You know how, in movies, when people wake up in the hospital, they never seem to know where they are? The camera fades in, and everything is sort of fuzzy as the person lying in the bed takes in their surroundings. The bright lights. The sterile smells. The way they never quite seem to be alone, regardless of whether someone is actually in the room with them. You’re supposed to feel sympathy for this character. Feel bad that they’ve gone through something so traumatic and out of the ordinary that it takes several minutes for their brain to catch up.
You know what I feel for those people?
I know exactly where I am when my eyes finally crack open. I don’t get those few minutes of blissful unawareness before I remember what happened that landed me here.
I remember everything.
You see, this isn’t the first time I’ve woken up alone in a hospital bed.
And it won’t be the last time either unless you wake your ass up and do something about it, a little voice niggles at the back of my mind.
That’s also something I’ve experienced before. That voice of reason always hangs out somewhere in my head.
Too bad I never listen to her.
I brace my hands on each side of my legs in an attempt to push myself up into a sitting position. The second I put pressure on my left hand, a blinding pain shoots up my arm and into my shoulder. Glancing down, I find my hand and forearm are encased in a cast.
Great. Another broken bone.
“What did you and Daddy do this morning?”
Cade’s eyes brighten as he recounts his day, “Daddy said you needed to sleep after you got home from the hospital. So, after he picked me up from Mrs. Wilson’s house, we went to get pancakes, and then he took me to the park. Zach was there. We played on the monkey bars. I crossed them five times before I fell, Mom!”
I eat up every bit of his excitement. “You did? Wow! I bet that’s some sort of record.”
He nods emphatically. “I’m pretty sure it is. Zach was so mad. He used to be better than me, remember, Mom? But he only crossed three times. I beat him by two whole times!”
“He was amazing out there. Best monkey-bar crosser I’ve ever seen; that’s for sure,” James interjects, interrupting the moment between me and Cade.
We both turn to look at him again, and I finally register his appearance. He’s dressed nice—neatly pressed black slacks with a crisp white button-down, rolled up to his elbows. In his left hand, he’s holding a huge bouquet of red roses, arranged perfectly with sprigs of baby’s breath shooting up between them. They’re gorgeous. And I can’t stand the sight of them.
After every one of our episodes, I always get one of two versions of James. The first version is the James I’ve come to know. The James who blames me for everything. He shows up the next day, telling me he’s sorry, but if I’d just listen to him, obey him, like I vowed to do on our wedding day, then these things wouldn’t happen. It doesn’t matter that he might be angry because a judge ruled against him or that he might have had a particularly bad day at work. If he comes home and takes it out on me, it’s still somehow my fault.
And then there’s this James. I’ve only seen this James on a few occasions since the night we brought Cade home from the hospital. This James is charming. He brings flowers. He promises that things will be different from now on. That he’ll never hurt me again. That he’ll go back to therapy. He tells me how much he loves me and Cade and how he couldn’t survive without us. He apologizes for not only hurting me this time, but also for every other time before. He cries. He sobs. He tells me I’m the only woman on earth he’ll ever love. He makes me feel sorry for him.
I hate this version of James. As crazy as it sounds, I prefer the former. At least with that James, I know where I stand. I know that, no matter what I say or do, it’s never going to be right. And I’ve come to accept that things are not going to change. This is my life, so there’s no use in wishing for something different.
But then this James…this James confuses me. This James reminds me of the way things were before we were married and while I was pregnant. This James reminds me that things weren’t always so bad, and it gives me hope that things can go back. That we can be happy again. That Cade might finally have two loving parents, like he deserves.
This James is a liar. I know that. After falling for it several times before, I know nothing is going to change. Not in the long run. We might have a few good weeks following his plea where he dotes on me and Cade, making us believe we’re the most important things in his world.
But, inevitably, things go back to the way they were. All it takes is one bad day, and we fall back into the same pattern as before—James coming home angry, James coming after me, Cade running next door to stay with Mrs. Wilson until I come to get him. That’s something we established after he was old enough to understand what was going on.
“When Daddy is mad, you go next door until Mommy comes and gets you.”
These are the things I taught my toddler. While other mothers are teaching their kids the ABCs and 123s, I’ve been teaching mine what to do while his father beats the shit out of his mother.