“Your eyes look different.”
“What do you mean different?”
“I don’t know. Something has changed.”
“Maybe my eyes look happy because my best friend is coming to visit this week.”
“No, it’s not that, they don’t look happy.”
“I don’t know exactly.”
“Are you trying to say I look older?”
“I mean…your eyes just don’t look like they used to.”
“We’re lying in bed, in the dark, about to go to sleep and from what I understand you’re telling me I look older? Why in God’s name would you say that? I don’t think I’ve ever had a man say something so hurtful to me.”
“Well I mean we all change over time.”
“I feel sick with sadness, like I could vomit tears.”
The next morning Erica stared at her eyes in the bathroom mirror. She did look older, she’d noticed it a little while ago. It was partly hereditary – everyone on her mom’s side of the family got droopy upper eye lids. But for Paul to say something…
Paul regularly said things that left her feeling small. Little things that in the moment felt like nothing, but minutes later left Erica feeling deflated. And she had become so used to feeling this way that it felt normal. Though he said he loved her sparkly, colorful spirit, he was actually snuffing it out one day at a time. And since words left no physical marks, no one could see that she was being hurt over and over again.
Erica was so upset that she ate six Bear Claw cookies for breakfast and gave herself a stomach ache. Lying on the couch for half an hour she tried crying, but nothing happened. Where were her tears?
Her tears were gone. Her tears were gone because her sadness had, unbeknownst to her, turned into anger. And her anger had, within seconds, turned into action. And action took Erica from the couch to Staples, where she bought six boxes, bubble wrap, tape and large sheets of paper.
Erica circled their condo, taking her favorite possessions. Packing quickly, she drank coffee with spoonfuls of sugar. From their bedroom closet she chose only her most loved clothing, folding it in a small suitcase.
Logging onto airbnb she found an artsy, furnished cottage on the opposite side of the city. It was just a few blocks from the water and had a beautiful rose garden. She paid for three months rent and the owner offered to help carry her boxes inside, where she could store them in the den.
She cleaned the coffee pot and put her dirty cup in the dishwasher. On a leftover piece of packing paper she wrote a note to Paul:
You did not break my spirit. You temporarily took the air out of my spirit. You temporarily crushed my spirit. But my spirit is more powerful than you will ever be. My spirit has come roaring back with her drooping eyelids and my spirit has this to say:
“You were lucky to have me, but I’m gone now.”