When the doctor comes in he nods and listens and suggests something for the anxiety and to help me sleep. He is kind, he is concerned, but we both know that what I need isn’t a medical intervention. He asks again whether I have family in the area and if I’ve been hooked up with any social services. No and yes.
As I walk through the parking lot of the medical plaza, prescription in hand, a cool wind blows across the prairie, a welcome shift from the late summer heat. It’s the same sky, the same hospital across the street I’ve driven by a hundred times, the world hasn’t changed on the outside. It's my own world that is unrecognizable.
I now have a restraining order on behalf of my children. I now have an estranged husband who is under criminal investigation. All that was once certain has dissolved.
I am still raw from the day at the courthouse. When the police urged me to get a restraining order, they agreed to release enough information on his case to make sure it was granted. They passed the information to my lawyer, who in turn passed it to me.
I sat and listened as she relayed to me the breadth and details of what she had learned. She didn’t parse her words, wanting me to know everything. I struggled to take it all in, my sense of reality and my soft-spun illusions collapsing one upon the other. When she was done I wept and my friend held me close for a long time in the cold and windowless courthouse witness room.
For two days I lay in bed and did nothing. People called me and texted me, but I had no words for them.
* * * *
There was a brief time, after the assault, when I was nostalgic for when it was all just a divorce. Back then I had a plan worked out, a structure in place. Then I had to rejigger it to fit the new reality of violence into the plan. I figured we could keep the settlement we had worked out and that my children would still have their father in their lives. When I found out about the criminal investigation, and as I realized everything was disintegrating, there was an even briefer time that I was nostalgic for when it was merely divorce and domestic violence.
But now. Now I have accepted that the whole structure has collapsed. I will start afresh. Build something new.
Some days I catch my reflection in the mirror and I am surprised. I am not used to the new lean lines of my figure or the tiredness in my eyes. But beneath this, there is something else. Beneath the exhaustion, there is an electric pulse that wasn’t there before and I know that despite how far and how fast I have fallen, that I will be okay. The impact from this fall will not break me apart, but rather it is breaking me open. This is not a death, but a birthing, and as this slow-churning plunge draws to a close it is time for me to come out from under the shadow of my half-self and begin a new life.
A funny thing happens when you lose so much. You also lose your inhibitions and your illusions and your fear of falling and you are left with nothing but the white hot center of your truth. As I stand here in the ashes of what was and consider the empty landscape before me, I am at peace with the ambiguity of my future, and yet there are two things I know with a rock solid certainty.
One, that I love my children like the oceans deep and I would do anything, give up everything to protect their innocence and the sanctity of their gentle souls.
And two, that I want to go home. The call is clear and distinct. After so very many years the hour hand has spun around the dial enough times and I am waiting only for the minutes to pass. I feel the unmistakable pull of her time-worn shores and I know, quite simply, it is time to go home.