Ever since my wife fell ill I have kept a journal. I wanted to catalog our journey as I supported her and helped her recover. Instead I ended up recording a laundry list of sins and regrets. I don’t know if God exists, and after all that’s happened I honestly doubt it, but, if he does, I hope that by posting these journal entries and sharing them with the world, he will accept my confession, and grant me mercy.
The emptiness of the country roads at night is my greatest comfort these days. Ever since Beth had gotten sick I found that the best way to clear my mind is to cruise down the lonely roads. I had heard of men who abandoned their wives when they fell ill, and I always thought I would never be like that. But… its hard, so hard sometimes. I’ve had to learn how to cook, how to clean, thank god we don’t have any kids… I never realized how useless a husband can be in a marriage until Beth became bedridden, and though I’m trying so hard, the temptation is there, and I hate myself for it.
I guess the reason I was on the road was because of this woman at work: Sue. Me and her have gotten along great, we just seem to click, I don’t know why, but I haven’t bothered bringing up Beth much, let alone her condition. I know when Beth first started losing her mobility me and her had talked about my… needs, and yet the idea of getting a lover is so much more nauseating when it becomes real. No matter how many blessings Beth gives I can’t help but feel like I’m betraying her, but at the same time, if I don’t find an outlet I feel like I’ll be betraying myself.
These thoughts played around in my mind and I suppose that’s why I didn’t notice what was laying in the road until I heard a loud thump. I stopped my truck and walked out to see what it was. A person. By the looks of it they had been strung out on something for some time before I showed up.
I looked at them in shock for some time, slowly forcing myself to accept that they were dead. My heart raced and I tried to force deep breaths to calm it. It didn’t help. I knew I had to phone the police, confess, do the right thing. At the same time a disquieting thought crept into my head. What about Beth? Who would take care of her if I was in jail?
I shook my head and pulled out my phone. I opened up the keypad and paused, a text popped up from Beth, asking when I would be home. Almost without thought I closed the app and turned on my flashlight instead. No damage to the truck. No one around for miles. I motioned towards the side of the road and saw a thick, overgrown woods. A body in there could rot away for years without being noticed. I should’ve at least been more ashamed of what I did, but I dragged the corpse into the woods and sped off.
A lot has happened since my last entry. A lot. That night I came home, my brain mired in fog, barely remembering what happened and desperately trying to deny it. Beth was fast asleep. I sat down on the couch and watched TV until my mind was so distracted that it would allow me to doze off as well.
The next day was incredible, I woke up to the sound of singing. I walked into Beth’s room and she was upright and smiling, the first time I’d seen her sit upright without my help in months. As she looked at me I could feel tears roll down my eyes. She was still weak and fragile but I could finally see some of her old self come back.
She stayed that way for a couple days and when we brought her to the doctor she was just as shocked as we were. As she examined Beth she couldn’t help but well with tears too. She told us not to get our hopes up, but at the same time she admitted she had never seen a patient that far gone recover to this point.
Seeing Beth recover filled me with joy, and took so much stress off my chest. Though I immediately replaced it with some from somewhere else. At the same time all this was happening I was still going to work, and one day Sue invited me over to her place for drinks. On the one hand, Beth’s recovery made me feel a lot of guilt for saying yes, but at the same time, I needed some sort of release, and if Beth were to recover further it would still take months. So I lied to Beth about having to work late and found myself in bed with Sue less then an hour later. On the drive home I told myself it had to be a one time thing, I had gotten what I needed out of my system and now I had to stay loyal to Beth. It didn’t matter. Soon I was working late once or twice a week, taking Sue out to all the places I had wanted to take Beth and spending all my pent up energy and then some.
However, that is not the guilt that motivates me to write today. That guilt comes from last night. It was just me and Beth, I cuddled with her as we watched TV. Even that was a level of intimacy that we hadn’t had in a long time. As we watched TV though, I could smell something in the air. Smoke. I got up and checked the room. Then I opened the curtains to see if it was coming from outside. To my shock smoke and flames were billowing out of my neighbors house. I rushed to my phone as I told Beth what was happening. As I unlocked my phone Beth put her hand on my arm and squeezed, “Don’t phone the fire department honey,”
“What?” I replied in shock,
“Don’t phone them, please, I’m sure someone else has and I don’t want you to be play hero, okay? I just want to spend more time with you,” her voice cracked a little, “just like we used to…”
I stared deep into Beth’s eyes, shocked and disturbed at what she was saying. At the same time, her grip on my arm had become iron tight, and I knew that she wasn’t going to make my life easy if I didn’t go along with her. I swallowed. I sighed. I sat back down beside her.
We laid beside each other in silence for an hour. My heart racing until the sound of sirens finally reached my ears. For a second I felt a bit of ease, until, drowning out the sirens, the firemen, and the TV show we were watching, a woman wailed. It was a sound I had never heard before, and one I couldn’t describe. The sheer intensity and weight of my neighbor’s cry was soul crushing. It tore deep into me. The next day I learned that her two kids were asleep inside when the fire broke out. By the time the firemen came there was next to nothing left of them.
Another miracle occurred, Beth is up and moving again! The doc is as shocked as I am, and its just been overwhelming. She’s still weak, and at first she could barely get up at all, but slowly we’ve been working on it. For the past month me and her have been going on walks. At first just down the block, but lately we’ve been going further and further. I haven’t seen Beth this happy in such a long time, maybe ever. She loves that she finally has a bit of independence. At first I was just as thrilled as her, but this week has changed things a bit. I feel like I’m making some insane jumps, but here’s the deal:
I’ve still been seeing Sue. I keep telling myself that I need to break it off, especially now that Beth is recovering, but… there are some days I think about Sue more then Beth, and as much as I despise the thoughts, the fantasy of making my thing with Sue more serious keep popping up.
The other day, Sue texted me. She wanted me over, badly. I don’t know that Eve was tempted as much as Sue was tempting me. I had to go. I started throwing some presentable clothes on when Beth approached me and asked me if we could go for a walk. I told her that work had asked me to come in, that it was urgent, we would have to do it a different time. Beth pouted, and, after a pause, asked if she could go alone. I always accompanied Beth just in case she fell or got in trouble, but that day, with Sue pulling me from across town towards her, I told her it was okay. I helped Beth out the door and told her to call me if anything happened. As soon as she cleared the driveway I sped off towards Sue’s longing embrace.
I came back a few hours later, Beth was back, singing to herself in her room. Everything seemed good. That feeling continued for a couple days, magnifying further as Beth seemed to recover even more. She was more energetic, lifting and moving things on her own. Instead of staying in her room she started moving all around the house. It seemed like we were turning another corner, and something about that bothered me. I didn’t know why until we were watching the news one night, and the reporter brought up a missing child, who was last seen the night of Beth’s solo walk.
It sounds absurd, I know. But the pattern was starting to form in my mind. Why did Beth’s recovery always seem to coincide with tragedy? It must’ve been a coincidence. I must be a bad husband, Beth was alone and vulnerable, and whoever abducted that child could have harmed her. But…
It’s all gone to shit. I’ve fucked it all up. Everything.
Sue called me a few weeks ago, told me to come see her. She’s pregnant. It broke my heart to see the joy in her eyes and know that I couldn’t match it. I faked the best I could and tried to figure out a way out of my mess.
Me and her kept texting about it the coming weeks, it was clear she was keeping it. I started thinking things. Thoughts I never thought I would have. Beth was starting to get healthy, she still had a long way to go but maybe she didn’t need me anymore. I could go and be happy with Sue and maybe I would be so happy the guilt would go away. I just wanted the guilt to go away. Maybe that’s why I started being careless, leaving my phone open. Maybe I wanted to be caught, to purge the guilt. Two days ago I walked back from the bathroom and saw Beth quickly place my phone down out of the corner of my eye. She didn’t say anything, and neither did I, but the anger in her eyes… it broke me.
Fast forward to earlier tonight. I needed to lift the weight off my shoulders, I needed comfort, I needed Sue. I didn’t even bother texting Beth and coming up with some half-assed excuse. I just sped over to Sue’s place.
The two of us cuddled up and watched a movie together. I placed my hand on her stomach and for a moment felt like I had done something right in the world. Just as I started to feel at ease I heard the sound of breaking glass. Me and Sue both froze until the sound of the front door being unlocked sprang us to action. I rushed over to find Beth stumbling through the door. She was carrying a knife. My heart pounded. I told her to put the knife down, that we could talk about it. She looked at me with sadness in her eyes. Sue found me and as soon as she saw Beth screamed. Beth lunged at her with the knife and caught Sue in the arm, Sue screamed and ran as fast as she could, leaving a trail of blood behind her. Beth chased after her, and I could hear Sue cry in pain. I could hear her cry for me. I was paralyzed from shock and fear. Sue continued to cry my name, the cries getting weaker and weaker until they finally stopped… I could hear Beth start coughing, which finally triggered my legs to move. I could hear the sound of someone falling to the ground. The coughing turned to sobbing. I walked in to Beth on the floor, Sue beside her, her lifeless eyes gazing into my soul. Her hands resting on her stomach. Beth looked to me, tears welling in her eyes:
“I’m so sorry… I had to do this… for me… for us… for you…” Beth’s hands started to shake, “One… more… only one more… then I’ll be better… all better… that’s what she said, that’s what she said.
My body trembled with fear. What had Beth done? What mess had she gotten herself into? And all over a man who just an hour ago was thinking of leaving her. The words… “one more life” echoed in my head. I told Beth to leave, to run home and shower and throw out her blood-stained clothes.
As soon as she left I walked to my car and grabbed my laptop. When I returned I stared at Sue, and started writing this, my confession. I just want Beth to be happy. Something I failed to provide. As I wrap this up I look at the other thing I brought from my car. A long piece of rope. I’m so sorry Beth, Sue, everyone.
One more life.