Darryl took off half a day of work because of urgent personal business. He could think of nothing more important, and he filled his mind with anxiety.
Just this morning before walking out the door his wife told him, “Don’t be surprised if you come home to an empty house tonight. I may be gone, and if I am, I’ll never come back.”
These were the final words in a three-day rolling argument. For years, Becca had pointed out his thoughtlessness concerning her, overlooking birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. These made her feel unloved, she asserted. She had continuously complained about his bullying her, his arrogance, his combativeness, and his unwillingness to be humble enough to admit when he was wrong.
Countless times, she had begged him in tears to stop demeaning her in public. “After all, I am your wife, and if that’s what you really think of me, it’s nothing more than a reflection on you—how you weren’t smart enough to make a good choice of a wife.”
When he left for work, Darryl did not care if she left, he might possibly welcome it. It would only go to prove her stupidity, he thought. What woman in her right mind would leave a man like him? He was a good provider, he possessed outstanding physical features, and over the years many women had made overtures to him, all of which he had declined.
Sometime around ten o’clock, while sitting in his cubicle and talking to a client on the telephone, it was if the blindfold lifted from his eyes. His wife’s words over the years came back to him, and for some reason he now understood they were true. In horror, he relieved moments where he had publicly shamed her, and times when he had gone out of his way to make her appear stupid. He recalled the missed special days, how he had made her cry and feel rejected, and how he had completely failed in being a good and loving husband to the woman he had married.
Leaving work at noon, he went to the floral shop, then to the department store and picked up perfume and clothing. He stopped at a gift store and purchased items she had said she wanted over the years but which he had refused to buy her. He booked a vacation—in actuality a honeymoon, which he had never given her—in the Caribbean. Darryl could not think of enough places to stop and things to purchase because he hoped he could make up for 17 years of cruelty in an afternoon of unfettered spending.
Becca arrived home at 5:30 every evening, so Darryl timed his arrival to be a few minutes later. Although he did not see her car, he assumed she had parked it in the garage and closed the door, so he bounded in the front door, calling her name. That itself should have signaled a change to Becca, for he never called her by name.
Silence greeted Darryl. He walked through the house in search of her, but his calls echoed emptily. He found her note on the kitchen table.
Becca had gone through with it. She had left him, and she promised the finality of it. Nothing he could do would win her back. She triple underlined the word nothing.
Earlier in the day, he did not care if she left, but now he did. For the first time in his married life, he ached, he cried, he felt rejected, he felt despair. He had inflicted all this on his wife for 17 years and had experienced it just this once, and wondered how she had endured all that time.
Why the epiphany of his wrong behavior if there was no hope of reconciliation, he wondered. This was not a mystery for long, though. After a few moments of mediation, he understood completely. Without that revelation he could never have suffered as he was now, he never could have understood the torment his wife had endured, and he would have put the blame on her instead of upon himself.