I wake up in a cold sweat in the dead of the night. My heart is pounding so hard I think I can see it coming out of my chest for a second. I wipe the sweat off of my forehead and rub my eyes to the point that I’m seeing stars, hoping to snap myself out of the fog I find myself in. Getting hit with how dry the sandpaper-texture of my mouth is, I quickly chug the half-filled Poland Spring water bottle sitting on the nightstand next to me. Still disoriented, I look over to my side, expecting to see Mads sleeping soundly there. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, it hits me that I’m all alone in a musty, stained bed in a random motel. Observing my surroundings, I see that my silver suitcase is on the floor, not unpacked in the slightest. The way it lays there in front of me, mocking me silently and urging me to come and accept my fate. Turning my attention towards my coffee-stained blue button-down, I think that maybe it might be time to actually do something and unpack. After all, I’m gonna be here for a while, I think to myself, letting out a slow sigh. Checking my beat-up Iphone 6, I see that it’s 4 am. Waking up at this time hasn’t been an unfamiliar thing for me lately. Ever since Mads kicked me out, I haven’t been able to sleep right. God, I should stop calling her Mads, I say in my head, cringing at the thought. Just Madison from now on, just Madison, I keep repeating, trying to burn it into my brain.
Taking a deep breath or two, I take a moment to just sit in my bed and address the unfortunate series of events that have led me to this point. Even thinking about this situation makes my head hurt. Instead, I just stare at the off-white wall blankly, studying the mahogany border and picture frames on the wall. One of them is of a picture-perfect family with the text “Welcome to Family-Inn!” A mother, father, daughter, and son all smile wide at the camera. You can tell by the way their eyes crinkle and shine that they’re being genuine. I feel a sudden wave of sadness, a reminder of the empty pit in my stomach. I can feel the emptiness I’ve been trying to ignore for so long take the spotlight again as I’m reminded of my wife and children. Well, ex-wife, technically. I see the past us in that photo. Way back when Madison and I were madly in love and the only thing taking up our thoughts were who was going to change Bailey’s diapers. Madison was the one who picked that name. She thought it sounded sweet and caring, just like how we wanted our daughter to be.
Smiling to myself, I get up to go to the bathroom, surprised at how fast the water got through my system. I throw the grimy-feeling white bed sheets off of myself and get up from the bed. As I do, I can feel and hear the springs creaking like a door with rusty hinges. Stepping onto the itchy carpet floor, I make my way over to the tiny bathroom. I do my business and as I go to head back to the bed, I hesitate, thinking that maybe I should wash my hands this time. After washing my hands with the very artificial lemon-scented soap, I stare at my reflection in the smudged mirror in front of me. I should probably shave soon, I think to myself, rubbing my hand over the ever-growing stubble. Studying my reflection further, I notice how greasy and long my hair is getting. My eyebags are grape-colored and my eyes sockets look hollowed out. I haven’t changed anything in a week and I’m really starting to smell. Ugh, whatever, no use looking good anymore, I say to myself, walking back to bed.
I check the time on my phone again and see that it’s about 6am. Did 2 hours of my life really get wasted just sitting on a stinky bed? Madison is usually up at this time, I remark, my thumb going back and forth from the power button and the screen. Without hesitating any further, I decide to just do it. Before I can even have a second thought, I dial her, still wary of what’s to come. As I put the phone to my ear, I stare out the barely-see through motel window. I focus on the oblong white and brown spots covering the entirety of the glass, trying to ease my nerves a bit. After a few seconds of ringing and increasing anticipation, I finally hear something.
“Hello?” Madison says in a questioning voice.
“Hi, um, I think we should talk,” I say, wincing a bit as I say it. I hear an exhausted sigh from the other side.
“What do you want,” she says in a demanding and uninterested tone.
“I just wanna say that I don’t like how we ended things last week,” I explain, “I mean, the way we yelled and screamed.”
“Yeah, I really wish we didn’t do that in front of Bailey,” she responds with a sigh. I can just picture her rubbing her temple with her fingers.
“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. I know, I should have said this earlier,” I say, keeping my eyes on the spots and smudges as I play with the ring on my finger. I hear crackling from the other side.
“Sorry, sorry. I just find it kinda funny that you’re apologizing now,” she begins, “and not 2 months ago when I found you in bed with someone else.”
“No, j-just listen. I’m sorry ok, I already told you it was an accident,” I try to explain. As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I knew it was game over.
“Oh, an accident, huh. Was it an accident that you’ve been seeing her for months before that? Or were the texts I found just an accident too?” I can hear her raising her voice for every second that goes by.
“Listen, I admit it. I made a mistake, ok just-”
“Oh, so now you admit it. Did you just realize that what you did was a mistake. Did you finally come to that conclusion after she left you too? Is it just a small mistake to you? Is that it?”
“No, no, no,” I say as I rush my words, “It was just that we were going through a rough patch and I was an idiot. I was dumb and didn’t think twice and I’m so sorry.”
“You can’t just use that as an excuse! We were all going through a rough time. Just because I got fired and the money was tight, doesn’t mean you can just go run off with someone else,” she says, her voice getting even more strained.
“But you don’t get it. Did you realize how distant you were being? I couldn’t even hold up a conversation with you,” I retort, feeling my voice get higher too.
“You couldn’t just do that though! Do you even know how hard it was to explain to Bailey that I caught her Dad with another woman. Not even just another woman, your boss!” she shouts, choking up on the last part.
“Now don’t you bring Bailey into this-”
“Of course I’m going to bring her into this! Have you ever thought for once in your life how your actions might affect her? Have you ever thought about how she would feel? I-It’s like you don’t even care about her! All you do is hurt her, over and over again. Sometimes I wish you would just disappear. So that Bailey could smile for once. For once!” she yells. I can hear the pain in her voice as she sobs. Each word pierces through my heart like knives and I feel my throat burn as I try to keep down my tears. Feeling one travel down my cheek and drip onto my shirt, I take a deep breath. The silence is deafening. Neither of us says a thing. I know that what she’s saying is true. I didn’t think of her. Not at all. Who am I to say that I love her meanwhile I do the things I do?
“Henry, I’m so sorry,” she finally says, her voice nearly a whisper.
“I know you are. It’s ok.” I manage to respond, sniffling a bit. “Maybe we shouldn’t talk for a bit after this,” I suggest.
“Yeah, ok. You’re right,” she replies quietly. We just sit there, not saying a word, because we don’t need to.