to my knees in shock, screaming his name. What was happening? An unfamiliar sound was coming from his lips, which were now turning blue. Pain. He was in pain. Foam bubbled and trailed down the side of his mouth.
“He’s having a seizure!” I yelled, but no one was around us. The sound of our daughters’ sobs filled my ears. “HELP!” I yelled to the sky, “Someone, please help!”
An older couple walking by, down the path, heard my screams. He can’t die, I thought, as I stared at his blue lips. My husband. The father of our children. Our girls. They’ll be devastated. Don’t you dare die on me, asshole! Better to have a drunk father than a dead one.
But his face grew paler, and lips more blue. I felt my heart go from beating wildly, to stopping altogether. There were people around me now. Someone brought a blue square pillow out and placed it gently under his head. The voices around me were muffled.
Suddenly, I was having flashbacks of my father, laying on the bathroom floor, unconscious, with his vomit flowing over the tiles. My mother yelling into the phone, “you thought he doesn’t drink? Come take a look at your drunken son!”
“Ma’am? Ma’am?” a man was talking to me. What was happening? Where were my daughters?
“I’m a policeman, I’m Canadian. I’m here to help. What happened?” he asked me. I shook my head, the words choking me. “I… I don’t know. He fell. He started to seizure.”
“Is he epileptic? Has this happened before?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
I could see blood in my husband’s mouth. He must have bitten his tongue. His eyes were moving. But he wasn’t seeing me or anyone else. The Canadian man was talking to him. There were two staff members of the resort talking to each other. There were people behind me. But where were my babies?
“Senorita? There is an ambulance coming. They will take him to the hospital. You will need to bring your passports, please. Don’t worry, everything will be fine,” one of the employees was saying.
I got up and looked around. I saw my eldest standing at the top of the stairs, hiding, and crying. My little one was sitting in the lap of a woman I didn’t know. She had a little girl sitting next to her too. Her daughter, I assumed.
I climbed up to them, legs like jelly, extending my arms. “Come here, sweetie,” I said to my eldest, “daddy is okay, he’s okay.” I wiped her tears, and looked at my younger daughter, who was expressionless at this point. She looked comfortable in the woman’s lap.
“They’re taking daddy to the hospital now to check his ouchie,” I told both my girls.
The woman introduced herself to me, and told me she was staying in the same bungalow as us, with her husband and two daughters as well. They were also from Ontario. Fate.
“I’m happy to watch your girls for you,” she was saying. She asked another woman, who was also watching the scene unfold, for a pen and paper. She must have been the one who brought the pillow. Her room was likely close by, because she appeared a moment later with a pen and paper, as requested.
The woman holding my baby wrote her information down. Full name, phone number, room number. She said she would keep them entertained and taken care of while I accompanied my husband to the hospital.
After grabbing our passports and all of the cash we brought with us, I promised my daughters we would be back soon, and ran to the ambulance where they were taking my husband. The butterfly flowers were left on the concrete, soon to shrivel up.
The ambulance ride was nauseating. The stretcher he was resting on was moving around, the wheels weren’t locked. My heart was in my throat, thinking he was going to go flying out of the back doors at any moment. The paramedic focused on sticking what appeared to be ECG wires to my husband’s chest.
When we finally arrived, they transferred him into a wheelchair and brought him inside. It wasn’t exactly a hospital. It was a very quiet clinic, eerily quiet. No patients waiting anywhere. My eyes adjusted to the dim lighting inside, taking in the blue walls and high ceilings.
The room they brought him into was completely white. It was like being in a very large sugar cube. Only one bed, one chair, a sink, a few machines, and an IV drip.
I noticed when he was on the bed that my husband had soiled his shorts. It must have happened during the seizure. The same paramedic from the ambulance was inserting the IV needle into his arm, who also happened to be wearing completely white. He could have camouflaged right into the walls. Another man walked into the room, wearing regular clothes. He introduced himself as the doctor and began asking the required questions. His English was not very good and I was afraid he didn’t know what a seizure was. The extent of my Spanish was “hola”, “no habla espanol”, “per favore”, “gracias”, and “agua.” So I had to explain the seizure using actions. I wanted badly to just get the hell out of there and be with my daughters, but it didn’t look like that would be happening any time soon.
The doctor needed a urine test. They couldn’t take him off the bed, so he had to piss into a glass jar, right in front of me. I looked away. I remembered one of my co-workers snapping a poster on Snapchat from her doctor’s office, showing what healthy urine should look like. Clear. A little yellow is okay; just means you should be drinking more water.
His urine was dark brown.
I didn’t need a doctor to tell me he was severely dehydrated. All alcohol, no water. But he told me anyway, and also advised we would be there for at least another three hours. He left the room, saying he would return shortly.
We were alone in the room.
He looked up at me from the bed. I stood opposite him, my arms folded. Most people say when they see their loved ones in a hospital bed, that they look small. But he didn’t. He looked too tall and too skinny. I saw something else, too. His eyes were full of fear.
“What happened?” he asked me.
I took a deep breath and replied, “You had a seizure.”
“No I didn’t,” he scoffed. Of course. Mr. Denial was here now. He had always been in denial about his drinking. Why would it stop here?
Since there was never any winning with him, I knew there was no point in arguing.
“There are witnesses,” I simply said, “including our daughters.”
His large brown eyes grew even larger. I daresay he looked remorseful for a moment, but looking at him in his fragile condition only enraged me.
“You could have at least drank some fucking water,” I hissed.
He lowered his eyes, peering at the IV and then looked back up.
“I’m sorry,” he said. I didn’t know whether to embrace him or slap him. All I could say back was, “I thought you were dead.” My nose tingled, the lump rose higher into my throat, and when I felt the tears emerging, I left the room.
I walked into what appeared to be an office, where a nurse or receptionist was sitting at a desk. I asked her if it was possible to contact our resort so I could check in on my children. She was kind and eager to help out. I watched her dial the phone number, her long fingernails pressing down on each button. She tried many times, but wasn’t able to get through to them. I wished for some cold water to run over my dry throat and splash over my sweaty body. I needed to know if they were okay. I had never left them alone with anyone, except their teachers at school, let alone strangers in a foreign country.
A shrill ringing cut into my thoughts. The woman answered the phone and immediately handed it to me. It wasn’t my daughters, but it was one of the resort staff letting me know my children were fine. I finally exhaled. I don’t know how long I was holding my breath.
I walked around the empty clinic, not wanting to see that drunkard’s face. It was a mistake, I told myself, a huge mistake bringing him along. This was my fault. I should have come alone with the girls. When they think of their first family trip, this is what they’ll remember.
After getting several litres of water into his system, he was released and advised to not drink any alcohol for a few days. Only food and water.
“Of course,” he obligingly responded to the doctor, but I knew better. He couldn’t go a day without it. And I wasn’t going to stick around with my daughters to see how it played out.
That night, back at the blue bungalow, as he lay in his bed, and the girls and I in ours, I made a decision. It was over. Our marriage was over. Who was I kidding – we weren’t a family. I was foolish to think we could become one in seven magical days, with the Caribbean Sea at our feet.
“Mommy, are you crying?” my four year old whispered, lifting her head in the darkness.
“No,” I whispered back, through sobs.
I closed my eyes, and saw his face. Dead. Blue lips.
I didn’t sleep.
I’m scooping the blue pills from my palm back into their bottle. See you guys tomorrow, I tell them. I check on the girls in their beds. Still asleep. I wonder if he is sleeping. Dead or alive? If he is alive, we wouldn’t know. I guess a drunk father isn’t better than a dead one. It’s the same to us. It’s not that beautiful smile that I see at night, the one I remember from our wedding. Not his warm eyes I see, looking down at me, while we dance. All I see when I close my eyes are the blue lips on his shriveled corpse.