by Rebecca Havens
“Why are the child-locks on the doors?”
“I don’t want anything bad to happen to Evan.”
“Evan’s in the back. The child-locks are up here, why are there child locks on the doors?”
“I just want to keep you safe. Why do you make that so hard?”
When things get too bad here and you’re unavailable, I escape in my head. You know, not that things are terrible. But they’re bad enough, you know? And you’re the only person I have to talk to.
In my dreams, he’s still nice; still opens doors and does what little Princesses dream about. Still calls me a Princess.
It’s been over three years since he last called me baby, honey, sweetie, lover, or dear and Lord knows how long since I’ve heard “I love you.” I try not to think about those things. It’s your fault when I do.
When he lets me go out to pick up the kid or whatever, people on the street always give me these sad looks. Like I’m sad. Motherfucker, I’m not sad. I’ve got nothing to be sad about. Sometimes you come with me, which is nice of you, since it’s normally on weekdays and you should be working. And even though he may not say it, I know he loves me. He shows it. Every damn day, working that dead end job, so that I can stay home with Evan. Which, you know, is a blessing. Especially when Evan needs me, which is often. Today it’s a cold. Fever, sore throat, coughing. Last week it was a skinned knee. Not every parent is this lucky. But sometimes, I just need a break.
It’s not like I ever really wanted kids, either. Edgar always wanted kids. So we had kids. But me, I wanted adventure and romance and things you read about in books. Edgar never understood that. I feel like you do, which is nice.
Soon, it’ll be time for the kid to go off to school. That’ll be different. Kid’s walkin’ and talkin’ and Edgar’s already figuring out what I should do when Evan’s in school. He’s thinking I’d make a great hairstylist. Says I always notice when the kid’s hair is too long, like when the kid can’t see through it. Says that’s the makings of a good hairstylist right there.
I don’t really care as long as I’m keeping Edgar happy. It’s dangerous not to keep Edgar happy. I told you about those child-locks, right? “just trying to keep you safe,” “why do I make it so hard,” all that blah blah blah. He does other things like that, dumb things, stupid things.
When we were only fourteen, we met in school. We came from rival middle schools, but everyone was ram-jammed together into the same high school. Edgar and I got along. We were friends for the first couple of years, but he had a crush on me.
He didn’t tell me till just before our junior prom. We were driving home from the movies one night, and he just pulled off the side of the road, all casual. I thought he had a flat.
He turned down the music, hop-jumped out of the car, and popped the trunk. He spread out a blanket right there by the side of the road- everything was still miles apart in those days and we were far enough off the O’Malley’s property that they never did find out- and I just sat right there in the car. I had no idea at all what was going on. He went about lighting candles and setting out a meal. Then, when everything was set- plates, cups, napkins, there may have even been salad and dessert forks- he came ‘round to my side of the car and opened the door, all gentlemanly. At the end of that night, he asked me two questions. First he asked me to the junior prom, and I said yes. Then he asked me to be his girl.
The door slams. He’s home. I’ll have to talk to you later. Please don’t tell him we talked again. And please don’t eavesdrop on us like you did last time.
“Baby, why don’t you sit down? you look so tired.”
“’Said, ‘Are you done cooking?’ didn’tcha hear?”
“I’m still- you know- cauliflower is- I’m still-”
“You’re ‘posedta have it done when I get home. Y’always have it done when I get home. Why’s it gotta be diff’ernt tonight?”
“Sweetie, the kid’s been sick. Runny nose, fever, coughing. Wouldn’t take a nap.”
“How long’s it gonna be?”
“It’s your kid!”
“Evan’s our kid. And I’m talkin’ ‘bout the food, not his cold.”
“Are you—have you been drinking, Edgar?”
“’S’it matter da’you?”
“You have an hour-and-a-half commute in a beat-up old car. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
“Shudd’up and cook.”
“Edgar, I told you last time-”
“I said, ‘Shudd’up and cook.’”
“You’re not cooking.”
“Okay, I’m cooking.”
“Stirring is cooking.”
“…Edgar, I need you not to drink and drive.”
“I told you, doesn’t matter.”
“You’re not cooking.”
“You’re not cooking, cook.”
“Edgar, you only ever get like this when you’ve been drinking. You’re slurring your words, worse than last time.”
“I’m goin’ da bed.”
Okay, he’s asleep. I know you eavesdropped. You’re supposed to be my friend! Of course it’s scary. And he’ll say he’s sorry, so stop freaking out! He always says he’s sorry. And the kid didn’t see this time.
I don’t want to talk about it anymore, okay? I want to tell you about how I escape.
I read one time about this girl who was a businesswoman, all proper, right? So one time she was listening to her boss tell her how he could pleasure a woman, really pleasure her. Which the woman was laughing at, and I was laughing at, and all women everywhere were laughing at. So instead of just telling her boss he didn’t know a clitoris from his ass, this businesswoman- all proper, right?- decides to show him. She takes him up to her hotel room and turns on the shower hose. And right there, this professional lady shows her boss how women can make themselves feel good.
I’d been with Edgar, oh, about seven years when I read that. And I just laughed at first. Just laughed and laughed. But after about a week, I got curious. This was well before we had the kid.
So one day I left my job as a grocery-store clerk about five minutes before I should have. I flat out lied to my manager and told her I had to pick Edgar up from work, which wasn’t even possible because I’ve never had a license. But she didn’t know that, because I’ve always had a fake. So I jog-walked home, which gave me another four or five minutes alone. I was drowning in time.
So I got home and undressed as fast as I could, and stepped in the shower, and pulled down the shower hose and pointed it at myself. And it took a few seconds of re-adjusting, but oh boy- it took weeks to be able to pretend not to hate sex with Edgar again. Edgar likes it when I sit back and pretend not to hate it. He doesn’t like it when I enjoy it, and he doesn’t like it when I hate it. I had to promise myself not to use my new escape method so that Edgar wouldn’t get angry or find out. He definitely doesn’t like his women ‘hot ‘n’ heavy.’
Even though I love Evan and I love Edgar, sometimes I need a break from them. I realized that when the kid was about two and in that “Terrible twos” stage. I never wanted to go through that. I just wanted Edgar, and Evan was the only way I could have him.
I never told Edgar about my escapes, because one time, the kid was being really fussy and loud. I couldn’t take it. I was cooking some Kraft Mac’n’Cheese, because our doctor said it was a balanced diet. This was about a year ago. So I put Evan down, went in the bathroom, and escaped for a few minutes. It would have been fine, but the kid wound up with a big burn.
Edgar didn’t let Evan see playfriends for weeks, worried someone’s parents would report us to child services. I wasn’t too worried, because burns happen. But I did stop escaping so often when I was alone with the kid.
“Shudd’up already, he isn’t real and I have work in the morning.”
They all say you aren’t real, but especially Edgar. It’s really damn difficult when I know that you are, and that Edgar is paying all of them to say you’re someone I made up in my head. But I know some people have to think you’re not real so that we can run away. Soon, you said.
Well, I’m going to be real fucking honest: soon isn’t going to cut it. Soon is too far away. I may make excuses for him, but the things Edgar does aren’t okay.
And really, when I’m being honest, I love you. More than Edgar. I know we fight and argue and curse sometimes, like when I call you a “dumbshit.” But you and I both know I mean no harm. He’s waking up, I’ve got to go. We’ll be together soon.
“Were you talking to him again?”
“I think you were. I heard you murmuring.”
“I wasn’t. Honest.”
“My head hurts something fierce. Grab me some aspirin?”
“The medicine cabinet is locked, remember?”
“Oh, yeah. Christ. I’ll have to get them myself.”
“I still don’t know why I can’t have aspirin anymore.”
“It’s not that you’re not trusted, it’s just that you’re going through a tough time.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You’re talking to people who don’t exist, and when we tell you they don’t exist–”
“He. It’s one person.”
“When we tell you he doesn’t exist, you just talk at him faster. It’s worrying.”
“You didn’t care when you drove home drunk last night. And I’m fairly certain that you’re just jealous.”
“Jealous? Of what?”
“Of me and my new man!”
“It surprised me when you took off your ring.”
“Well, I’m marrying another man soon.”
“Watch Evan while I’m at work. Please watch him carefully.”
I tell him I will.
The door closes.
Evan and I are alone, but he’s asleep. I’m curious how his cold will be this morning.
I waited up for you the rest of the night, and you never showed. It hurts when you do that. You say everything’s okay and you say you’ll come sit with me like we always do in the evenings and early mornings, and then you didn’t show. You probably have a new woman.
Yes, that’s it, I bet you have a new woman! Is she prettier than me? I bet she never had kids. I bet she gets her hair layered. I bet she doesn’t need inserts in her shoes so her feet don’t hurt after a few minutes of standing. Fuck her!
Oh, there isn’t a new lady? Well Edgar is as bad as ever, and the quicker we can get the wedding put together, the better. The divorce shouldn’t be a problem.
The kid’s crying again. Saying the other kids’ parents are saying I’m crazy. I get this a lot.
See, one of the other moms went to high school with Edgar and me. I was prettier than her, and I was nicer than her, and I made the cheerleading team when she didn’t. And now she tells all the other parents I’m crazy because I tell them she wasn’t on our cheer squad. She tells all of them she was on the squad, she even Photoshopped herself into pictures of our cheer camps. It’s ridiculous, the lengths people will go to.
But Evan’s screaming and crying and I’m tired of it. Should be at an age where I can leave him alone for a few minutes, so I decide to chance it and do so.
I went into the bathroom and had a slow escape. It was melodic, almost, and lovely.
I realized that, ten minutes ago, you should have been waiting outside with the car, ready to go to the airport for the wedding.
I packed lightly, grabbed my things, and went outside.
After twenty minutes, you still hadn’t arrived. I called for a taxi, and one appeared after about forty minutes—the longest forty minutes of my life.
Evan will be okay, right? Evan will be okay.
We sped to the airport, as I rushed the driver, telling him over and over about how we’d selected lilies and how you were finally getting along with your grandmother. He made that car go real fast.
When we got to the airport, I went to the ticket counter and paid (using Edgar’s credit card that is only to be used for the kid’s allergy shots once a month) for a one-way ticket to the island we’d selected. You know the one. Nestled in the Bahamas, far away from, well, most tourists.
I boarded the plane. Everyone was staring.
When they closed the flight door, I sang “Kokomo,” aloud and a few people joined in. I couldn’t wait for our romantic getaway-wedding and the birth of our child. I never thought to mention it, but I’m pregnant.
When I started telling someone about you, we somehow got to talking about stupid Edgar and the child-locks. She seemed to understand how unnecessary they were, how confining. After a few minutes, she quietly excused herself from her seat, and had a quiet word with the flight attendant.
We were in the air, so there wasn’t much they could do to help me.
It wasn’t until we touched down on the soil that they could really get a good sense of what was going on, how Edgar was mistreating me and you were the hero. I told them you were the hero.
So they put me in handcuffs so that Edgar wouldn’t figure out he was in trouble, and they put me on a plane home. I hadn’t even seen you! But they said that had to wait.
And I sat. And waited. And sat. And waited. Why had the trip there been so speedy?
And eventually, we landed.
And a few nice people boarded the plan, and one of them stuck a syringe in my arm, and after that, everything went swimmy and dark, but I know I escaped because there is no more Edgar.
Rebecca Havens received her B.A. in English Writing from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2014. She currently works for an international development organization, which she adores.