In a tattered t-shirt and ripped up jeans, cigarette dangling between my fingers as tears and running mascara stained my cheeks, I took one long drag and blew smoke.
I blinked for the first time in what seemed like hours when my bedroom door creaked open and he attempted to tip-toe in. See, I’m sitting in the dark and at 2 a.m., the only light creeping through the blinds that rest against the window was the moonlight, and there wasn’t much of that.
I watched as he began undressing. I could hear him throwing his jacket, unbuckling his pants, kicking his shoes against the wall. This had become too much of a routine, only difference now is that I found the courage to sit up and wait.
He sniffled before turning on the light. One side had been blown out since this morning so it was dimmer than usual, and that suited me just fine. From the look on his face I could tell that my ‘raccoon’ appearance startled him. After all, I was never the type of woman to look anything less than my best, even when it was late at night and I was … “Supposed to be in bed by now, aren’t you?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“You’ve got work early in the morning.” I do. But somehow, it’s set in my mind that work and everything else will have to take a seat on the backburner until I can figure out what’s going on in my own home, with my man, behind my back. “You look a mess, should have washed all of that makeup off. And why are you smoking, since when do you smoke?”
“Since you missed our anniversary dinner.”
“Danielle, that was seven months ago.”
“I know.” I took another drag before putting the cigarette out, leaning back against the palm of my hands as I watched him undress. His back to mine, I guess he figured I’d be too blind to notice the scratches, and too dumb to say anything about them. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me anymore Anthony. I smoke now, I drink, crash diet, and so many other things.”
“Why? Why would you ruin your beautiful body by doing all of these things, killing yourself by smoking? This isn’t you Danielle.”
“What else am I supposed to do when I’m trying to figure out new ways to please my husband when it’s so obvious that you’re finding pleasure elsewhere?” I’d been staring at the ceiling by now so I turned my attention back to him, looking into his eyes. “What else am I supposed to do when I’m crying and wondering why my husband doesn’t love me anymore?”
“Of course I love you Danielle, don’t be foolish.” Anthony walked into the bathroom closing the door behind him. Immediately I heard the shower running.
I got up and walked into the bathroom, staring at myself in the mirror once I caught sight of my frightful appearance. Looking at his silhouette, a million questions ran through my mind.
Who is this man? And where is the Anthony I married? Who does he love now and is she taking my place?
I hurriedly opened the shower door, startling him as he dropped his towel and soap ran down his body. “Damn Baby, if you wanted to join, all you had to do was ask.”
“What’s her name?”
Anthony took one deep breath before taking my hand in his, pulling me towards his wet body as he ran his fingers through my hair and down the sides of my face. “Danielle, you know that there is no one else in my life. I love you; I gave my heart to you. Come on Boo, stop tripping.” He planted soft kisses along my neck, attempting to lift my shirt but I pulled away. I could smell the scent he tried to wash away quickly and the sight of the scratches on his back shot to the front of my mind.
“Come on, get in the shower with me Babe, let me make you feel better.”
Grabbing his face, looking into his eyes, I only had one question to ask. “Why are you calling me Boo and Babe? Those have never been your nicknames for me.”
“Danielle, why are you bugging about everything?”
“Why are you changing all of a sudden? Since when do you pull me close by wrapping one arm around my waist? Since when do you run your fingers through my hair, kiss along my neck? Since when do you shower as soon as you walk through the door, undress in the dark, and expect me to be asleep when you know I worry about you at night? Since when do you come home with scratches on your back?!”
I pushed him away and walked back into the bedroom, pacing back and forth while trying to keep myself calm.
I said that I wasn’t going to yell, I wasn’t going to act belligerent or let him bring the South Baton Rouge out of me.
Anthony walked in a few seconds later and looked at me as he wrapped a towel around his waist. “Nothing has changed about me Danielle, I’ve done all of this for years. You just never noticed.”
“I am not stupid Anthony. You leave early in the morning, stay gone all day long. You never call home or call to check on me, you come home at all hours of the night. You’ve been forgetting entirely too much lately.”
“I only forgot our anniversary because I’ve been working a little too much, I’ve been swamped at the office and the pressures of trying to perform well that month got the best of me.”
“Another woman got the best of you. Just admit it.”
“There is no one else Danielle.”
“There has to be!! You don’t touch me the same, you don’t look at me the same. You don’t hold me, talk to me. I even think that if you could go without seeing me at all, you would. I know you don’t see me as your wife anymore.”
“I’m just a doormat, here for sex when your mistresses can’t be found. I know it.”
“You’re being ridiculous, and I’m getting real tired of these accusations you’ve been throwing at me lately. You know what, perhaps you’re the one that’s cheating.”
“You know that’s not true! I would give up everything in this world for you but you wouldn’t even give two shits.”
Anthony clenched his jaw as he stared at me, but I wasn’t backing down this time. We’ve been down this road once before and I’m convinced that if I let it go on any longer, it’ll escalate to more than just him cheating. “Just tell me her name. Who is the woman that’s got you dressing differently, talking differently, and acting differently? Who is the woman that’s gotten all of your attention now? The woman who made you forget all of the things that I love? I bet you couldn’t even tell me where my spot is, you don’t make love to me the same. You treat me as if I’m worth nothing to you now.”
My tears were flowing again, and like many times lately, he didn’t even bother to console or comfort me. He’s not the man I married, a stranger.
“I’m committed and dedicated to you Danielle. And that’s the end of this discussion. Either join me for a little fun in the shower or go to bed. Just stop bringing this foolish cheating shit up.”
“I said NO. Tell me her name? Is she better than me? More experienced, willing to do more sexually? Why are you cheating on me?!”
He grabbed me by my arms, shaking me a little as she clenched his teeth and spoke lowly. “I’m not cheating, and that is the last time I’m going to say it.”
Throwing me back, I fell on to the bed, rocking myself back and forth as he walked back into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him.
In one swift moment, without fully thinking it through, I searched my dresser for a few shirts and a couple pairs of shorts, some panties and socks, throwing them into a small duffle bag after pulling it out of the closet. I zipped it up, slid on a pair of sneakers, and grabbed my keys. Staring at the bathroom door for a few moments, I thought about going in and banging his head against the wall of the shower, but I left it alone.
He won’t confess to what is so evident, and I refuse to be with someone I don’t even know anymore. Maybe we’ve both changed, maybe I’m just not good enough anymore. Maybe we’ve just outgrown one another and he doesn’t know how to say he wants out. Whatever it is, I’m done living a lie with a stranger.