You know things are bad when you’d rather stay at work, in a tiny cubicle, fighting off the migraine you get every day at about 2pm thanks to the fluorescent lights. You’re holding your head in your hands like it might explode. Your boss tells you to take the rest of the day off but you’re scared.
Instead of going home, I walk to a nearby coffee shop. Can’t take my car, sometimes he drives by. He’ll kill me if he finds out I left work without telling him. I order a cappuccino, toss some cash on the counter and sit in a corner booth.
“It’ll be ready in just a few minutes.”
I really need the caffeine. My forehead feels like it might explode at any minute. I haven’t slept in weeks. Not since he found out. I’m nervous. Biting my nails. Every car that passes by makes me panic.
“Miss?” I jump, the cashier looks startled, “Your cappuccino…”
I thank her and take a sip of my cappuccino. It’s warm. Not hot, but warm.
It’s nearly 4. I’ll have to head back to work soon, to pick up my car. I get anxious, wondering if he’ll be driving around town, keeping an eye out for me. If he sees me walking he’ll hurt me. I know it.
“Just wait ‘till we get home.” Like something a father tells his daughter.
Only he’s not my father, he’s my husband. And I want a divorce.
We used to want the same things. I never minded the idea of being a stay-at-home mom. A trophy wife, if you will. I have no shame, I’ll admit. I’m an attractive woman. Not supermodel attractive. I have more ass than a supermodel. But I try. I spend my mornings plucking and tweezing, blending and contouring, blow drying and curling. I wear pencil skirts and heels in an office full of slacks and flats. I try.
Unfortunately, I was promoted. Unfortunately, I was promoted. Isn’t that sentence bizarre? I got excited. This was going to be more than a job to pass the time. I went from “Aspiring stay-at-home mom” to “Career driven feminist.” I’ll admit, my priorities changed. And it wasn’t ok with him.
You see, Matt is almost a millionaire. I say almost because it’s his parents’ money. But he’s their only son. He has two idiot sisters, but they married well. They don’t need their daddy’s money. Matt, however, does. His parents haven’t found out yet, in fact, I think he’s hoping they’ll die soon so that he can collect. He was disbarred. Some financial issues at his firm. Lots of legal terms I’m not entirely familiar with. Not because I’m dumb, because I majored in journalism. All I know is that Matt is in trouble.
As of lately, he’d been relying heavily on our credit cards. Once he maxed those out, he took out an equity loan on our house. My house, really. The only thing my parents ever owned, they left it to me. Their one and only child. The house I grew up in was now collateral for my husband’s expensive alcohol problem.
“Why can’t you be a normal drunk? Why can’t you drink cheap whiskey?” I’d demanded one night, looking at our credit card statements.
Bar after bar after bar, each transaction nearing $1,000. I doubt he remembers that conversation. The scary things is, Matt can be blacked out drunk. And have a perfectly logical conversation. You’d never know that he’d just consumed about 2 bottles of Macallan 25 year.
The goal was to be rich enough for me to get pregnant and stay home with our babies. Typical housewife shit. I didn’t mind. I loved the idea of being taken care of. Luckily, I couldn’t get pregnant. And then things started to fall apart. Several months went by before I even noticed anything. He always took care of the bills. He was better off, financially. So I just let him takeover. Then one afternoon my card was declined. I was at lunch with some girlfriends. Fellow trophy wives. Can you imagine my embarrassment when the waiter brought me my card back? The one friend in the group who still had to work… And my card wouldn’t go through. Luckily, I had cash. I was supposed to pay the yard guy that day. So I dug out a few crisp 20’s and paid for my meal. Laughing about how Matt always forgets to schedule that payment. But they knew. I made a mental note: Stop by ATM for more cash.
To my dismay, when I swiped my ATM card a few hours later to make a withdrawal, I was politely denied access to my funds.
“What the fuck?” I thought to myself.
I grabbed my purse and went inside the branch. That’s when my perfect little world came tumbling down. Not only were we out of money, but our credit was screwed. Delinquent accounts. Late fees and missed payment fees, one on top of the other. The teller looked at me with her stupid sympathetic eyes. She was judging me. This minimum wage teller was judging me. She desperately needed a wax and a thick coat of mascara. I mumbled something about this all being a misunderstanding and walked out, trying to hold onto my pride.
Matt got home late that night. With an actual story about a client who showed up late. The case was going to be a tough one. Some bullshit about the retainer fee. He bent down for a kiss. That’s when I smelled the whiskey.
I didn’t accuse him of anything right away. I decided to play dumb and see how he would react. Matt always took me for just a pretty little girl. No brains or common sense. I served him a plate of leftover chicken penne.
“The weirdest thing happened today.”
“What’s that baby?”
“My card was declined at Café Sicilia.”
He’d always been such a good liar. One year, he pretended to forget my birthday. It was my 30th. I cried in the bathroom after dinner. We’d been married four years and he’d already started to forget things. Then he made up some story about having to help his dad with some life insurance policy thing. He dragged me all the way to their extravagant house in the middle of bum fuck Egypt. And SURPRISE! A party. I was so in love. What a good liar.
“Yeah, it was declined. Of course Amber and Stacy were smitten. I’m sure they loved seeing me denied something, for once in their pathetic lives.”
“Must’ve been a mistake with the card company.”
“Right, that’s what I thought. But I stopped for cash to pay the yard guy, and our ATM card was denied too. Can you believe that?”
“Mhm, sounds like a misunderstanding baby, I’ll look into it in the morning.” He was starting to doze off. That’s what whiskey does to you. It lets you forget about all of your problems and fall asleep when your wife starts to question you. Oh, how I love whiskey.
I couldn’t let my act go on for long. After all, I would need gas money to go to work soon, and as far as I could tell, all of my cards were useless. I woke up before him to play innocent housewife. Housewife who hadn’t been poking her nose in her husband’s finances. The sad thing is that I was more concerned about the money than his lies. He could’ve just rolled out of his mistress’ bed for all I knew, and I spent the evening logging into bank accounts and credit card sites, trying to figure out what the hell had happened.
From the bank account and credit card statements, it looked like the income had stopped right around 4 months ago. That’s when the credit cards started maxing out. And I’m so serious when I say it wasn’t my fault. My income kept coming. Into that near empty bank account. My measly little paycheck was still depositing, but it was immediately being taken out to pay the Discover and American Express Cards. Those statements were mostly him. Sure, here and there I’d have a manicure or a brunch with my girlfriends. But the rest of it was nothing but bar tabs. First $300 at Lou’s, then $600 at Dublin’s. Finally he was nearing $1,000 every other night. It’s a wonder I didn’t catch on sooner.
After a few days of research, I decided it was time to confront my poor, drunk husband. I waited for him to get home one evening the next week. I decided that he must have accounts I didn’t know about, because he still had money to drink. Me, on the other hand, I was stuck. He walked in the front door so casually, it pissed me off.
“Hey babycakes,” he mumbled, “How was your day?” He asked, tousling my hair. He tried to kiss me, but I moved, he landed on my temple.
“My day sucked ass. You know why?”
He looked at me with genuinely confused eyes.
He’s so drunk, he forgot that we’re out of money, I thought to myself.
I laid out the bank account and credit card statements like I was about to give a book report.
“Here, it says we have no money.” I point to our main account, with accusatory fingers. I jam my fingers in his chest.
“YOU spent all of our MONEY.”
My voice filled with rage. He was raising his hands, as if to calm me down. I pointed to the next statement.
“HERE it says you spent it all on BOOZE.” I crumpled the paper up and threw it on the ground.
“WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU DONE?” I’m screaming. Throwing all of the statements off of the coffee table. I doubt he’ll even remember this tomorrow. His eyes are glazed over. His cheeks are red.
He’s got me by both of my arms. Holding me. And I feel him shaking. He’s crying. My broke, drunk husband is crying.
And that’s how I found out. He cried his stupid little tears and told me some sob story about a financial situation at work that caused him to lose his license. I’m not sure why I just took his word for it. Maybe it was the tears. Maybe it was because I’d never known him to abuse alcohol like that. For whatever reason, I took his word for it. I forgave him. After all, he lost his career. I felt bad for him. He was supposed to be successful. Now he’ll have to find another job. One that doesn’t require a multi-million dollar law degree. And he’ll have to tell his parents. They’ll be so disappointed. They might even take back some of their money. Except that we don’t have it. We have nothing.
We have my income, technically. Thank God we didn’t have a mortgage. He begged for forgiveness. Even the next day. Hungover and all, he begged me not to leave. He said he needed me. And that things were still going to be OK. He promised to stop drinking. Surrendered his credit cards, all tied to my name. I’m sure my credit is ruined. I’ve been too scared to check.
So, yeah. I gave him the benefit of the doubt. But this was just the beginning. The beginning to a sad, pathetic little story about a wife who’s afraid of her husband.