I threw the chair first.
I’m not proud of that fact. But it is. A fact.
I remember precisely how the fight started. I was 200 miles away from home doing a store changeover, I didn’t mind the traveling. My hotel room was great. I got a king size bed all to myself, and there was even a jacuzzi. When I got the phone call, I was standing in the battery section fixing a merchandise diagram to the empty gondola with masking tape.
“S wants me to travel with him,” he told me before I could even say hi. No ‘I love you/I miss you/hi.’ Just ‘S wants me to travel with him.’
I fingered a torn package of Energizer AAs. “Where to?”
“On their tour! It sounds exciting, right?”
“That’s one word for it.” It didn’t occur to me as I replied that maybe he needed to leave home for a while just as badly as I did. That maybe he too sometimes pretended he was single.
“We’d be gone for a year. Maybe two. All over the country. I’ve never travelled. I’ve never seen anything.” His words were rushed, almost frantic in their excitement.
“What would I do?”
He was quiet. I knew then he hadn’t thought of me at all. After a minute he said, “You don’t want me to go.” It wasn’t a question.
I hung up on him. I didn’t know what to say without being angry.
I finished the merchandising job I was on a few days later and headed back home. It was a Friday night; where else would he be but his parents house? The family was watching a movie in the basement when I came in, sat on the stairs. No one said anything to me at all. I knew what that meant. If I couldn’t be happy for him, couldn’t celebrate his success, I didn’t matter.
After the movie was over, he walked up the stairs and into the kitchen, gestured for me to follow. And I did, because he was what I had.
“I told S I couldn’t go.” He sat down in one of the dining chairs and looked up with the expectation I’d do the same. But I didn’t. Couldn’t.
“You want to leave me that badly?”
“Stop!” I interrupted with a double slap down on the table. “Just stop! Neither one of us is happy and you know it.”
“You aren’t happy?” He stood up, leaned towards me as he pressed both palms flat against the table in a match to my posture. “How long have you not been happy?”
I just shook my head. “You…You didn’t even think of me.”
He grabbed my arm then, his fingers sinking into the tender flesh, pulled me towards him until we were eye to eye. “I’m not happy either.”
I looked down to the basement. They weren’t coming. The “family.”
“You’re hurting me!” I tried to pull my arm back, but his grip only latched on tighter.
“You hurt me when you wouldn’t let me follow my dream.”
His dream? He had never once told me he wanted to travel with a band, not in the entire time I knew him.
“You stole mine,” I whispered before I realized what I was saying.
I had had dreams. I’d dreamed of owning a house with a white picket fence, of having a little boy and little girl, of owning a golden retriever, of not having to work so hard any longer in a job that I hated. I’d dreamed of being loved, of loving back. I’d dreamed of a happy marriage, a storybook marriage. I had had dreams. But I settled. I settled on him, and I gave those dreams away.
When he gave up his grip on my arm and slapped me, I stomped on his foot, in tears. And then I threw the chair, hard, right at his chest, and I wished that he would die.
I threw the chair first. Not him. And this memory, this time, is the one I always forget–because it was my fault. Because I went first. And because, I believe, it led me to believe I deserved everything that followed.