In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”
I had not seen my friend for a few months. I’ve known her longer than I’ve known my husband. I’ve been reluctant to tell anyone what is happening. I always thought you don’t talk about your husband. But that was before I realized. So first, I asked her what she thinks of him. He’s a nice guy. Nothing negative to report.
Then I began.
I told her about my feelings, how I feel disregarded and made to feel as an inconvenience. I gave her examples of him sending his dad to take me to surgery so he didn’t “have to” take a day off work. Of him wiping cheese on the kitchen towel with no regard to my food allergies and my use of the kitchen. Of his inability to understand why I would think I could come home when I want and not see his parents in my yard.
Any example taken alone seems somewhat trivial, like a blip in a long marriage. But as I take these examples together and see how many of them have happened in the past few years, I am unable to contain my concern that it is ending, that it is too late, that I’ve shut down and he is still insisting the problem is my unhappiness rather than the things leading to my unhappiness.
She suggests that I write an email; she thinks that, as an engineer, he will comprehend and respond better. I know he doesn’t read the routine emails I send him now so I’m reluctant.
He doesn’t read. He doesn’t write. He doesn’t believe in lifelong continuous learning. How are we SO different? How did I think that was going to work. Oh, love. Stability, partnership, security…
So I write. I write a love letter, turned into a letter of heartbreak. I write it on scrap papers, in pencil, the words flowing, ebbing, coming as fast as I can scribble, until I find myself writing over and over “I do not have to be perfect.” He has recently told me, as we discussed some trivial thing I had not done but he expected done, that I am perfect, that I must be perfect, and I am having a terrible time understanding what to do with that.
I am grateful I learned to love writing in cursive as a child, one of the few things I love about my childhood. If I give him this letter, it will be rewritten on a clean piece of stationary or in a card. I doubt I will give him this letter.
“…I cannot fulfill that role. You tell me I’m perfect, that I have to be perfect. I am not perfect; I do not have to be perfect. I do not have to be perfect. I do not have to be perfect for you. I do not have to be perfect to be loved. I do not have to be perfect to be valuable. I do not have to be perfect to hear the man who loves me tell me I’m perfect, beautiful, awesome, amazing, loved, worthy of affection. I do not have to be perfect.”
But I have a secret. I’m ashamed to admit, I lied. My friend asked if there was another. Of course there is no one else, I said.
But there is a friend. He was barely a friend in our circle, then just barely my friend. My husband introduced us because of some similar health issues. I only meant to be friends.
And then he hugged me. And I haven’t been hugged like that in so long, I almost couldn’t let go. As we became better friends, he let me know I don’t have to let go.
He said it was okay to cry. I haven’t had someone tell me that in so long, I almost couldn’t stop crying.
I asked him to kiss me. And he did. And I haven’t been kissed like that in so long, I hoped it wouldn’t stop.
We found the lines we won’t cross. We claim it is temporary, that it will end when my husband is ready to go to counseling or work it out with me. But his kindness, the gentleness in his soul, his friendship has shown me what I don’t have. And I don’t know how I will go back to accepting the touch of a husband who does not want to kiss me, just wants to fuck, who does not have affection for me but believes this is love.
I wrote my friend a love letter. It started on a scrap of paper just as this letter did. But the words are so different. I told him how he made me feel beautiful and amazing, but more than that, he made me feel heard and okay.
When I saw him, after he received the card I wrote his love letter in (never saying that word), he held me and thanked me for the beautiful words I wrote to him. Handwritten, heart-written words.
He continues to tell me I’m okay, it will be okay. I told him he makes me feel that I’m already okay. And he held me close and told me that is the nicest thing I’ve ever said to him. His appreciation of this simple comment touches me. And I think of writing another letter. Handwritten and heart-written.