Artwork via Pixabay.
by Sam Justice
Before Delilah, I slept nights. I dreamed regularly, sometimes lucidly, of things like kings’ thrones or starry nights or valleys of sweet-smelling flowers. Sometimes I dreamed of women: raven-haired temptresses, flaxen-haired maidens, ginger wenches. You know what I mean. But that was before.
After Delilah, I slept fitfully – couldn’t put two winks together, much less forty. My body still woke every hour or two, conditioned to her smoke breaks that went on all night, every night. At work the next day, I started nodding off during meetings. I became irritable, couldn’t think, spilled my coffee, occasionally hallucinated – all your classic signs of sleep deprivation.
Love isn’t blind.
It’s just astigmatic.
If I slept long enough to dream, I dreamt of murders or variations on my own death: driving off a cliff, being hit by a train, shot, speared, gored by a rhinoceros, trampled by horses. They were the sort of nightmares you get when you’re a cop or a soldier. I was a computer technician.
Before Delilah, I ate regular meals, mostly simple fare such as salads and bread, or soups and sandwiches. Sometimes, when I had the time and energy, I even cooked – nothing fancy, just basic things like lasagna or marinated chicken. I sometimes had a friend or two over to enjoy dinner with me. If there were leftovers, I frugally sealed them up in freezer bags and saved them for another week.
After Delilah, I never knew when to eat. My body – jittery and hypervigilant – still seemed to think that she might enter the room at any time, shouting about perceived injustices, or demanding to be driven across town to pick up her medicine or more cigarettes or the sugary drinks which were the most benign of her addictions.
The irregularity meant that I might go all day without eating, only to find myself shaky and nauseated and craving doughnuts at three o’clock in the morning, and if I very sensibly gave my body a bowl of Raisin Bran instead, the soggy cereal would come back up with a vengeance. My system could no longer tolerate vegetables or fruits. Embarrassment about my digestive difficulties kept me from sharing dinner with friends. I learned to live on packaged peanut butter crackers and plain bread, with an occasional single-serving macaroni-and-cheese dinner microwaved in a plastic container. There were never leftovers.
Before Delilah, I was fit and reasonably healthy. I won’t bore you with a recitation of my exercise regimen. It wasn’t anything as strict as that anyway, but suffice to say that I walked a few miles each day, lifted weights, and hiked in the mountains on weekends. I could run up and down the steps to my apartment without breathing hard.
Once, I was standing in the doorway at work, and I pushed hard enough that the plaster cracked around the doorjamb. I didn’t mean to. It just happened. It was probably caused by substandard building materials, or shoddy contractors. Still, everyone had a good laugh about it.
After Delilah, of course, I had to move out of my apartment and into one across town where it wasn’t really safe to walk in the evenings. I was so depressed that I stayed in my office with the door closed most of the time at work, and didn’t roam around the building to visit with my coworkers like I used to. The lack of exercise made me paunchy around the middle, despite having practically nothing I was able to eat. Between this and the constant snapping at people from lack of sleep, I didn’t have much to laugh about. If my coworkers were laughing, it was behind my back. Probably at the coffee stains on my pants.
There was a woman, Evie, who worked down the hall from me, before Delilah, and we used to talk pretty often, even flirt sometimes. Evie and I got along great, and I thought she was hot, but I wouldn’t ask her out because it’s awkward, you know, when you go out with someone you work with. Delilah came to work there too, after we were already seeing each other. After Delilah, I had solid proof that dating someone you work with is a bad, bad, bad idea. It doesn’t matter whether you were working together first or going out first. It doesn’t matter if the person you’re going out with never comes to work because she calls in sick all the time. It’s a bad idea. After Delilah, I had to replace all four of the slashed tires on my car. More than once.
Which brings up another thing. Before Delilah, I had money. Not a fortune, but enough. I was paying off debts, a little at a time, and my needs were few. Delilah’s needs, however, were many – and expensive. After Delilah, I learned to lock up my cash, credit cards, and anything to do with my banking information. I could have gone through six years of college or had heart surgery for the amount of debt she racked up on my credit cards.
Once, she suggested she could get a second job to help out (which was funny, since she wasn’t showing up for the job she already had), and she took it into her head that she could go to work with her friend who owned a hair salon. She’d never cut anyone’s hair before, but I foolishly agreed to let her have a go at mine, for practice. How hard could it be?
After Delilah, I never went anyplace to get my hair cut again. I was too afraid. She’d been doing all right, when she cut my hair that time, despite being hopped up on whatever she’d taken earlier that evening, but she’d missed a longish lock of it and when I pointed it out, she began screaming and stabbed me in the ear with the scissors. I’d never imagined there could be so much blood in an ear. Whenever I passed a hair salon, after Delilah, I couldn’t help wondering whether the plastic drapes were there to keep off hair or blood. Now I just shave my head every week.
I don’t want you to think that I’m the sort of person who blames every bit of trouble in their life on an ex. I’m really not, or at least I wasn’t (before Delilah), and I take full responsibility for the rather large baggie of pills found in the pocket of my car door. That is entirely my fault. I didn’t buy them or put them there, but I refused to let Delilah drive my car the day we broke up. She was quite insistent about borrowing my car to get her things from the apartment, but as I mentioned, lack of sleep makes me very cranky, and I was already late for work. It seemed better, at the time, to simply say no and assure her I’d drop her things off at her mom’s house.
So even though I didn’t know they were there, the drugs in the car were my own fault. I knew her well enough by then that I should have thought to search the car thoroughly. The police didn’t know her as well as I did, and they certainly knew to search the car. It’s a catch-22, I suppose, when your tires get slashed and you need a report to turn in to your insurance, so you have to call the police to report the vandalism and they somehow just know to peek into that little pocket on the driver’s door, which is right there in plain sight.
Love isn’t blind, just astigmatic. And when things are fuzzy or unclear, I’ve always tried to be nonjudgmental – give the benefit of the doubt when I can.
Until after Delilah.
© Copyright 2015 by Sam Justice
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