Second Skin Chapter 1

‘I never claimed to be an angel, even I know that’s an awkward fit for me and that’s from someone who didn’t think she was anything at all.
When someone feels that kind of distain for themselves, they can usually draw the conclusion that they’re packing some heavy baggage that most loved ones don’t know about until they open up their newspaper and they see a familiar face. Those same ones will shake their head and say, “I just spoke to her yesterday, she seemed so happy. I don’t understand how this could happen.”
And chances are, they won’t until they have experienced that lowness and desperation. It’s very difficult to see the worth in anything and what makes it worse, in anyone. A slow motion kind of living, where the first instinct is to deny and distract. What’s more distracting than being the life of the party? The downside is that eventually, everyone will go home and you’re left with your worst enemy; your thoughts and the constant reliving of old wounds.
I had long decided that it was my own mind trying to kill me. I had spent years of my life fighting against the darkness that would blend around me and shut me in and off. I have already tried twice to snuff out my life, but here I am still. This thought would usually bring with it a terrible gray outlook on my present and my future, it would hurt to look at because I wanted so much more. More than I had as a child from the Barrio. More than a teenager living in the Projects.
I lived on Auto Pilot for too long.
Now is the time that I reap the harvest of that self centered and wounded life.
The choices made in such a state have created the circumstances that I live with every day. I just have to keep my head turned to ‘the bright side of Life‘.
Glory thought this as she took another sip of her steaming hot coffee. The stinging liquid burned her tongue a new skin and she had no choice but to swallow. A fiery trail went down her throat and into her stomach. It transformed into a warmth that comforted her anxiety. Then she spied the neon wrist band from the hospital and was peering at the information when her husband, Vince walked into the room in his imposing way. She felt her body tighten up, gearing up for another fight. He pulled out the chair next to her and sat down, as if this was the last place he wanted to be and he wasn’t alone in that thought. He just didn’t know it. She looked down into her coffee and let the steam hit her face. The dewy kisses made her feel better because she could feel him staring at her, as he enjoyed doing. It wasn’t a fascinated stare, it was a penetrating glare that went down to her bones. He abruptly leaned over and took the band between his two thick fingers and yanked hard. He pinched her in the process, but she said nothing. She never said anything. He pulled back and tossed the plastic band on the table. He looked at her again with that sharp attitude that signaled to her that her voice would be silenced, by any means.
“So, how are you feeling.” he asked in a tolerant tone. It set off another keg of resentment that left her feeling boiled alive.
“I’m alright.” Glory answered and then struggled to find something to say that would possibly shift the mood to a lighter one, but her anger kept interrupting with shouts of injustice. ‘He’s got some nerve talking to me like that. HE’S not taking any responsibility at all!”
Glory gave him the blankest face as she could manage, the weariness of the whole situation was starting to grind on her. Vince folded his arms across his chest and sighed heavily.
“So, that’s all you’re going to say? After five days in the psych ward, that’s all you have to say? Okay Glory, I’ll say how I’m feeling. Just to show you how easy it is.” he scolded her and strangely enough, she felt like a child. She did her best to put up a shield while he spoke, but she was not confident.
“This has been a gigantic waste of time that we don’t have. Do you know how much I had to shift around to make this work while you were in a nice little room, all alone, just like you always wanted? No me telling you what to do and not letting you do what you want. No kids to take care of all the time. No house to clean. Oh, well, let me scratch that one because you don’t really take care of the house and I think you don’t even care about that. Or that you’re setting a bad example to our kids. Who, by the way, have not stopped asking for you and about you. So I told them that you were having surgery on your hands that would explain the scars. I’d appreciate it if you go with that.”
It was another hit for Glory that took her breath away. Did he actually think that she would tell them that their mother tried to kill herself by taking pills and slicing into her veins? Did he really think she wanted them to live with that image of her for the rest of their lives? She didn’t want to think about them in pain. Her eyes moved to a photograph of their sons, Jason and David smiling and laughing, caught in a candid freeze frame of Jason just finishing the punchline to one of his jokes that sent David into hysterics with laughter. Her most favorite thing about that picture was that she had a clear view of Jason’s love for his brother. It was evident, at least to her, by the way he smiled and the joy that lit up his eyes when he made his baby brother laugh. It was so pure, that for one moment, she hated the fact that they would grow up.
The assumption that he threw at her hurt more than she could ever express to him.
“You’re talking like it was a vacation. I needed help.” she told him, trying her best not to remember the previous days.
“What you need is to understand that too much Time has been wasted already with these stupid issues that can be handled very quickly. Instead, you want to be self centered and dramatic.”
Glory looked down into her cup again. She was caught in yet another flashback of her youth where she was being yelled at. What gave them the right, even when they were wrong?
“You’re not all that easy to talk to about some things. It’s like you don’t want to understand or believe me.”
“I don’t want to use the time to understand emotions, Glory. Too much damage has been done through them. After everything we’ve been through and a woman your age should know that by now. This leads me to believe that you hold in your emotions and use them when convenient. I just don’t know why you would want problems. Maybe because you like the attention, you feed off of it like a leech.”
She looked up at him. His ebony eyes flashed with contempt, she could almost see his mind shut off from her words.
“You hate to be told that you think you’re better, but then you say things like that. You want me to take responsibility for this, I do. It was better to be in the hospital then,”
“Than being where you’re suppose to be, doing what you’re suppose to be doing.”
Glory sighed loudly, already feeling drained from the words and emotions that played tag between them.
“And you wonder why I don’t talk to you, because you’ve convinced yourself that I am the reason for all of our issues. It certainly couldn’t be anything you’re doing.” she said sarcastically.
A deep sounding gong went off in her head. She knew the warning well and knew better than to push beyond the limit.
“Give me an example.” he demanded. She could see that the gestures he made were not aggressive as he waited for her answer, but she had proof that it was not wise to continue defending herself. She knew what he wanted to hear, but she just couldn’t summon the energy to get there. So she sank down deeper into her chair.
“Vince, I don’t want to run down what I think is wrong with you. It WOULD be a waste of time. I’m sorry that you had to jump through some hoops because of me. I’ll try to do better.” she said softly, hoping her smooth tone would bring the temperature of the room down. Vince wasn’t having it, at least not until he had gotten everything he wanted. Glory had no choice but to look at him as a foolish man. What man, who claims he’s in love with his wife, would emotionally beat her on the day she was released from the hospital for attempting suicide?
In the end, there was silence. The kind they both hated and tolerated because of the another. The moment was precarious, even after so many years, she was unsure of what to do. She just needed time to comfort herself and give herself a talking to. However, exiting the room, set the tone for the rest of the night. Glory cleared her throat to get his attention from glaring angrily at the wall.
“I would do anything for us not to have a bad night. I’m sorry that I’ve hurt and worried you.” she said this, as she had done many times before, meaning it and being tormented by it at the same time. She couldn’t figure out why it was so important to her for him to see it. She admitted to herself that every time she did something worthy of a better perspective of her, she expected it to be payment on debt. Perhaps not so cut and dry, but it just seemed logical to her. Someone hurt you and they’re willing to make it better, why wouldn’t you let them? Unless it was their way of getting some twisted and sadist kick of torturing the culprit.
Vince looked at her frowning and nodded, like the long suffering husband whose forced to deal with his crazy wife and her unpredictable antics. The more she fought against the lie, the crazier she looked. He, on the other hand, knew who to show his hand to.
He turned away silent and she stood there like an idiot, waiting for what she didn’t know. He didn’t give her any indication of what was to come next and she was at a loss from the fact that no matter how graceful she made the exit, it would still end the same way.
While she was in the bathroom cleaning herself up, she heard the slamming of the front door.
Glory stood at the sink and stared at her reflection. How long can this go on? So far, it’s been sixteen years. Could she do another sixteen years with Vince the way things were between them? For the rest of her life? She feared turning fifty one day and looking at herself, knowing why her eyes seemed so sad and why she would be able to trace every wrinkle like a trail of tears. Her hazel eyes started to fill up and suddenly, she couldn’t look at herself anymore. The disappointment stung and she knew things would be over for them if she started to believe what his actions were telling her. Were they screaming the truth to her from the top of their lungs and she refused to listen? She could still hear the words of her therapist ringing in her ears.
“The problem is that you think this is your all your fault. HE’S the one with the problem. HE’S the one whose supposed to be taking responsibility for his own actions, he’s not doing it because he doesn’t think that he’s doing anything wrong. As long as he thinks and believes that, he’s not going to seek help. He doesn’t want you to have any friends or a support system, except him. You telling others and getting help, lets objective observers see what’s going on and he doesn’t want that.”
Glory felt the helpless and dark feeling close in on her and it brought her down to the white titled floor. She cradled her knees to her chest and dropped her head in defeat. Guilt bubbled up inside and she wept for relief that she had a bad feeling wasn’t coming. She couldn’t understand what was happening. Could he secretly hate her so much that he would rather hold on to anything and everything just to beat her up with it in the future? Why? Who would stay in a marriage just to systematically chip away at his wife and act surprised when she tries to do herself in?
She supposed that because she met him at the desperate age of twenty and knowing that she came from an upbringing that was marked by violence and death, he felt he was rescuing her from a lifetime of hardship and loneliness. He was her knight in shining armor, she accepted all he had to offer. She recalled being wary of kindness and unfamiliar with the ways in returning it to others. She paid little attention to his thoughts or feelings and he accepted it with love, patience and understanding.
She recalled that six weeks in, they started living together and things began to change. He asked if he could pick out her clothes one day and she gave him the benefit of the doubt, but was soon disappointed when his choices were two sizes larger.
“You’d look cute.” he had told her. She didn’t agree and they argued.
“I don’t understand why it’s so important for you to be noticed.”
“Because I wear jeans and a t shirt that doesn’t come down to my knees doesn’t mean that I want to be noticed, Vince. I know how to dress, I don’t need you to teach me.”
“I thought I would mention this at another time, but since you’re so hot for a fight, no time like the present, right? When you’re out in the street, you act a different way than you do when we’re home.”
“What are you talking about, Vince?” Glory asked him. He had triggered a self consciousness that she hadn’t experienced with him before. If only he knew how often she wished she could blend into the background, away from eyes that scrutinize and criticize. Especially his. She could feel them watching for her to do something ‘inappropriate’ by the way she was walking, talking and looking around the room. She hated that she was nervous and anxious, haunted by the possibility that there would be a fight because of where she was looking, or sitting. It was so exhausting to look comfortable when she was clearly not. She prayed not to be approached by a man, young or old. For sure on the way home, she would have to eat a plate of silence.
He rolled his eyes at her and sneered.
“Yeah, act like you don’t know what you do when other people are around. You think I don’t know you, but you’re wrong. I know everything that I need to know about you, even the stuff that cause problems. I wish you could see yourself. You make people uncomfortable with your attitude and they ask me what your problem is.” he told her with his raising voice.
She was taken aback and immediately flew through her memory of every meeting with other people. She tried to remember how she was feeling that day, but couldn’t narrow down a single problem. She thought she did well and ‘represented them as a united couple.’
It was most likely the same problem, just with different triggers..
“What do you see?” she asked and she immediately wished she choked on the question because she broke her own rule; she never asked a question unless she was ready to hear the answer. She wasn’t ready.
“I see your body move different. You’ll place yourself where you can be seen. You laugh louder, talk louder and anybody can make you do what they wanted because you’re a people pleaser. You’re a fake person, who always needs everybodys attention. I mean, I can even smell you get wet when you’re around certain people. I’m not enough for you? It’s not big enough? Why do you think I say I don’t want to do things with other couples, because I know how it’s going to end with you doing something and you always prove me right. I would say a good ninety nine percent of the time, I’m right. So to avoid problems, we don’t do that.” he spoke to her like a slow child.
His words struck her hard and she could feel another piece of her heart break. His eyes were dark with the thrill of being right and having all the facts written in stone. Though, he was blind to his actions and the results.
Glory narrowed her eyes at him and she didn’t see any good that was going to come from this. How important was defending herself against his suspicions and insecurity? He was right that she had hurt him during their time and yes, more than once. She couldn’t remember telling him the things he said to her or treating him this way, but she could be wrong. Her memory was always faulty under this kind of duress, that was in the blood of the women in her family.
She thought she was stronger than they were. She didn’t expect to be smack dab in the middle of one herself. She didn’t expect to feel doubt when he was nice and hesitant in her response to believe it. When she did, he would change overnight.
He didn’t know that she watched him try to be sweet, but knowing he was much more comfortable being sour.
It was the result of their hasty words and deeds that bore this factor in their lives. Trust was broken and they will spend the rest of the years struggling with the harvest.
At this point in her life, Glory didn’t know when it would end. Maybe never, maybe it will go on and on like a train moving slowly and jerking forward until she was finally gone. It was hard not to think that he would be secretly relieved and it hurt to know that every time he said I love you.
She pulled her head up and wondered if he was afraid when he found out she was in the hospital.
Was he afraid because he thought he was going to lose her or because he thought someone would blame him? With light brown strands of hair stuck to her wet face, she was sad to believe the latter.

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About ingridfalconi

I'm a married mother of three and a published author.
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