A Husband's Absence

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It all started when he bought that damn house in Baldwin.

We met a few days after John Lennon was shot, at a college commemoration between several faculties. There he was, with his dark hair cut just like Lennon's, shinning on a sunny day, along with those replica glasses that covered his middle-brown eyes which looked like honey; it just showed at first glance how he actually was when I finally talked to him.

He was shy at first, but I managed to break the ice. I even remember the exact moment he told me his name: Maxwell. Said he was studying to become a doctor, a psychotherapist to be exact. It was hard for him, though. He was miles away from home and worked with an uncle to pay for college while studying. Yet, by how he explained things, it was all worth it if he helped anyone. I could just tell by how his eyes shined.

We continued to talk for who knows how long, forgetting the purpose of why we were there in the first place. Eventually, we began dating through all those college years, being the same Maxwell that I fell in love with. There wasn't much of a difference when we graduated.

I remember this one time when we went into the city's mall and found a photo booth. Surprisingly, he was the one to drag me this time compared to the previous occasions. I had no idea why, but seeing the excitement in his eyes, really didn't bother me at all. We did all kinds of things one would do in a booth. We smiled at each other dumbly, gripped our hands together like if it was the last time, gave passionate kisses, and finally looked at the camera one last time with a satisfying smile on our faces. God, I loved that moment.

The interview came and it went downhill from there. Sure, the contract was nice. What do I mean by nice? It was a dream. It gave more than enough money to buy a house and pay for our kids. Two. Our son and daughter, I was pregnant of both at the time of the interview.

I gave birth to both shortly after moving to Baldwin. It took three days for him to show up. He didn't even try to look nice when he eventually did. I don't know what happened in those three days, but he was already a completely different person. His characteristic haircut was gone, and his white lab coat just complimented the new look on his eyes. Those honey-like and passionate eyes were gone and instead changed to a cold, tired and calculative one.

And it just continued for all those years that I lived in that house, that gray and cold place. He would leave for who knows how many days and arrive at three in the morning, trying to avoid being caught in the middle of the act. Pretty sure he thought he was doing a good job at hiding, but his footsteps didn't tell that. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and he was there with his uniform, snoring and slobbering beside me.

I wanted answers, I needed answers. Never told me why we moved to Baldwin, nor why he arrived so late, or where he worked at. Every night I would wait for him to show up, sometimes for days on end. Until I finally caught him in the act. I waited for him just beside the door, and I finally heard how he slowly opened it, the screeching sound that I heard every time he came back. When he finally entered the house, I slammed the door shut, making him jump and dropping his briefcase. He pounced to it as his life depended on it, reaching every paper that flew away and putting it back again, shutting it under lock and key.

He was about to leave me behind and go to sleep until I crossed him in his path. I said that I wouldn't move unless he gave me an explanation. And he did: State Department, he said. It made sense, at first. He could spend days or weeks without arriving home, and at late night; fighting for our family and country, his wish coming true, he was helping people.

I then realized that was the dumbest excuse I ever heard. Who the hell would hire a psychiatrist to work for the state and gives him a lab coat as a uniform? Even the Department of Health would have been a better excuse. I was about to rant about it to him, but I saw that he was nowhere to be seen, and instead, I found him lying on the bed. I couldn't sleep beside him there, so I slept on the couch that night.

After that event, days and weeks turned into months without seeing him, likely to avoid giving me any answers. Money still came, however, and it always came with little notes that said "I do this for us", "my love comes from my pocket" or "I'm giving our children what I never had."

Does that justify leaving us, huh? Leaving me to deal with our children? Confining yourself to God-knows-what-the fuck-you're-doing job? Feeling dead worried because one day you wouldn't appear in a fucking note? The only memory of your old self is the photo in the damn pocket watch you gave me the day we moved to this freaking place. The fuck happened to you, Maxwell?

Why didn't I just leave him? I really believed that someday he would open up. Tell me everything. But it never happened. The cries of my children asking "Where's daddy?" turned to indifference with time, getting used to the fact that he never returned. I guess I was the only dumb one for thinking everything would go back to normal, to how things were.

And when their graduations hit and my children left home, I was completely alone now. And that feeling just felt awful, as if the knife already in my heart just drilled itself deeper. I didn't have anything to do anymore. And in that moment, an idea came to my mind.

Divorce. I didn't have my children nor Maxwell, so I didn't have anything left to lose. But what about him? After all, he was the one who was paying the bills. His ´show of love´ as he said. If he didn't have anyone to maintain, then that meant he wouldn't be able to say no. I would finally discover what has been going on after all these years.

I had it all planned out. Papers and everything. It was just a matter of waiting, but not like I haven't been doing it after all this time. And that day came. He arrived earlier than usual and apparently was in a good mood. It kind of felt bad to do that at the moment, since I haven't seen him smile in quite a while. But what I was supposed to do? The weight of all those years came in that single document.

I explained to him every single thing I was bothered by~ No, not bothered. Pissed. The nights where I slept alone in my bed. The days my kids would cry about where daddy was. Staying up late at night, staring at the ceiling wondering if I would ever see him again. The sadness. The anger. The disillusionment. The pain.

And somehow, behind those cold and lifeless eyes of his, I could feel him containing the tears he wanted to let out. I thought I had finally nailed it. I was so sure that he would finally explain himself, and the last years we had left, would be like the good old days.

But as soon as I finished, he just grabbed the pen and started to fill the blanks in the document. And that's it. He… decided to just leave me instead of telling me what he has done after all these years.

I fucking slapped the son of a bitch.

I told him he was a jerk. An idiot. A stupid dumbass. You name it. I yelled and screamed every single insult I could come up with at the moment. I didn't give a damn about reason, that was off the table now. I said that I never wanted to see him again in my life and that he could rot in whatever hell he hid himself in. If his work was more important than my family, he could go fuck himself.

And so it happened. I didn't saw him after that. Or well, kind of. At least I didn't want to see Maxwell. But now, he did want to see me. Really, what's wrong with him? After all this time, he now wanted to see me. Well, he wouldn't have it his way now. It didn't matter anymore. He would try to find any way to talk to me, but I wouldn't let myself. Not one bit.

But still, his insistence did bug me. Was he really trying to talk to me or just excuse himself from all that happened at that time? Sometimes, I really considered hearing him out. But my resentment wouldn't let me. Whatever he had to say, the damage was already done. There was no way he could change it or correct his mistakes.

Time moved on as it always did. Those years of smoking paid off, as I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Inoperable. Just what I needed. And of course, Maxwell tried to show up as soon as he knew about what happened, and even then, I didn't want to see him.

Eventually, my bedroom became the little hospital room that I was transferred to. At least I wasn't lonely, the nurses and doctors were around to check-in, as well as my son Millhouse, who spent most of his time accompanying me when I didn't have any visits. And yet, Maxwell was still persistent in seeing me. Obviously, I told everyone between the medical staff that I didn't want to see him.

Until Millhouse had to move from town due to a business trip, and with Maxwell being the only relative I know that lives close, they led him in.

So here I am, lying down in this bed with my ex-husband who I hadn't seen for two decades sitting on a chair beside me, waiting for my lungs to run out of oxygen, holding to whatever life I have left.

And then he speaks up.

He starts by apologizing, saying how sorry he was that he ignored our family, and how he felt terrible about it; that it was never his intention to leave us behind. That he never wanted things to go the way they went.

"But that's how they went, and there's nothing you can do about it," I replied.

He nodded, saying that I was right. There was nothing that he could do to change how things went.

I was about to leave the conversation there until he said~

"But that doesn't mean I can't tell you the truth."

I returned to face Maxwell, and when I did he took a deep breath.

He starts by explaining all the way back to when he finally graduated from college, of how he felt the need to have a stable life. Not just for him, but for our sake as well. And when they contacted him, he took the job right away. SCP Foundation was the name of the organization that hired him. Of course, this consisted of keeping his job a secret from us.

The problem for him, however, is that he couldn't really stand lying to us, especially me. How it hurt him that I was always concerned about him, that I waited in the living room until he arrived, that he couldn't stand it. That's why he started going home less and less, and how he hid in his work. How he lied to himself that it was for the greater good, a necessary sacrifice… so that the both of us and the world could be safe.

And despite all of that, he still couldn't convince himself of the ideals he was supposedly defending. That in the end, he was just ignoring us and him. He said he felt like the anomalies he helped to contain, but instead his cell was his job.

I suddenly felt a grip on my left hand, the one where I was holding the pocket watch; the only reminder I had of the former union between the two of us. I started to feel some drops on my bedsheets. I looked towards the man in front of me, and the tears that were falling from his eyebags. Tears that most likely, were held back for a long time.

And between those, he swore that it was never his true intention, and begged for my forgiveness. That he was desperate to tell me, and that he regretted he couldn't have more time with me and our children. That, in the little time we had left together, he wanted to spend every second alongside me.

The tears and sorrow continued.

And I was just… relieved. It was a crazy story and one that most certainly would have felt insulting a few years ago, but now, the weight of Maxwell's words resonated with me. I finally knew what was really happening to him. So much so, that my eyelids were starting to get heavy and not because of any crying.

It felt as if I was about to fall into a heavy dream. A pleasant one, at last. It felt so… peaceful, even with all the shoving and yelling of my name from Maxwell. I heard him calling for the hospital staff, followed by pushes on my chest as I heard him shouting in the background. And just before it all turned black, I heard one final thing between sobs and whinings:

"Please, goddamnit, not again. I don't want you to leave me again."

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