Posted by: shelliejelly | April 26, 2010

My number

My phone rang at work, his father’s number sliding across the screen. I picked up, not letting on that I knew it was him. “This is Michelle,” I spoke into the phone, my voice even, casual. He answered with his usual “Hey,” followed by nothing so I sometimes can’t tell if he has anything more to say or if that’s it.

I wait; we haven’t spoken beyond the everyday greetings we exchange when he picks up and drops off our daughter for quite a while. I’m suspicious.

“What’s going on,” I ask and, typically, he almost whispers, “Nothing.” I sometimes don’t think he even knows why he calls me. There’s an underlying regret that almost always runs through his speaking to me, but as with most things with O., it’s not constant. This time, he’d been off his medication, or hadn’t been taking a full dosage, because his mom was away and so he didn’t have anyone to pay for them. “What about Sara,” I ask. “It’s not like that,” he tells me, “I wouldn’t ask her for money.”


No, but you’d throw away your marriage, your family, your life for a girl just like her.

His regret is my own strange sorrow whitewashed with bitterness. Always in the background humming with a life of its own is this idea that I lost everything to a woman nearly half my age. And why I feel like this story line is somehow all my own I cannot fathom. Perhaps because I honestly believed I was giving O. a life he couldn’t possibly not love. But doesn’t most every woman, or man for that matter, feel that way about the life they build with their spouse?

She was a symptom of a deeper problem, Michelle. The marriage didn’t end because of her; if it wasn’t her it would have been something or someone else.

True, but again, dancing in the back of my mind, waving its arms back and forth, is this thought: It’s me who should have left you. But I didn’t have the courage; for the longest time, even thinking about ending my marriage and before marriage, my relationship, struck me deep with fear, like a surge of sheer panic injected straight in my heart.  I couldn’t—I just couldn’t walk away.


I start pouring out all the feelings that I can’t put into words until I’m really angry, have already turned over all of his failures in my head and pinned him into a corner of laziness with a side of selfish. “I can’t help but hate right now,” I blurt, “and this hate is tinged with a love and respect that might not ever go away. But you need to get your shit together. It’s not fair to me; I shouldn’t have to bear all the responsibility while you talk about your sickness year after year without doing anything about it. You should want people to feel something other than pity for you; you don’t have to be sick for people to like you.”

I’ve said these things before; he’s heard them, or not. “Did you call for something,” I ask. “No,” he cries, “I just wanted to talk to you.” And I believe him, and I can sometimes give him that, give him my ear, because it’s no longer attached to obligation outside of  wanting my daughter to have a healthy father.



  1. I found this from GiST, and I am struck by your haunting, beautiful writing. I’m so moved, and I don’t even know you. I’m so hurting for! I know this was a month ago, so I hope things are going well, really well, spectacularly well, for you.

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