Writings

Grief Journal

He used to call me, “sweet cheeks”, “hussy” (inside joke), his “squeeze” and, of course, “babe”. When he was trying to be funny in front of his brothers, he would call me, “Puneet” instead of Taneet, and then I would reply with, “who the HELLLL is Puneet?” and we all laughed.

Sometimes he made me laugh really hard. Other times I made him laugh really hard. Lots of times we both just laughed and laughed, especially with our daughters. There were little things about me that he mocked which was actually hilarious to me. For instance, when he found out my family’s nickname for me has always been Mattu (pronounced ma-two if you don’t have an Indian accent), he (being a big Star Wars fan) called me “R2-D2”. Or whenever I made my weird Chewbacca sounds he echoed it so loud that my belly would ache from laughing. He knew how to be extra silly, and I think it came out more around me and our girls. He could be really quick-witted and I loved that about him.

The thing about having a partner/spouse is that you get to see all sides of them. Others only see just their professional side, or sporty side. I saw who he was as a son, a brother, a father, a cousin, a nephew, a grandson. And because we worked together in the same office, I also got to see him in the role of a manager, co-worker, businessman, and all-knowing insurance/sales guy. He showed me his vulnerable side time and time again. Outside of our home I knew when he was pretending in front of others and when he put up his walls. That’s what marriage is. Seeing, experiencing and accepting all truths, the ones nobody else sees.

He taught me so much. I knew nothing about sports when I met him. I was just a nerd getting through life with my nose constantly in a book. But he brought me into the world of horse racing, football, baseball, hockey, soccer. So I wouldn’t get bored when a game was on, he explained every rule, not to mention background stories, biographies of the players/coaches and history of the teams. Before I met him, I never attempted to reverse park. But he taught me how. And to this day, I still use his technique. And whenever Soca/Reggae/Calypso/Caribbean was on (and it was on a lot) he explained what the lyrics meant and where it all originated from. Since I didn’t grow up watching shows like The Simpsons and King of the Hill, he made sure I dove into that world as well.

He was basically obsessed with his brothers and parents. After we started dating for about two months, he asked me if he could introduce me to his family. He wanted the two things he loved most to come together. I became as attached as he was to his brothers; it was hard not to. They were an extension of him.

He loved wearing plaid. Actually, much of his plaid collection came from me. His favourite football team was the Denver Broncos (fave player was Peyton Manning, number 18), his favourite soccer team was Real Madrid (fave player was Cristiano Ronaldo, number 7 – which is also his birthdate), which reminds me; he loved soccer so much that a couple of days after our second baby was born and we were still in the hospital, he asked me if he could go home for a bit to watch the World Cup. I was like, “reeeeallly, dude?” (in my head though – but on the outside I just smiled and nodded because I knew how badly he wanted to see it. I did roll my eyes so hard that I’m pretty sure I felt it in my c-section stitches!)

Also – he was unusually obsessed with ice. Every morning he woke up, walked to the kitchen, opened the freezer and popped a few ice cubes into his mouth and chewed them very loudly. And he could not get through the morning without asking me to “squeeze” his head. I usually didn’t mind it because he had such soft, thick, lovely hair before having to get ready for work and putting that Axe hair product in it.

I knew what his favourite meals were that his mom made; spinach and chicken, and pumpkin and shrimp, but we both shared a deep love for Mexican food, specifically burritos, tacos, fajitas and quesadillas. When we wanted to really treat ourselves, we would look at each other and say, “BURRITOS FROM CHIPOTLE.” It was our thing. He also loved when I tucked him into bed so tight that he was a human burrito.

Just as I saw all sides of him, he saw all sides of me. He saw me in my truest form; a really messy, emotional nerd who hoarded books, documented everything and spoke in too many accents.
He always knew when I was in the washroom taking a poop because I would flush more than once (sorry – TMI) and he would say, “droppin’ a deuce in there?” and turn on the fan because the switch was on the outside of the washroom. I still remember the first time he farted in front of me when we were still dating, he just casually said, “excuse me”, but the first time he heard me fart was in the middle of the night when Annabella was a newborn and I was rocking her to sleep. He looked up from the bed and asked, “did you just fart?” and mortified, I said, “noooooo, that was the BABY.”

We could complain about our family members to each other, or talk smack about certain co-workers, and share our “dutty” jokes with each other (i.e. that’s-what-she-said jokes). Oh, he loved the show, The Office and Michael Scott was his favourite character. But he wasn’t into it as much when Michael left the show.

We shared a mutual love for Batman. I’ll never forget when we went to see The Dark Knight Rises in theatres. Our favourite scene was when all the bats emerged as Bruce finally escaped that cave. But again, he taught me a lot about superheroes and the original comic book stories that I didn’t know growing up. On the day of our wedding reception (which was two days after our ceremony) he pretended to be Christian Bale driving the Tumbler (in his Nissan 350Z) and yelled to me, “RACHELLLLLLLLL! HANG ON RACHELLLLLL!” And when I was on maternity leave, every morning when he left for work I would send him a quote from a Batman movie to his work email so that he would see it as soon as he got to the office.

The sweeter side of him told me I was beautiful, gorgeous, and recognized my strengths and talents. One day at work, I used my lunch break to walk around the office and get people to sign a birthday card for my team leader that I had made out of bristol board, and when I got to his office, he said to me, “this is what makes you so special.” He would tell people how easily I could personalize things through my writing.

He helped me pay off my student loan early in our marriage. Most of the downpayment for our condo came from his many years of savings. He used his line of credit to buy me and our girls a car after we separated. And when that car was totalled in an accident, he was the one I called first and the one to bring me home from the hospital.

When I got food poisoning at work one day, he was the one I called to pick me up (this is when we were separated) and he brought me home (to the condo we all used to live in) and then picked up the girls from daycare. We all stayed together that night and the next few days. When I fainted twice from having literally no energy or food in my system, he was the one who lifted me off the floor and carried me to bed.

Some of my favourite gifts from him are: one year for my birthday, Disney re-released Cinderella from the ‘vault’, as the Diamond Edition, and knowing it was my favourite, he got it for me; another time he got me a Kindle because I love reading (and also because he thought it would stop me from buying so many books – I didn’t stop by the way); a little Flamingo pin (which is currently sitting on my dresser), a tiny bear made out of glass with my birthstone in it for mother’s day, a random bouquet of flowers, and my absolute FAVOURITE; tickets to see Aladdin live in theatres, where I cried during the “a whole new world” scene and he looked at me and said, “are you CRYING?” and I said, “shut up.”

Of course, there were much darker times in our marriage which led to our separation, but after some time apart, although we lived at different addresses (five minutes away from each other and eventually an hour away from each other), we still managed to stay connected, every day. Mostly because of our daughters, but also because we were great friends. He didn’t agree with many things I shared through my writing, but he also made sure to applaud my parenting and my role as our daughters’ mother.

We worked together to ensure our girls knew we are still always a family.

I sometimes catch myself picking up my phone to call him and tell him something and have the sudden realization that he isn’t there to answer me.

And that’s when the pain hits.

I’ve read about the different stages of grief and mine are all over the place. It’s not linear and clear cut. One day I feel I’ve accepted his death. The next I’m screaming in my head, “HE CAN’T BE GONE.”

When I sleep, I dream of him – about him coming back to life.
When I’m awake, I see his face in the casket. And it’s like the wind gets knocked out of me.

I miss hugging him. He was so tall that my head was at his chest and my arms would wrap around his torso. We always greeted each other with a hug and kiss on the cheek whenever I dropped the girls off with him, and again when I picked them up. I always said, “I love you” before getting in the car and he always said it back. It was important to me that our girls saw this exchange so they understood, parents can be separated and still love and respect each other.

I’m remembering a time last year when I couldn’t sleep, it was around 3am. He couldn’t sleep either and he called me. We talked and laughed. I don’t know anymore what we said to each other but I remember a huge smile on my face.

photo from our honeymoon

Short Stories

A Bird at Breakfast

He sits down next to me on the bench we have on our front porch. I want to reach my fingers up to the hair falling over his forehead but the warm breeze beats me to it. Instead I straighten out the scraggly hairs on his left eyebrow like I’ve done for so many years. Usually, he would jokingly swat my hand away but this time he just looks into my face. Searching, waiting.

“What’s wrong, Taneet?” he asks me.

I can’t look him in his big, brown eyes, the same as Annabella’s, so full of love. I drop my hands in my lap and play with my two karas.

“I feel like a fraud”, I whisper. He places his hand over mine so I stop fidgeting. The feeling of his hand on mine is like medicine on a festering wound. I clear my throat.

“It’s like…I was so quick to start calling you my ex-husband after I left. And since you’ve left me, I’ve been calling you my husband again. It’s weird and selfish. I have no right. I built this whole single mom life while we were separated and felt so proud of it. But since you’ve been gone, I’ve felt nothing but a complete void. An emptiness. A huge loss. Suddenly I’m a widow. I just feel like such a fraud. I don’t deserve-“

“Taneet. Taneet, stop. Stop”, he says.

“But I know what people have been thinking and saying about me. They think I have no right to grieve your loss. I used to just let people assume we were divorced when we weren’t. I tried to make myself appear stronger than I actually am. I could never bring myself to divorce you. I wanted to be a family again. For the girls. They wanted it so badly. I did, too. And when we were finally planning for you to move in here with us this summer…” I can’t catch my breath.

“Taneet. Stop. Look at me.”

I bring my gaze up to his and lower it again. I can’t look him in the eyes.

“Taneet. You only need to worry about two things: the girls. That’s it. I don’t care about anyone else. People are stupid. Who cares what they think?”

“Unfortunately, I do”, I say, looking down at my lap again.

He’s reaching into the pocket of his hoodie. I look over.

“This”, he says, “this is all that matters.”

He shows me a crumpled photo of the four of us in Cuba.

“Remember, Taneet. You are the captain of our ship. You hold us together.”

I take the photo with shaky hands and bite my lower lip.

“I’m sorry”, I begin to sob, “I’m so sorry, Andrew, I’m so sorry. I failed. I failed! I couldn’t keep our family together! I couldn’t keep you safe and healthy. I couldn’t take away your pain!”

I’m choking and hiccuping on tears now. He was never the best at comforting me when I cried. It made him uncomfortable. But he takes my face with both hands now and wipes my tears. He smiles and shakes his head.

“You gave me everything, Taneet. Our girls. You’ve done an amazing job. You’re a wonderful mother. Hey, hey, hey, stop.”

My snot is now shooting out of my nose and mixing in with my tears around my chin as he uses his sleeve to wipe my face.

“Taneet”, he continues, “people are always going to talk. It doesn’t matter. I was my happiest when I was with you. You know that.”

I continue to cry. I can’t seem to stop.

“We miss you. So much. The girls. The girls need you. I’m not enough for them. They need their daddy. Annabella will be a teenager in a few years! I can’t do this without you!”

“I’m here, I’m here!”

“No! You’re dead! You left us, you left us! You died! Why did you have to die?”

I’m shouting now, my throat raw, but he still looks at me and smiles.

“I’m always with you. Always.” He wraps his arms around me. He’s warm. The last time I touched him he was cold as ice. I allow myself to melt into him. I feel the summer breeze again, passing through our embrace. It feels like we are sitting here for hours and hours.

“I finally figured out the song you were always humming”, I say into his chest, my eyes closed, “when the girls were watching the Wizard of Oz the other day, it was like a light bulb went on and then- “

He’s gone. I can feel his warmth but I don’t see him anywhere. A familiar song takes my attention from the seat next to me and past the porch to the sugar maple tree in the front yard. There sits a brilliantly red cardinal looking right back at me. Singing loudly, assuredly.

I exhale into the passing breeze and it flows back into the cardinal’s song. Sweet, strong and familiar.

Short Stories

Daydream

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.

Short Stories

Diamonds for Dinner

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.

Short Stories

Blue

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.

Seizure. Seizure.

“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.

My daughters.

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.

Poetry

Easy

It’s just easier. Easier to be alone.
Don’t have to worry about checking his phone.

Easier with the dishes. Not too many to clean.
Don’t have to worry about what he didn’t mean.

Easier in bed. No snoring in my ear.
No. Don’t miss his body, holding me near.

Easier in the morning. No make up, no shower.
No, don’t have to worry about marriage and power.

Easier with the kids. No drama at all.
Don’t have to worry if he’ll catch my fall.

Easier when the family gets together.
No, he’s not here again, I’m alone forever.

Easier without that diamond on my finger.
No, there’s no heaviness, no weight that lingers.

Easier without the smell. No more Bacardi.
Don’t have to worry about all his mini parties.

It’s easier to be alone. No more abuse.
Don’t have to care about his being obtuse.

Easy, just look. It’s easy to do.
No, my heart’s not broken, it’s good as new.

It’s easy to be hard. No more being weak.
No, I’m not crying, my eyes sometimes leak.

The easiness comes and the easiness goes.
After all, it’s what my kismet chose.

 

 

Writings

Everything and Nothing

She looked directly into her husband’s eyes and asked him, “what do you do for our children?”

“Enough”, he answered, taking a sip of his brownish drink, the ice clinking together as he brought the glass to his lips.

She took a deep breath, remembering the many times he criticized her while she stayed home on maternity leave to care for their baby. The many times he came home after work to find her still in her pajamas, hair unwashed, smelling of spit-up milk, sleep deprived, and accused her of being lazy. She remembered how he told her she is “getting paid to do nothing” post-partum, and how he walked past the baby and straight to the couch. She remembered the look on his face, pure disgust, when she showed him the pregnancy test she had taken, proving they were going to have a second child. How he told her, “this isn’t gonna happen.”

But it did happen. He couldn’t stop it from happening. Even though he took great pleasure in moments that led to it happening.

She felt the heat rising from inside her chest, into her cheeks, into her brain.

“I do everything for them”, she said to him, her voice quiet but laced with contempt.

“No”, he responded, “if you do everything, that means I do nothing.”

Her mind raced, as she thought of all the things she did, day in and day out, night after night.

Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, diaper changing, walking around all night to sooth their crying baby, bath time, reading books, playing down on the floor, balancing a cranky baby while cooking or doing laundry, going for walks with the stroller (and later, a double stroller), buying new clothes every few months, making baby food, cleaning baby food, ensuring they get all their vaccinations, dealing with illnesses and doctors appointments, picking up their prescriptions, arranging play dates, finding a suitable daycare. Then, as they grew up, making sure their children got into good schools, attending all the parent-teacher interviews, all the school performances, taking them to birthday parties, planning their own birthday parties, paying for school trips, chaperoning school trips, paying for extracurricular activities, arranging music lessons and swimming lessons and never missing a recital or performance, taking all their photos and making photo albums, arranging for family dinners and get togethers so their children got to know both sides of the family, reading books every night and helping with homework. Wiping their tears, cuddling them, sleeping with them, waking up in the middle of the night when one of them has a bad dream, massaging their legs when they have growing pains, giving them medicines to fight fevers, taking time off work to care for them, fighting with the bus company when the school bus was late, making daycare payments, making dentist appointments, finding the warmest winter jackets and hats and mittens and neck warmers and snow pants, taking them to the movies, taking them out to eat, packing their school lunches at 5am, playing with them, taking them to the park, building snowmen with them, breaking up the sibling rivalries, scrubbing their vomit out of the carpet, having dance time in the kitchen, scrapbooking their artwork, taking them to the library, being silly with them, being serious with them, answering all of their questions, teaching them how to become good people, how to treat others with kindness…oh the list went on.

She knew there was so much more. And there would continue to be more. She smiled to herself as she watched him drink.

Let him think what he wants. I’m the one making memories while it all passes him by. He does nothing. He has nothing. I have all of the moments of magic and wonder. Moments he missed out on and will never again have the opportunity to experience.

She took pleasure in knowing that one day their children would come to the same conclusion she had. She watched him drink, wanting to throw it in his face. But she wouldn’t. She gets the memories. He gets misery. That’s his own punishment.

“Mama!” she heard her children call, “mama we need you!”

She exhaled, drawing away from him, turning her back on him, leaving him alone with his drink.

Poetry

Someone Else

Your wife
She sleeps soundly
As you
Lay awake
Beside her
Phone in your hand
Messaging
Someone else

My husband
Is awake on the couch
As I
Lay alone in bed
While he
Whispers into his phone to
Someone else

Why do they always need
Someone else
The person in their bed
Is never enough
The person in their bed
Is just
A body

If he hasn’t already
He will
Use another body
Someone else

Someone else

Someone else

someone.else.