I Do Not Turn Around
A Sunday story, as told to me by others.
I hear his car pulling into the garage. Over the drum of the twins arguing in the living room and the crying of Nathan on my hip, I hear his car pulling into the garage.
But I do not turn around.
Instead, I keep stirring the rice and rinsing the dishes and trying to make things better before he comes in and at once I am relieved and anxious.
I will have some help now and that is a relief.
But I worry too. I fear that it is just so much for him after working all day in his suit and tie and deeply furrowed brow. I am afraid that it is just too great a burden to bear from the one bringing home the only paycheck in this family of five.
“Daddy!” yells Vivian, abandoning her argument with her sister for now. Undoubtedly they will resume once the kisses and hugs end and my husband will beg them to stop and I will tell him they’ve been like this since they got home and he will look at me with disappointment as he loosens his tie and pulls a beer from the fridge.
“Give it back!” Carolyn yells at her sister.
And so it goes.
“I just wanna go change okay babe? Then I’ll come help.”
“Hon why don’t you hit the gym for a little while? Unwind.”
“I don’t have the energy for that tonight,” he tells me, moving school papers and baby bottles aside so that he can set down his beer and reach into the drawer for an opener.
This isn’t what he expected, I think. It isn’t what I expected either.
Nathan begins crying again and my husband looks at me, unsure, wondering.
“Go. Change. I can feed him and keep dinner warm.”
“Are you sure?”
Am I sure? Am I sure about what?
Am I sure I want to keep using my breasts to feed babies? Am I sure that these little humans I wanted so much, these small people that I can barely stand to be away from, aren’t eating me alive, aren’t more of a disappointment than they were in all of my fantasies? Am I sure our marriage can survive so many fucking toys and so little precious sleep and more than a year without sex?
Am I sure I love and miss you so much?
“Yeah. I’m sure,” I say, sorrow lodged in my throat.
But I do not turn around.
I listen as he walks away and I imagine his broad shoulders hunched forward as he avoids things on the floor and tries to remove his suit jacket and take a swig from his bottle of courage.
I let the pain leave my throat then, find its way up into that space behind my eyes where it pushes and pushes until just one tear finally gets through, rolls slowly down my face as I reach under my shirt and unclip the front of my bra, place Nathan so that he can nurse while I stir the rice.
Our anniversary was yesterday.
That means five years ago today we were in Brazil, so lean in our bathing suits and brown skin, sitting for three hours admiring our wedding bands over dinner, kissing until our lips burned.
I can’t believe it’s been only five years and I can’t believe that’s all it’s been either.
And I can’t believe we forgot. We forgot about lean bodies and burning lips and we forgot our anniversary because since Brazil it’s only been buying a house and making money and trying to have babies and having them and then just surviving, surviving all of the wanting.
My twin four year olds are screaming again now so I put the rice spoon down and secure the baby better against my breast and I walk into our once beautiful family room now overcrowded with dolls and plastic and writing on the walls.
So much writing on the walls.
Vivian has Carolyn pinned to the floor and she is trying to pry a Barbie from her hand and Carolyn is about to bite her when I reach down with my free hand and yank the Barbie from her and think about screaming that I didn’t know it would be like this. I thought I would be able to go right back to work. I thought I’d be able to have more than just one dream. I didn’t know this wanting to be a mother would negate everything else.
“Mommy you hurt me,” my daughter cries and I want to tell her the same thing.
You hurt me too I want to say. You and your sister put forty-two pounds on my small frame and I still haven’t lost it. And then you would’t come out. Just like you wouldn’t let go of that fucking Barbie just now, you would’t come out of me and they had to cut you both out and I have never been the same.
“Everything okay?” my husband calls from behind me, as our son continues to suck on my tit and our daughters begin screaming again, wrestling for another Barbie.
And then suddenly I hear myself saying that it is not. I hear myself saying that everything is not okay.
“What do you mean?” he asks me.
“What do YOU mean?” I return. “Why would you ask me if everything is okay unless you can see that it is not? Can you see that it isn’t Mark? Can you see that?”
“Yeah. I can see that Kristina.”
“So should we just keep ignoring it? Is that how you prefer it or would it be okay to actually admit that we are in trouble here?”
“Are you talking about the girls fighting over dolls or are you talking about something else?”
“I’m talking about the girls fighting over dolls every fucking day and I’m talking about me being a Goddamn milk machine and I’m talking about you hiding at work and never touching me and I’m talking about how five years ago today we were in Brazil but now I’m stuck in this house I can never keep clean trying not to let this life suffocate me.”
Mark pauses then and I take Nathan away from my breast. He’s asleep and I want to put him down, but there seems to be nowhere to put him so I stand there holding him with my bra undone under my shirt and wetness seeping through.
So many things seem to be seeping through, soaking me.
Finally Mark speaks and when he does I feel stunned.
“This life? The life that is playing out exactly as you said you wanted it to? That one?”
Twins and a baby. His suit and tie and furrowed brow. One paycheck for a family of five. School papers and baby bottles on the counter. Stirring rice and breast feeding and toys everywhere and writing on the walls.
I move toward my husband and when I get to him I reach out my arms, hand him our son. He takes him, confused and tired and nothing like Brazil.
Then I walk out of the room and out of the house and I know it’s not fair and I know he’s right and I know things that I can’t say.
Those are the worst things to know. The ones you cannot say.
My husband must be on the porch as he yells to me.
“Where are you going? Kristina! Where are you going?”
But I do not turn around.