When he gets home I am shut in the bathroom, trembling, forearms on the toilet seat, head hanging, eyes half closed with dejection and soaked with tears. If there is a hell this is it, is all I can think. My forehead is throbbing and my stomach is tight with pain; I imagine the sugars surging through my blood to poison every cell. The physical pain is purely a reminder of the mental torment I now have to endure. It will not let me forget. It will not let me move on. It will drown out all inklings of positivity, motivation, comfort and forgiveness. You can forget about happiness anytime soon.
I can hear him walking through the house looking for me. Maybe at this point he thinks I might be asleep, or more likely curled up somewhere with my headphones in. Or in the bath even. But as he looks and doesn’t find me lying in a ball on the bed, mouthing along the words to songs, doesn’t hear water running, doesn’t see me tucked under the duvet, I imagine his heart dropping into his stomach as he realises. Each time, he tries, desperately, to disguise his distress, but I read the etchings of pain carved into his face like a book. An oscar winner could not cover what he feels. And so his pain adds to my pain until I am drowning in the torture of it all.
He knocks softly. He knows I won’t answer. He comes in anyway. He kneels down slowly beside me and rests a warm hand on my back. In my head begins a dreadful fight. I should shrug off his arm, recoil, not allow myself this warmth and kindness and comfort. I don’t deserve it. I deserve to suffer. But I am too weak, and I simply melt against his touch and collapse into him, where he folds me carefully into his chest and wraps his warm arms around my shaking body. I cry so hard that I think I might be sick and have to return to the toilet for a while. His arms do not leave me. My fists clench and I beat them against the floor and the door and the walls and my own head as desperation wells up and threatens to kill me from the inside. As I punch harder he catches my hands firmly in his and I look up at him and say desperately, “It’s not fair! I can’t do it anymore! I can’t!”
He just says, “I know.” And he really does know. And while I feel hopelessly sad that he has lived all this pain alongside me, I cannot bare to think of a world in which he hadn’t. A world where he wasn’t here like this when I needed him. A world in which it is doubtful I would still be around.
“I’m sorry.” I say. Because I am. I’m sorry that this keeps happening, I’m sorry that it is so crippling, I’m sorry that every day I wake up and wonder how I will make it through to the night. I’m sorry that I will each minute past quicker because each minute gone is one minute less to survive, one minute less for things to implode. I’m sorry that my life has become defined by this, no matter how hard I try to put other things in its place.
He doesn’t say it’s ok. Becuase he know it’s not. But later he will promise me that even when everything seems impossible, the breakthrough is right around the corner. And then he will sing to me, a song that has tears streaming down my face from the first line.
The truth is, he doesn’t come home. He doesn’t look for me, find me in the bathroom, hold me in his arms and feel my pain. No one does. I am alone. And he doesn’t sing to me, but when I finally drag my exhausted self into bed and push a pair of headphones into my ears, and through glazed eyes scroll down the list of tracks, I press play and I listen to that song. And I cry from the first line to the last, holding in sobs only so I can hear each note and lyric. And I listen to the words that seem to tell my story with such perfection and truth. And as long as I have music, I will never be alone. I will always have something that can make things just about bearable.