As he was lying on the couch, he could hear her crying in the other room. He kicked off his muddy boots in disgust. Sam had always thought himself an understanding and compassionate man, but after 5 years of tears almost every night, he was at the breaking point.
It all started a few weeks after their honeymoon. She cried all night one night, saying nothing was wrong. He was sick with worry. The next morning he made coffee and tried to be a good husband. He caressed her back and asked her what had been wrong the night before.
“I miss my mom”, she said quietly. “I know you cannot understand because you and your mom don’t get along. My mom was not like your mom.”
Melody’s mother had been killed in a car accident a few years before they met. It hit her hard. As she grieved her mother she spun out of control. She met a guy, Peter, who said all the right things and meant none of them. A few months later they went to the Justice of the Peace and got married. They were together a year when he committed suicide. Melody never grieved for him. In a way, Sam thought she hated Peter. He brought out the worst in her.
When Sam met her at the coffee shop that summer afternoon, his smile was met with disgust. She wanted no part of him – that was obvious. Sam had been given the cold shoulder before and he wasn’t going to give up that easily. After a few chance meetings, they started to date. Movies and popcorn. Dinner and dancing. Walks under the stars. It was so romantic and effortless. They were married a year to the day from that chance meeting in the coffee shop. It was a breath of fresh air for both of them.
The church was beautiful. Everything perfect. The happy couple flew to the Bahamas for their honeymoon. It was a fairytale romance in every way. Five weeks of bliss, then the other shoe dropped. For the next two years, Melody would cry herself to sleep almost every night. Sam could never console her – she wouldn’t let him in. All she ever said was that he just could not possibly understand.
Then one night they went to dinner and actually laughed. After dinner, they danced their way back to the car and went home and made love on the couch. That was the first time in two years she didn’t cry herself to sleep. She curled up in his arms and slept like a baby. It stayed that way for almost six months. Then, one night she locked him out of the bedroom and cried herself to sleep. Sam never had any idea why. Another two and a half years had passed and the tears came every night. Eventually, Sam just couldn’t take it anymore and started sleeping on the same couch where they had once made love.
It was fortunate that they never had children. It made Sam sick to think about such an emotionally unstable woman raising a child. After all, he was a bit of an expert on that subject. Sam learned how to tiptoe through his childhood at a very early age. His mother never cared about anyone but herself. No, Melody was right about one thing. Sam would never shed a tear for his mother, nor could he understand crying for anyone for years on end.
Sam’s mind spun almost out of control as he started to think about the possibility that Melody would finally lose herself. He thought about being tied to a woman he didn’t really know for the rest of his life. He had said the words, ‘for better or for worse’ but had no idea at the time just how frightening that promise could be. He knew he wanted out. That night Sam wanted to scream and run. Instead, he went to the kitchen and opened a beer.
Sam watched the head form as he poured it into the frosted glass. He took a sip. “Oh, my God. That tastes good. Too good.” Sam walked across the kitchen and poured the rest down the drain. “No. I will not be like my mother.”
He clicked off the light, walked back to the living room and laid down again. As he pulled the afghan over his shoulder and closed his eyes, he realized the crying would never stop. He reached over his head and pulled the iPod off the end table. Sam turned the wheel to his new playlist – Songs of Escape. He put the earbuds in his ears and drifted off to sleep. Finally, the crying had been vanquished.
Saturday morning he slept much longer than anticipated. All the worry and thinking had exhausted him. He walked into the kitchen at about 9:00 am. Melody was singing and smiled brightly when she saw him.
“Pancakes?” she winked and spun back around to the stove.
They ate pancakes and drank coffee as Melody laughed and acted as if life was normal. It was all Sam could do not to stand up and scream at the top of his lungs. She talked and laughed and moved about the kitchen not even noticing he wasn’t engaged in the conversation. She was living life with him without him.
“Melody?” Sam said as she stopped and turned toward him. “Melody, I’m leaving. Today. I won’t be coming back.”
She sank into the chair opposite him. “Why?” She acted as if she honestly did not know.
“Melody, you need professional help. I cannot live this way anymore. I’m a married man who has slept on the couch for over a year now. It’s not right.”
“Sam, just move back into the bedroom. I never knew why you left in the first place.” She smiled, stood up and walked back to the stove. “Oh, by the way, did I tell you my mom is coming by tonight?”
Sam didn’t know what to say or how to react. He just kept repeating the words over and over in his mind “……for better or for worse…….” He was trapped and he knew it. He had nowhere to turn.
Sam stood up from the table and walked toward the pantry.
“Where are you going?” Melody asked in her upbeat tone.
“Just checking to make sure we have enough beer. I feel like having a few tonight.”
Melody chuckled. “Don’t worry, honey. I’ll pick some up at the store. Now, what would you like for dinner?”