Karien Nortje

“Till death do us part”

It took only a few minutes to tell me.  I try to stay focused, act normal.  Normal?  I pick up dirty laundry from our bedroom floor.  Put the lid back on the Panado bottle.  (We had a rough night.)  You grab me by the arm, force me down on the chair facing you.  You say you need to know how I feel.  You need to know if I’ll be okay.  Okay??  Speechless I stare into your beautiful green eyes.  I used to think I could enter into the most secret places of your soul, through those eyes.  I thought I knew every expression.

Answers I don’t have.  Desperately I search for sounds that symbolise and communicate meaning.  I have lost my ability to talk.  There’s no way of putting these scary, messy feelings into words.

Three years ago you whispered: “Till death do us part”.  You kissed me with warm promises of a lifetime together.  I believed you.  I believed you so much!  Our life together was built on love and laughter, moments of passion and desire.  I used to be the extrovert.  The energy you craved for.  Dancing with life.  The successful executive you admired.  Then, “life” happened to us.  I fell pregnant.  At first, you loved the idea.  The reality of constant morning sickness, a changing body shape and weird emotions, hit us hard.  I became the serious one, not fun to be with.  You took every chance to enhance your social life without me.  I knew everything would return to normal once Sarah was born.  I loved you so much.  I just knew you felt the same.

But now, my mind starts playing games with me.  Shows me teasing bits of information I hadn’t seen.  A slow motion replay of broken promises smashing to the ground.  All this time, you have been the amazing conductor of an orchestra of lies and deception.  And I, a complete fool, lost in the music of love.

A cry from the room next door, jerks me to reality.  It’s Sarah, waking from her afternoon nap.  My body responds automatically with motherly instinct.  As if controlled by an outside force, I get up to fetch our eight month old baby girl.  She awaits me with outstretched arms.  Her cry dissolves into a smile of relief and excitement.  Seeing Sarah makes me realise the enormity of what is happening to us.  Our little angel will have to face this world without a daddy by her side.  Grow up with shame and pain, always defending the normality.  I wipe away a curl from her sweaty cheek and plant a kiss on her forehead.  How can she ever comprehend what is happening to us today?

I turn to see that you have followed me quietly, your green eyes pulled down by heavy shame.  I press Sarah’s warm sleepy body against my chest.  The cry breaks loose in my chest and escapes from my mouth.  At first, just a harsh whisper from my throat: “Get out”. Then, in a stranger’s voice: “I said, GET OUT!”  Sarah, frightened by my loss of control, reaches to you.  You take her into your steady arms and you watch me crash helplessly into a heap on the floor.  My sobbing, jerking body curls into the foetal position.  I want to rest in my pain for just a little while.  The life we had is over.

I get up painfully, slowly.  You back off as I approach to claim back our daughter.  You give Sarah to me.  Then, turn around and walk away.  Neither of us is a victor in this war.  We are dead soldiers who once fought for love and hope.  We are bodies scattered on a battlefield I never knew existed.  “Till death do us part?” In this war victory belongs to a third party, claiming land that was never intended to be available.

From the corner of my eye I see your shadow closing in.  Before I get the chance to move away, you wrap us both in strong, protective arms.  Your embrace hurts and I don’t mind.  For now I choose to be the helpless victim in my abuser’s arms.  Still.  Perfect.  Whole …  For just a little while longer …

But time is not patient and moves on.  We both realize the intensity of this farewell.  Broken souls part and move towards an unknown future.  With nothing still, nothing perfect and nothing whole.

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