It isn’t going to bed alone that feels wrong — I am not above admitting that by the time Game of Thrones ends I am extremely tired — it is waking up alone that bothers me, especially in the middle of the night when I am tangled in our cheap Target comforter and clinging to all four pillows.
I usually lie in the dark for a few minutes and listen, but I rarely hear anything more than a cat kicking kitty litter or my downstairs neighbor coughing in his sleep. (He apparently has a wicked cough in the middle of the night, a smoker’s type cough.) Usually the house is silent. Dead silent.
It is then I come to find you, toying around on your computer or playing video games on our couch. It is then, at 1 a.m. in the morning, that I need you and our marriage the most.
I know I look atrocious, my hair tangled and an errant breast peeking out from my behind my oversized top.
I know I am demanding: I don’t ask you to come to bed; I tell you. But I know our daughter will be up sometime between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., and I need you.
Do you know we can go days without saying that? I can go days without saying that? But 1 a.m. always puts my priorities in perspective, and I need you.
I miss the way you looked at me when I was pregnant, not sexually but in awe. Your eyes didn’t turn toward my breasts or down to my butt; instead, they stayed transfixed on mine, and when they did drift they landed on my stomach.
Instead of being self-conscious and trying to “suck it in,” I smiled. I saw what you saw.
Unfortunately, that honeymoon-like feeling ended shortly after our daughter was born. Not the first week or the first month. No, that time was still a doe-eyed sleepless blur. We loved being parents, and we loved seeing each other in a new light, the same light that shined on me during my pregnancy.
But as the newness wore off, and the foggy filter of 3 a.m. feedings subsided, we fought more and more, and our marriage started to suffer.
It started over little things. I resented you for not knowing how to calm our daughter in my absence and for assuming I would tackle every late night diaper change. I was angry when you complained about being tired or stressed, and I was livid when you tried to initiate sex. I didn’t want to be touched or held. I just wanted to be alone — for five freaking minutes. I just wanted to sit still and cry.
I could have tried to tell you that, but I didn’t. I didn’t have the words, and, in many ways, I still don’t. Instead I watched you pull to one corner, a bottle in one hand and your phone in the other, while I sat in another, wiping my silent tears on the corner of a burp rag, which — despite numerous washings — always seemed to smell like baby powder and sour milk.
As the year went on, small problems festered into larger issues, and before long, the walls of our 1,400-square-foot home began closing in. Before long, I was certain divorce was our only option.
No one tells you better and worse can be one and the same.
I know I waste many evenings talking about trivial stuff, like laundry, sticky floors, or our recycling can that, thanks to strangely powerful winds, blew away for the fifth time today. I have even been known to discuss the number of times our daughter crapped (and the color and consistency of said crap!) — but that is because I don’t always know what to say. That is because I don’t always have something important to say. And that is because the things I should say, the things I need — like you and love, and even a simple hug — are too hard to ask for.
So I’m sorry for finding you in the wee hours of the morning, a disheveled, sleepy, and emotional mess, and telling you what to do.
Know that it is my strange way of saying I love you. I know it’s far from perfect, it might not even be right, but know I am trying. This is all so new, this version of you and I, and I was never good at dating.
Know that this is not what I imagined our marriage would be like, but know that what matters is not what was but what is, and at the end of the day we are still together. I still want us to be together. And know that while I don’t always say it, and I certainly don’t always show it (especially around, say, 7 p.m. on a Thursday), I’m better with you, and because of you.
For more from Kimberly Zapata, visit Sunshine Spoils Milk.