The young 25-year-old college guy looked at me and said, “I know I love you because when you hurt, I hurt.” He was crying. I don’t recall seeing him cry unless he was watching King Kong or Backdraft. He hugged me and we laid in a bed in his parents’ basement and we cried, together holding each other. I do not recall what we were even crying about.
“I know I love you because when you hurt, I hurt.” Those words feel as if they were spoken a lifetime ago. Perhaps, it was a lifetime ago.
He told me those words before we knew real hard days. The dismally bad, pull your hair out, crawl in the bed and never want to crawl out of it kind of days. The same kind of days where you find yourself sitting at a table, trying to eat crappy pizza and watching your husband weep next to half-eaten five dollar pizza.
When he hurts, I hurt too.
I recall the days where I warned him. I told him, “One day we’ll wish for these times.” Perhaps these are the days we look back and are yearning for, those carefree youthful days. The times where we spent time alone while we worked jobs and finished degrees. We played poker on Fridays. We got maddening drunk and made up just in time to get lost in movies all weekend long. They were the kind of weekends where after everyone left our house on a Friday night, we stayed up. We ate fast food. We decided to go grocery shopping at 4 in the morning, because we didn’t want to have to go on Saturday.
Still half hungover, half intoxicated I danced through the grocery aisles. Twirled my way to some song sung a decade ago. The boxes lined the aisles as the store restocked their shelves. I always waited until I found the empty place, the lonely nook hidden behind cardboard boxes, and I grabbed him. I swung my arms around his neck and danced my way under his beard. I stretched my neck upwards and kissed the morning away. I love you. I love you too. Dance in the aisles. Grocery aisles are made for dancing and kissing, especially in the early dawn hours.
We’d get home and crawl into bed and strip down to nothing, and wake up with everything. Sleep till noon, roll out of the warm bed and head towards the closet to find sweat pants. I’d always find his sweat pants and his favorite hooded sweatshirt. His clothes fit me better. Possibly due to the reason his clothes offer more comfort or perhaps it’s the fact they feel like a red glowing, stretched out embrace as they wrap around my body and… they belong to him.
He is mine, I am thine:
It’s been 14 years, and within each passing day has been gathered a thousand or more tales revolving around him. Then life kind of crashes next to a Little Caesar’s pizza as I say, “You’re not okay. Sometimes, it’s okay to not be okay. And that’s okay.” He’s sad. When he hurts, I hurt too.
Those were the days we would miss, the old apartment living beginning days. We didn’t know friends would leave. We didn’t know growing up meant… We didn’t know what growing up meant at all. It just happened. We grew up. Best friends moved away and are missed. Other people were never really friends at all or they were only seasons throughout our life. Their season is over, spring is coming.
When he hurts, I hurt.
I’ve watched him cry more tears in the last two months than in all our years combined. My tough, hardened scorpion. I feel every salty tear, and I understand. I swim into the tough outer layer desperately trying to wrap my arms around his hurt. My hands hold his blonde fuzzy, thick-bearded cheeks and I tell him, “you’ll always have us. You have us.”
We sit at our dining room table, surrounded by crappy pizza and sadness. Too much loss.
Both our cats passed away within the same month. It started Oct. 27th and ended in the dawn hours after the day we gave “Thanks.” Our first fur babies’ lives came to end, all within one month. The eighteen year old calico cat named “Butters” became ill and we made the date. One shot and they brought her out in a trash bag. And my husband and I cried. We cried the entire car ride home. We cried as we put the trash bag in a hole and scooped dirt on top of our friend.
We spent days, and then weeks crying and grieving. We didn’t expect to have to grieve again, not so soon. But we did when our 13 year old gray, runt tabby cat named “Zoe” passed away on Thanksgiving night unexpectedly from a heart condition. I woke up after eating a turkey feast to my cat dying on the second step of our staircase at 3 a.m. She was trying to get upstairs when I heard her let out a last crying scream, a death gasp. The noise I can only describe as a woman screaming, waking me from a heavy slumber. I didn’t believe she was dead, even after it was obvious her body was limp and there wasn’t breath in her chest. How does one even begin to cope when their animals, their family members, are no longer a part of their family? They were a part of our family since we started dating. We’ve picked up and tried to move on.
Inside the present day home today, there are two Tomcat kittens. The toddler says, “Goodnight, Pickles. Goodnight, Ash.” He kisses two kittens and goes to bed. Life keeps spinning. We keep living, after vast portions of our lives are gone. The little boy tells us about Polar Express and how he got two baby cats from the Animal Shelter. Every once in awhile, he will say he misses his old cats.
The little boy’s father is sad and me, his mother, feels like I’m failing in parenthood and marriage. Too much hurt and I can’t hug it all away.
When my mate hurts, I hurt.
It was easy in the beginning days, when the future wasn’t here. It was easy in the days when time could be a spared luxury. It was easy to be young and piss drunk. Easy does not a relationship make.
Everything I’ve done in my life, anything I’ve done worthwhile, required a lot of work. It required commitment, love, passion, and digging my heels in while gritting my teeth and saying, “We’ll get by. We always do.” All of those things led me exactly to where I want to be. Sitting across from my mate, eating crappy pizza explaining I can see he’s not okay. And it’s okay not to be okay. When he hurts, I hurt.
Rachel E. Bledsoe is a writer and an Appalachian Misfit Mama. She enjoys swimming, long walks on the beach, and Marie Antoinette biographies. She is the sole voice and writer behind The Misfits of a Mountain Mama. You can visit her on Facebook or on Twitter @MisfitMtMama.