And the next thing you remember is your soon-to-be-ex-husband shaking you by the shoulders, demanding you wake up or he’s going to call 911. His voice is gruff and insistent and void of kindness. This is a business transaction. Your phone is on the floor, the texts from your best friend unanswered. She has called him to check on you. He has come up from his basement bedroom to fulfill her request.
Your mind is in a fog, the tears abundant. They fall off of you in salty waves, wetting your pillow, your hair, your sheets, trying to wash your sins away. They are fueled by remorse and regret. They carry your guilt and self-loathing into the fibers of your bed, the one you falsely shared with your then-husband, when you dreamt of women and their soft curves. Your cry comes from a place so deep within, you never knew it existed. It is feral, animal. The tears could drown you. They almost have.
At the hospital your soon-to-be-ex-husband drives you to, they ask if you want to hurt yourself, if you want to die.
You think for a moment.
“No,” you say. “I just want to sleep.”
They ask your soon-to-be-ex-husband, “Do you think she’s a threat to herself? Or to others?”
And the ultimate betrayal after you have spoken your own desire to go home, to sleep it off, to wake up tomorrow in the same home as your children: He nods.
There are armed guards outside your door then, and they tell you they are transferring you to an inpatient stress center.
They have their hands on their guns, ready to subdue you with threats and force if you don’t comply. You, who saved a baby bird at age ten with a warm light and a dropper of water and a box full of old washcloths. You, who gently rocked four babies to sleep in the middle of the night, nodding off while humming Baby Mine. You, who could not imagine physically harming another living creature. You, who would never consider non-compliance.
“No,” you cry. “No. I have work tomorrow. I have deadlines. I have kids.”
But the ER doctors and the man who once had your back have made the decision for you. And they dress you in scrubs because you can’t be trusted with drawstrings and earrings and shoelaces, and they tell you to hand over your phone and your jewelry, and they strap you to a bed on wheels and cover you with a blanket. They drive you, lights flashing, to another location, arms belted to your sides. But you can barely see the lights because your eyes are swollen with tears and shock and dismay. You don’t know where you’re going. You’re just being taken away. Away from your kids. Away from your life. Snot runs into your mouth, and you are reduced to a wailing toddler with no tissues to wipe your own face.
The next morning, the resident psychiatrist walks quietly into your room, and you sit up, the waterproof mattress crunching under your hospital gown.
“You shouldn’t be here,” he says to you gently after he evaluates your mental state.
You nod. Are you agreeing that you shouldn’t be there? Are you confessing that you should?
“It was my husband. He decided.”
The kind-eyed psychiatrist touches your shoulder.
“If it’s something you want to do, you can file a grievance with the ER for coercion.” File a grievance. File a grievance. What, exactly, did that mean? What would it accomplish? Would it give you the ability to place the blame of your train-wreck life on someone else temporarily? Would it allow you to shrug some of the anvil-like guilt from your shoulders? Would it give you peace? Comfort? Release? Would a grievance help you grieve? No, it wouldn’t. You knew that. You had made this bed, and it was your responsibility to lay in it.
You nod back at the doctor, even though you knew you would not file a grievance. You could barely write your own name. “Can you release me now, since I’m not supposed to be here?” you ask hopefully as a man outside your room performs an elaborate mime routine that shatters your heart a little bit more.
“By law, I have to keep you here for 72 hours,” he says. “I’m so sorry. But I’ll come back first thing Wednesday morning to send you home.”
Wednesday. (Wednesday’s child is full of woe.)
You understand that home no longer means what it used to. That it can never be the same. That home is now in the hearts of your four children, wherever they may someday reside, not in the house by the lake with the swimming pool and the walk-out basement and the Labor Day weekend friends; the home he asked you to randomly leave on a Monday morning so he could bring his new girlfriend over for sex. The home where your wedding pictures still hung on the walls you painted together in cabin red and cloudy sky.
You know now that home is in New York City, with her. And her soft skin. And her muscled thighs. And her ocean eyes. And her resonant laughter. And her gentle understanding. That home has been reassembled and redefined.
Your soon-to-be-ex-husband drops off books and make-up at the front desk, an act of requested, perfunctory kindness. He does not say hello. The books, they let you have. But not the make-up. The tweezers and bobby pins, too dangerous. You stay in your room, reading, sleeping. Your highly medicated suite mates shuffle by your open door, hair askew, eyes unfocused. You are a prisoner in an overpriced jail with bad food and highly-encouraged group activities. You don’t participate in the group activities. You don’t belong here. You are sad. You are despondent. You are addled with guilt. You are starting over at age 46. You are lost.
You are not a threat.