That night we got in a fight that had no repair. No passionate “I love you” or “I am sorry babe” could take back what was said, but we were trapped by the four walls of our bedroom, scared the kids would sense trouble if I slept in the living room. The love I felt for Her was unmasked, and untouched by anybody or anything but that night I realized I was doing something that was making her miserable but I couldn’t quite figure out why. The worst part is that it wasn’t The Fight that I realized the tension that led up to That Night.
That Night was hauntingly still. I remember laying in what was once a warm bed, freezing and scared that if I moved a muscle I would ruin it more than I already had. I re-imagined The Fight over and over, picturing the wrinkles in her brow furrow into dismay and disillusionment when she looked at me. Everything I said, every movement I made seemed to make the matter worse. For the first time since we married she fell asleep without kissing me goodnight. I could tell that her tears exhausted her and that she would rather be asleep than awake, escaping from the war zone that was our room. It wasn’t a few hours into the night until I drifted, finally letting my thoughts rest.
In my state of sleep, I opened my eyes and everything was shaking. The doors of the room slammed against the frames, and my alarm clock violently fell onto the wooden floors clanging loudly with the bells echoing in the background. Everything was shaking and I felt like the ground underneath me was being uplifted. It wasn’t until I planted my feet on the floor that I realized this wasn’t a nightmare. My eyes, though already open, stretched wider and with an awareness, I hadn’t had a couple seconds before. Suddenly the sounds of Martina’s tired shriek became louder than the frames slamming against the walls and I sprung into action. “Go, just go, honey. Just grab the boys and I’ll grab Sofia.”
Eyes, already puffy from the night before were re-soaked by the panic of that night. Her footsteps, careful yet quick left the room as I followed closely behind. The boys had just woken up, and by the time I grabbed them and held them close to my chest the girls were already outside. The earth hadn’t yet stopped.
You could hear walls cracking under the pressure of the ground, and the cries of the neighbors. Luckily, all the walls of our house were still standing 40.2 seconds after the earth stopped shaking. All the neighbors were outside. Everyone was just as frightened as us and our kids, yet Martina and I were the only couple not embracing 40.2 seconds after the shake robbed us of our dreams.
“You’re okay. I’m here. You’re okay.” She stroked the kids’ heads, holding all three of them in her arms. I admired her tired, yet gentle light eyes. The muscles of her jaw clenched as her brown hair fell from the bun she slept in. I felt invisible like I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, rather be allowed in that moment. It wasn’t until the ground stopped making noises that it all sunk in. Earthquakes are normal for us here, but not a monster like this one. Electricity went out, and the majority of our stuffed lay crashed on the floor of our once pristine home. Martina liked everything clean. And organized, and perfect. All in a matter of one night all she had worked to keep so perfect had fallen into pieces, us included.
The neighbors were quick to all meet on the street to make sure everything was okay. It was now an hour after the quake and only two hours until sunrise. No one had had the courage to go back to sleep inside our houses in fear that the earth would strike again. I pulled out tents from the garage, and made a few sprints into the kitchen, grabbing water and whatever I could grab from the refrigerator and pantry and managed to steal some blankets from the living room. We set up the tent and sat quietly in the front yard. The kids managed to fall asleep, but Martina and I were fighting to stay awake, frightened that if we closed our eyes our lives would continue crashing into the ground.
“Honey look I… I am honestly so sorry about our conversation and… I don’t even know how it started or what it was all about but… I promise I’ll be better.. I love you Mar and you can’t imagine how happy I was to see you next to me when..”
She passingly glanced over at me, her eyes in a daze.
“I am so tired. I am just so tired. Let’s just get some rest, I can’t imagine it will be a normal couple of weeks. I just want to sleep.” She turned over and embraced the kids, unreachable from my side of the tent.
The warmth of the sun on my face woke me up. It was sunrise, and I could hear an unusual amount of sound outside. The sound of a staticky radio out in the street informed us that it had been a quake of 7.5 and that it was just the beginning. Expect aftershocks. We were trapped in the front yard of our home, not being able to do anything but deal with the shambles of our home. The shaking stopped after that night, but little tremors kept us sleeping in the yard. Martina and I also had no other option but to deal with the shambles of our once relationship. Like the floors of our home, everything between us was broken.
We were out in our yard for two months. School was canceled. Work was canceled. Our old life was canceled. The kids played in the neighbor’s yard and luckily we had enough food to be rationed between us and the neighbors. Martina and I couldn’t ignore what was around us and spoke all day but never of The Monster. One night, when the kids stayed over at the neighbor’s house we held each other like we used to. We talked in the tent for hours about when we used to date. The dinners we went to, and the first time she met my parents. Our wedding. Martina spoke but I felt like she wasn’t there. I longed for her. I reached out my arms and brought her closer. She didn’t flinch. I kissed her. She kissed back. For one last time that night, we made love. And there was love there, but it wasn’t the same. It was a nostalgic type of love. We drifted to sleep in each other’s arms.
My eyes opened and Martina was sitting next to me, dressed and with tears in her eyes.
“How come you never loved me as much as you loved Her? How can you think of Her when you have me? I know you love me but not as much as you loved Her. I can’t come second anymore… I… I just… maybe I thought you’d eventually fall in love with me, not keep falling for Her”
By this point, Martina’s words were cracking through her frail voice. I knew who she was talking about because She had always been Martina’s largest insecurity. But Martina wasn’t wrong. I don’t know how she knew I thought of Her constantly, wishing Martina was Her. I never said this to Mar, but the love I gave her belonged to someone else. I tried to save myself from drowning in the questions she had asked.
“Baby, shhh don’t say that. You can’t say that it’s not true. I don’t think of her, I can’t remember the last time I did.” Lie, lie, lie. Martina could tell I was lying. She looked at me, tired and done. I heard the laugh of the kids run back into the front yard and straight to our tent. Martina wiped her eyes.
“Mama, Mama! The radio said school starts tomorrow! School starts tomorrow! I get to see my friends!”
Sofia was excited to get back inside to our once life. I was not. I knew that the mess in the house could be cleaned up, unlike our marriage.
Two long months later, it was going to be our last night out in the tent. I still didn’t understand how she knew my love never belonged to her. For some reason, that night I fell asleep sounder than I had since we were back in the house. That night I dreamt with Her. She was just as beautiful in my dream as I had always remembered. We sat together and talked, in the dream. We embraced.
“Did you hear Daddy talking last night? He was talking in his sleep!” The empty space between Sofia’s front teeth left her speech with a slight lisp. I was awoken with innocent laughter from the kids. My eyes opened and I sat up and listened to them giggling and playing before going back to school. Martina had gone back inside and was fixing the kid’s lunches for school. Sofia saw that I was finally up, and looked right at me, smile on her face, a nervous giggle in her voice,
“Daddy, you talked in your sleep last night! Who is Gianna?” she said innocently looking at me with amusement. I hadn’t heard Her name in years. My cheeks flushed and I felt the heat warm my ears. And that’s how I knew that Martina knew, my love never belonged to her.