Cal Trout column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To the solitary in a season of love

“It’s funny,” Sal said. “I knew something wasn’t right the night Josh and I came over for spaghetti. Two things struck me. One was that she kept a very clean house…”

This was true. She wouldn’t even let me help out with the laundry and dishes. “Dammit, Cal,” she’d say. “You’re too rough with my things. My pots and pans. Look at them. They’re scraped. And my clothes. You washed my white blouse with my jeans. What if they had faded.”

“They didn’t,” I’d said evenly.

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“But they could have. And my socks. She slung open the drawer. “You folded them all wrong.”

I hardly tried after that. With her working two part-time jobs and in grad. school, I was only trying to help. But it suited me. I hate laundry.

“The other thing,” Sal continued, “was that she was not well. I asked her if she thought it was that first year adjustment… you know living with a man.”

“No,” she said, “That’s fine. I just can’t get happy. I’m never happy anymore.”

That was true, too. She wasn’t. And there is little a man can do when that stone of sadness settles into a woman’s stomach. I watched it grow for months while I tried with furious impotence to alleviate it.

After planning for vacation one morning, she said she was going to take a nap. I went to work on a surprise for Valentine’s Day. At noon I prepared dinner and placed it on a TV tray in front of the couch where she lay, pretty and peaceful, sleeping.

She woke and forked the rice and pork chop around the plate a while without taking a bite. It had been like this ever since she had started taking medication for depression and anxiety. They messed with her appetite. She was so scared of Atavan at first she asked me to take it so I could tell her if it was too strong for her to take. I didn’t want to, but she was my wife. So I did. Man, did I sleep. Anyway, It wasn’t weird for her not to be eating.

At Mike’s house I told him we were divorcing, “Oh,” he said, “It’s that —— she works with that was with us last time we went out, wasn’t it?” Before I could answer he continued, “I knew it, Cal. I knew it. I just couldn’t believe that was what I was looking at.”

I glared at my old friend and thought of murder. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“What,” he said. “How? Really, how? I’m gonna risk our friendship and wrecking your house over a hunch? Not in this lifetime. I had no idea… I swear… what to do.”

She finally quit pushing the food around and looked at me squarely, confidently, resolved. “I can’t do this anymore.”

“Pork chops? Yeah I’m getting kind of tire-“

“No. This.” She waved her hand carelessly at the room. At me.

I put my fork down.

In the coming weeks things devolved. She tried to get me to take Atavan again one night. When I refused, she tried Tylenol PM and Benadryl. Said she was concerned I wasn’t sleeping well. The picture was clicking into focus.

Two weeks before Valentine’s Day, we signed the papers. Eight days before my birthday.

If you have someone to love this Valentine season, even though it’s a commercial holiday of the women, by the women, for the women, love them dearly. Let them know it.

If you don’t, try not to look with too much scorn upon those who do. They may be trying with every ounce of strength to lift someone they care for out of a very dark place. And they may be just about to fail.

(Editor’s note: Cal Trout is a former literature and composition teacher at South Panola who now writes and farms on his family farm in Charleston.)