The hours fly by so quickly. The morning finds my joints and muscles aching. I reach for my pill and feel it slide down my throat with the warm water. I tell myself this is helping.
I reach over and hold him. His warmth makes me crave just a few more moments in bed. I draw strength from the peacefulness he emits in his sleep. He is my saving grace.
But the hour is growing late and there is so much to be done this day. I trudge through the motions as I brush this and that, dress, pull on my holy shoes. He keeps telling me I should get new ones but shoes aren’t cheap while I am. With my money that is. I would much rather spend my dollars on journals and books.
I wonder if I cleaned the dishes from dinner last night and try to breathe through a moment of panic. Is the kitchen clean? Will he have clean clothes to wear to work today? The anxiety grips me and makes it impossible to go through the motions of making sure everything is in order. Will I be replaced like I was with another when I started slipping? Will I be punished with ridiculous chores? But the Mister is not like this. He is a genuinely kind and gentle soul in a world that is so lacking. Yet the fear is still there.
I think about when I got these shoes. It was at the Transitional Living Facility. A place for people to live while they work and save up money. It was supposed to be a place to help those who were down and out. It was much the way I imagine prison must be.
I woke when I was told. I slept and ate when I was told. Classes, there were always so many classes. Parenting, life skills, counseling- group and individual. And never did we ever feel safe enough to speak of the happenings in that place.
There was a woman I befriended. She had been clean for almost a year. Her faith in God was what had helped her to succeed. She had a little girl the same age as my oldest daughter. They became quick friends, as did she and I.
She was such a beautiful woman. Inside and out. She radiated joy and peacefulness. After having been down for so long, she was excited at all life had to offer now that she was back on the track to climbing her way back up. I was proud of her and felt proud to know her.
Chores were punishment in this place. Cleaning, scrubbing, raking, mowing. Five hours of hard labor for every inconsistency. Home a minute after curfew? Five hours. Left a dirty dish behind too long? Five hours of labor. Bedroom not clean to standards? Five hours of labor.
Laying next to Him I try to push away these horrible memories. I am not there anymore. I am no longer losing my mind. I am no longer afraid. But the memories haunt me.
Sometimes I dream about that place. I wake up with a heavy heart and a twinge of fear on the weekends. Did I miss check in? Did I not wake up at 7 a.m. and sign my name on the dry erase board? Is there anyone who can vouch for me? Or is that another five hours of chores on my only two days off?
In the freedom of my own home now, I clean furiously, quickly. I clean in spurts.
“Sit down and relax, Babe,” he tells me. “You work just as hard as I do. You deserve to relax.”
He repeats it like a mantra. It pains him to see me grinding my fingers down to the bone while I exhaust myself in an attempt to be perfect. To be worth loving. He tells me it’s not the things I do that matter, it’s who I am inside that he loves. A voice in my head whispers that these words aren’t true. Is he making fun of me?
But I cannot sit still. The past has shown me that there are consequences for dropping the ball. And I cannot afford the fine any longer. My fingers slide through his and he tries to grasp my fingertips while I smile sadly at him and hurry off to scrub the spots that only I can see.