“Katy come to the table please its time for dinner,” I swear Jack she has selective hearing .” I again realize that I am talking to myself as he is never really listening to me about anything. “Jack, what are you doing?” “Oh, sorry nothing just trying to check in for my flight tomorrow.” I become instantly annoyed as he is always on his phone and although I know flying is his job and one that I used to believe he loved, it feels to me as if he is constantly planning his escape. An escape from all the things that I am neither afforded a retreat from yet equally so, things I felt blessed for the consistency and normalcy the mundane brought to my world.
Jack is always coming and going and more disturbing to me lately is the way in which he never seems happy or content regardless if he is home or on the road. When he is gone he sleeps for days at a time or at least that is what he tells me when I can not reach him time and time again. A habit of his that has annoyed and devastated me from the beginning. Especially, when Katy was a baby and I was all alone with no help and not even a life line of a husband an ocean away.
When he is on a trip and not sleeping then he is drinking. The only tolerable piece of that habit is the small window somewhere between the second to fourth drink, in which he seems loving, apologetic about the past, and hopeful for the future. In the first years we were together I told myself I was married to man who just wasn’t a good drunk and thus his behaviors explainable as they seemed for at least a little while to be drink induced. For in those days, although he was mean and nasty beyond what I could even depicted for my closest friends the next day out of sheer shame for the ways I allow him to treat me every time he picks up the bottle, there seemed to be a plausible explanation.
On many occasions more than I think I even allow myself to recall the verbal abuse escalates into physical. Yet, I still tell myself that each time is the last. However, then I grow to miss what was always best about Jack’s drinking. The moments when I actually feel he is interested. Interested in what is going on at home, with myself and my writing and with Katy and her school work.
He is inquisitive and even offers solutions to the problems that he usually can never be bothered with and hides behind his absences as an excuse to be detached rather then the reason he should be hyper-vigilant about all his daughter and I need. Needs that his career and his dream have placed upon our lives. Hardships that not only does he not independently see but even in the beginning of our marriage before I knew all that this would become, when I took the time to express all that I felt. When I made attempts and pleaded for him to see all he couldn’t because he was never there, he simply dismissed them all time and time again. He made it very clear that he could not and would not be bothered with anything he didn’t chose to be.
His ego would throw him into temper tantrums and fits of rage if I ever even hinted that his job made me suffer in the slightest of ways. Truths and realities that were common occurrences and acknowledged by most living a life in the field of aviation. Jack Harlow would hear none of it! He would tell me that I was nothing but ungrateful. He would tell me I was selfish and how blind I was for all his job provided. All of which he never failed to point out was my entire life, as I was little more than a free baby-sitter with a part time passion for her hobby of writing.
So the moments and conversations in which a buzz or momentary peace bridged the gap between our worlds and Jack was willing and able to offers suggestions or even take the initiative to take something odd my plate. Tasks and responsibilities that I was always capable of answering on my own, for ninety-nine percent of the time I had no other choice but to be. Still his words of empathy and concern felt each time comfort I secretly and quietly longed for. For in those rare conversations of alcohol induced camaraderie, I found a place that resembled all that I imagined our life would be like if in fact a true partnership between us existed.
For if there was one emotion to describe the underlying reflection of my marriage to Jack it would be lonely. For even when we are all home together as a family or Jack and I away together on holiday it still always felt like the ocean that is between us when he is flying without fail follows him and I regardless of geography. An unspoken distance between two people who were and had always been living separate lives that came together for the sake of of the life we both now were only pretending to want.
In the upkeep of the ebb and flow of our lives, I asked again. “Jack, what time are you leaving tomorrow?” Not that I truly ever expect to be given an answer in which I could plan a day around much less my entire life. However, out of habit and hope, I ask so he can answer with varying degrees of truth and round and round we go.
“Seven thirty tomorrow night, so I will have to leave here around 4:00pm.” Math to me that never made sense as it was always a domestic flight from Seattle to Houston before going overseas. Knowing he would be in uniform or at least he was when he left our home and in wearing it he would breeze through security. However, I have grown tired of questioning the “facts” that when explained I know now will only lead me to more questions rather than answers.
“OK”, I say while realizing Katy still has not come to the table and he is still lost in distraction to whatever life plagues him hidden behind the security code on his phone. A life I didn’t notice until it was too late and the only life we knew as Jack and Annie Harlow. A life first built around my naivety and unconditional love for a man I didn’t ever know and now one that my exhaustion and fear forces me to turn a blind eye to.
Katheryne come to the dinner table this minute! God I hated the sound of my own voice lately. As all I ever felt to be saying was annoying stereotypical antidotes that fall from the mouths of each and every wife and mother, although I was beginning to understand why. I was in charge of keeping a sinking ship afloat and worse yet a ship that carried the weight of many and without the help of anyone aboard. The ridiculousness in my life had become so profound I was sickened daily by the time, effort and emotional toll it had on me and in which I gave to the days that went unnoticed, and unappreciated. I had spent the last twelve years supporting a man who was gone from my life for twenty one days at a time and yet he never failed to complain about the things he had to repair or the appointments I had scheduled when I could count on him being home. My life and sadly even now Katy’s were nothing more than impositions and obligations “we” unfairly placed upon his time.
A begrudging and hurtful response given over and over by the man I loved and who I once believed loved me. Yet in the end when I saw what it was that occupied and consumed his every waking moment the only peace I found was that it was the love and attention of a man who was never capable and his cruelty had never been due to the inadequacies I placed on myself. For never once did I ever seem to feel that Jack saw me as a good wife or even a good person for more than a few fleeting days here and there. For regardless of what or how I tried I just never could seem to do anything right much less make my husband happy nor proud.
Untruths that rather than dispute I grew to accept about myself and the weaker I became the bigger the wounds and scares I carried became. The ones he effortlessly and in the end seemed to proudly leave upon my heart and soul. Jack broke my spirit until I no longer cared about having one much less one that I years ago embraced and proudly fought in the name of. A free spirit writer once, now a broken housewife living in a tangled web of lies. Lies that I had no way of knowing just how tragically disturbing they would reveal themselves to be.
For Jack sucked the life out of me daily and shattered the dreams I once believed in and wore me down until I could little more than get through the days with a smile for my daughter’s sake. My own desperation became a mask to things so horrific and unimaginable that had I only taken it off sooner, the lives that were lost at the hand of my husband may have been saved.
For Jack killed me slowly but the others they lost their lives within hours of meeting the charming pilot from Seattle with a picture of the perfect family conveniently and purposely placed in his wallet. For not only did we provide the security that allowed Jack to do the evil things he did with the assurance of anonymity.
The family portrait, the one I insisted we take the spring after Katy was born, gave to countless women the security of a family man. A security that even as the one next to him in the photo the one holding his daughter, a security I, myself never felt.