I keep thinking back on how things have progressed the last few years. The horrors I witnessed, and the things I lost. The things I gained. I find it...hard, to explain just what has been going on with me. What it feels like to have your children taken away, to have your wife die, to watch her suffer over a period of months. I tell my therapist about it, and he nods and listens. But I know he doesn't get it. No one seems to get it. Even my new wife, Margaret.
She tries to. I am really fortunate to have her. I really doubt I would be as okay if I didn't have her. We don't really talk about what happened, though she knows probably more about it than most. It just isn't part of our lives. She does her work and I do mine, and when we get home we simply spend time together. Neither of us talk about our day. We mostly read. But I saw a look in her eyes today I haven't seen in a while. She looked concerned.
I have tried to play the role of the good husband. I have kept my hours at work and I get her small trinkets that remind me of her. And I listen...but I can see it when she looks at me. The thing we don't discuss is becoming an issue and I am struggling with how I am going to tell her. What happened before my wife died. What led to the nightmares.
It is easier to write it down.
I think most people who have read this assumed that the nightmares came from what happened with my wife. It did in a way, but the nightmares started before that. Her suffering just made it worse. And really, what happened to her is what matters now. It is what bothers Margaret.
To be honest, my old wife and I had been drifting apart before that point. It is why I wasn't home when he got to her. Now I avoid the old house for different reasons.
Now I don't drink like I used to. The guilt took care of that. But God knows I wish I could.
That day, I left for the bar after work. I was working through a publisher. An old buddy of mine had set it up after I had gotten back to the states. It was good work, but I was clearly distracted. Phil covered for me all the time. Of course...back then that was pretty much all that anyone was doing.
It had become a habit of mine, going to the bar after work. But I had just finished reading a manuscript. Hit a bit too close to home. Made me drink more than I think I needed to. Not that the drink ever helped anyway. I wasn't even two hours into it when the owner had to haul me to a couch he had in the back. Covering for me, just like everyone was.
I didn't wake up until morning. It was a Saturday. My head was throbbing like crazy and I smelled something awful. I wasn't looking forward to the argument I was going to have when I got home. For weeks I had been listening to her criticize me for losing control of my life. At the time I thought she was being judgmental. What the hell did she know about what I had gone through. When I got home, I instantly felt regret, wishing some other thoughts had been going through my head.
The front door was unlocked, the glass face of the main door spilling light into the main hall leading in from the door. Even with the light, it was still dark, the sun not yet fully risen. But I could see there was something in the hall. Something on the floor.
I opened the door and was instantly overcome by the scent of rubbing alcohol. Everything it seemed had been sterilized. I called out to her, but got no response. I reached out and turned on the light switch to get a better look. She was conscious, but her breathing was weak. He had covered her in one of our comforters from upstairs, but the heat had shut off during the night. Her...her body was mostly still save the rising and falling of her chest. She told me later that she was afraid if she moved something would fall off.
I called 911. I then reached under the comforter to find her hand, taking it in mine. Though,it didn't fit like it used to. Without the skin it was hard to hold onto.
They asked me to describe her condition, and I told her what he had done to her face. The woman on the other line was silent before asking about the rest of her body. But that would mean lifting the comforter. And though I knew they had to know, I struggled to do so. At last, I worked up the nerve. I grabbed the sheet and pulled it down slowly so nothing would stick or tear. I heard her scream...and then I was screaming...
He had removed the flesh from her face. Polished the bone meticulously. The skin on her lower arms and hands had been removed, and the same had been done with the lower legs. Her chest had a long line of stitches running down it, from the top of the neck to bellow her bellybutton. There was nothing left...below that. Just tissue connecting the legs and an empty chasm. The only thing keeping it solid was the bone, polished and cleaned. The exposed parts were mostly covered in wrapping, and the open spots were sewn shut, the skin moved to accommodate it.
I don't really remember the police arriving. Next thing I knew I was being brought over to the ambulance to go with her. She looked at me the entire time, though she couldn't blink. They kept putting drops in the eyes so they would stay moist. I...couldn't think of what to say. I just stared back. I should have said something.
The first thing they did was toxicology. They were careful, trying not to repeat the mistakes that had happened with the teenagers. It took the doctors the rest of the night just to determine all the things he had done to her. It was over six hours before I was able to see her again. She had been heavily sedated. I got to her room, and after a few minutes a doctor pulled me off to the side to explain the situation.
It took a full five minutes for him to finish telling me what had happened. But I could tell he was holding back. What he said next...how do you even process such a thing.
“He...fixed some things.”
I asked him to explain, and after much convincing he told me.
“Your wife had a cavity. He filled it in and cleaned the rest of her mouth...but there is one other thing he did. Your wife had a heart condition. It was detectable in her medical charts but no one had picked it up. It was very hard to fix, a very difficult procedure...it is commonly referred to as a ARVC...he performed heart surgery.”
I didn't leave the hospital that day. Nor the day after that. My sister took care of my kids, insisting they didn't see their mother until she was better.
But she didn't get better. Things only got worse.