To my dearest Tracey,
Remember the first time I rang you?
It occurred the day after we’d met. It was a Monday night, and there I was jiggling a pocket full of coins as I walked across cracked oil-stained concrete paths. Skirted past shabby houses expelling sinus-singeing aromas of boiled cabbage. Televisions blared and arguments behind closed doors echoed along the street.
At the telephone box, I stared at unreadable spray-can scribble and the many numbers and names etched into its walls. Assorted band advertisements and lost dog notices layered over any free space.
The chaotic phone box artwork reflected the whirl of thoughts that passed through me. Why would someone bright, beautiful, and funny as you, squander time you’ll never get back by talking to me?
I’d never phoned a girl before. Sure, I’d called for car parts or mates, but not someone I admired. I’d even rehearsed how to act cool for a phone conversation – in the mirror. Not cool.
Then I lifted the receiver, wiped it on my shirt and had never been more grateful for a dial tone. My limbs didn’t belong to me, trying to cradle the phone piece between my ear and shoulder. I kept dropping the coins trying to slide them in the slot of the machine and held my breath. My hands shook so much, I had trouble reading the numbers scribbled on that scrap piece of paper, and I miss-dialled who knows how many times.
And when I’d finally dialled the correct number, and waited for you to answer, my mind went blank and I had this overwhelming urge to hang up and walk away.
I almost did.
But then you answered. We were both nervous, your voice trembled and mine squeaked. I swear I’d swallowed a box of dry breakfast cereal, my mouth was that dry.
But, what I recalled the most from that first phone call – I smiled. I was that goofy grinning guy who dream-walked on this imaginary flying concrete-carpet. I even slid across some crummy sedan’s bonnet giving it a quick polish with the arse of my jeans.
I didn’t see the shitty street, nor hear the arguments, or smell the rotten rubbish. Because none of it mattered. Only you. And I dared to dream of our own Happily Ever After. I’d never considered love existed in reality. Never thought it’d happen to me. Yet every night after each one of our phone conversations, I was alive. Reborn with new emotions only felt with you.
To think it’s been two decades since that first awkward phone call.
You’re still everything I think about and all those years together. The jokes we shared. Secrets we’ve kept. Dreams we’ve visualised. I know I’ll never share that with anyone else.
Remember the first time we made love? It was in the Charger, in the early stages of her rebuild. The spare tyre was jammed in the back to keep the driver’s seat upright. The faded burnt orange exterior you described as some fancy sunset. Do you remember? It was the first time we’d both admitted our love to each other. You begged me to never let you go and I swore then I wouldn’t.
Beautiful isn’t perfect enough to describe how you looked at our wedding. That day I was this insignificant surfer on his body-board, riding towering tsunami waves on this intense sea of emotions. My heart stalled to a halt in the registry office when I first saw you approach me in your bridal gown. Overwhelming relief swamped me because you’d showed up to marry me. You wiped my tears of joy, when I was beyond words, that someone as wonderful as you held my hand and said I do.
I discovered the true meaning of euphoric bliss on our wedding night. That secluded beach paradise we’d found along the deserted highway. The sand between our toes, a skyline filled with stars and a soft sea breeze as our background setting. The Charger polished and restored stood nearby. Its stereo played all our favourite tunes in time to the gentle breaking waves of the turning tide. Warm blankets arranged by the small bonfire and the empty bottle of champagne lay on its side. Wearing your bridal gown, we slow-danced, holding each other close and watched the sunrise over a cloudless horizon. It was perfect.
We were so much in love when we had so little back then, where we redefined the true meaning of happiness by just being together.
I’ve never been this way with any other woman where I crave the touch of your warm soft skin. Where a passing brush-stroke of your fingertips sent my nerve endings into overdrive. Immersing myself in your silky hair that caressed my cheeks whenever I held you. Where you’d put your hair up, and this one disobedient curl escaped at the nape and I’d wrap that stray lock around my finger, tickle your neck, and watch you duck your head as colour filled your cheeks.
I used to tease you when I told you I wanted to learn to paint, just to recreate all those intricate details. The slightly chipped tooth that added character to your smile. The golden flecks that brought a depth of warmth to your eyes. The half-moon crescent scar on your delicate chin you got from our first camping trip. The scattering of freckles across your nose I’d name each with a kiss while creating our own constellation. The way you snuggled your back against my chest and I’d hold you. We’d talk for a while, then I’d listen to your deep breathing while keeping you safe in your sleep.
But then I stopped talking to you and you carried me when I’d lost myself and forgot to be an adult, a husband, and a friend.
With the wisdom of hindsight of these past six months, I’d gotten into an immature selfish rut. Why did I act like a kid rebelling against the rules and responsibilities of a grown-up world? Perhaps, financial frustration, combined with alcohol consumption caused this? Throw in a pair of rouge school mates to trigger some crappy childhood bad habit, fuelling my pathetic actions of one stupid night that landed me in the worst possible place ever.
I did this.
I, alone, took part in this slippery downhill slide of personal disgrace.
I’m so ashamed and regret everything I’ve done.
When they escorted me from the dock in handcuffs, you were sitting in the back row of the courtroom, alone. Tears stained your face showcasing your obvious sorrow for me. When I didn’t deserve those tears.
Seeing you like that my heart suffered this emotional death grip. My stomach knotted up so hard as if I’d been kicked while I shivered from a cold sweat. I almost threw up. I couldn’t breathe and wanted to lay down and die. It was the terror of losing a loved one. Of losing you.
Now, it’s agonising torture replayed every night of the last time I ever saw you. It burns when I close my eyes and all I see is your tears mesh with mine, and another bout of guilt and shame chokes me.
I promise you to never be in this incarcerated selfish situation again. It’s terrible. I’m alone here and can’t trust anyone. I still can’t believe I’m here because of one drunken night in the pub, in a brawl I don’t how it started. I swear I don’t remember hitting the police officer. And what I saw on the surveillance tapes was like watching a stranger – except it was me.
I know we argued that morning about the Charger’s registration. We’d quarrelled over a car collecting dust in the shed. For the life of me – I wish now, I’d stopped, listened and talked to you that day. It might’ve prevented all of this. Still, it’s no excuse for my idiotic immature reactions. Yes, the car has sentimental value. It’s been a part of our most memorable family moments, such as bringing our daughter home the first time. But a car you can replace. A car is an object that has no soul. It’s not living flesh. It’s not you.
I’m so sorry. I hate myself for what I’ve done. I never meant to hurt you this way. Ever.
Believe me when I write this, please know that you are my reason for existence. I want to be home with you, our family, and I count the nights of sleep until my release to return hopefully to you.
With my entire heartfelt love, my emotional soul belongs to you, always.
Now and forever your husband,
PS: Please forgive me.
Dear Reader: Would you forgive him?