Until These Tears Don't Have to Cry
I am sleeping, though not soundly. These days, I am in a state of consciousness that is half sleep due to sheer fatigue and half awake because of fear.
The fear is for my husband. Both afraid he will come home and fear that he will not.
I hear the window open and a thud. Then, nothing. I lay in the bed listening. I rise and go to find my husband, the man I love dearly, in a heap on the floor beneath the window. I check his breathing. Shallow, but it is there. I shake him awake and his eyes pop open and he looks into my eyes for a moment. As recognition dawns on him, he pulls me down on the floor beside him.
“Shh!! There are people out there” Sweat dots his upper lip. He is whispering as to not make his whereabouts known. It is surreal. Almost like playing cops and robbers when I was a kid. But this is no game.
“Honey, there is no one out there, please just lie down and go to sleep.” I sigh almost begging him.
“No, there are people after me. Can’t you see their flash lights? I can hear them talking.”
I oblige him and look at the window. I hear the song of the crickets. Nothing more. I see nothing but darkness. We live on a dirt road with only one neighbor. There is no one out there. After a 3 day drug binge, my husband is hallucinating.
Between exhaustion, lack of food, and the paranoia induced by crack cocaine, he is not in his right mind. Tears well up in my eyes and I blink them away because there is no time to cry. My husband’s life depends on me getting him to sleep.
“Come lay down on the bed under the covers. They won’t see you there.” I finally tell him.
After a little more arguing, he complies and lies down. I look at him. He is filthy. His feet are cracked and bleeding from walking for three days in flip flops. Skin is torn on his arms and legs from hiding in thickly wooded areas to avoid cops and other imagined enemies. He is gaunt and needs food, but not right now.
Worried about leaving him for even a second, I go down the hall to the bathroom and fetch a bowl of warm water, towels, and a wash cloth. No time for soap. Bringing my supplies to the bed, I sit beside him. Fever has set in. Tremors rack his body as he lies there, mumbling in his sleep. The tears try to come again; yet again I tamp them down impatiently, knowing that the luxury to sit and cry is one I cannot indulge in.
I dip the wash cloth in the water and wring it out. Quickly wiping the worst of the grime from his face, arms, and legs, I then look at his feet. Now the tears flow freely and I do not try to stop them. I move further down the bed to his feet and begin washing them, my tears mingling with the nearly black water.
I am reminded of Sunday school when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. How it spoke of his unconditional love for them. The words of my favorite hymn, in the times that I need the most strength, escape my lips as I wash and cry my pain away.
“I am weak but though art strong
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk, Close to Thee”
I finish washing the best that I can. I cover my husband, the man I promised to love through good times and bad, sickness and health. I lie down beside him and hold him, much like I would my children. His tremors finally subside and his sleep turns almost serene. I do not sleep. For when you are the watchman, you do not sleep.
And I wonder, not for the first time, how long it will be until these tears don’t have to fall. My husband stirs and rolls over to his side, wrapping his arms around me. Though I do not like him very much in this moment, I let him cling to me, knowing that he needs to hang on to something real.
In the morning light, he rises. He looks me in the eye and neither of us speaks. I turn to rise and he stops me, gently pulling me back down. He searches my eyes for forgiveness and I will not look at him.
“I’m sorry.” He says. I do not speak still. I will not remind him of what he cannot remember.
Hours later, I sit at my computer and I write. I write and I write. This is my release. And then to him, I show him what I’ve written, the words my mouth cannot speak.
Hours stretch into days
I've been waiting
I pray to God he'll see the light
Not looking forward to this fight
I'll get mad, he'll hang his head
and instead of leaving, I'll stay instead
(but) through these tears
I'll keep waiting
Through this pain
that I'll keep taking
Upon myself so maybe I'll see
A glimpse of the man he used to be
And I'll keep on waiting
through it all
Until these tears don't have to fall