I ran out of the house as quickly as I could while attempting looking dignified, my chest tightening the more I thought of it. The cool, night, summer air flooded into my lungs, calming me and helping to control my racing thoughts.
This had been happening a lot recently, I’d walk into a loud, cheerful room and one of two things would happen – either no one would acknowledge I was alive, or they’d all get suspiciously quiet until I left the room once more. I have even stood outside the door, just to see if it were me they were talking about, but it wasn’t. It was just random chatter. That made it worse – apparently I was not good enough to participate even in random chatter.
And my family wondered why I was never home. Family is supposed to treasure you no matter what you do, aren’t they? They aren’t supposed to “forget” you exist or hate the fact that you are part of their lives. My family did though. I was loved by all of society, but hated by those who were supposed to love me most.
I sigh and walk out to the patio overlooking the lake. I take a sip of the whiskey that has caused my discomfort by being located in the cottage den, where the family is playing a board game. I had invaded their little bubble of happiness, the one that was off-limits to the one who betrayed them in the worse way possible – me.
I sat in the Muskoka chair that my wife had insisted we buy “because the cottage is in the Muskoka” twenty five years ago. Our family cottage used to be so much more friendly. I had loved this house then. It was an old -stlye piece of Canadiana, wrapped in wood siding painted lilac blue (as my wife called it) punctured by yellow painted shutters, overlooking the lake, yet hidden from the road by the centuries-old trees surrounding the driveway entrance. As you walked in, you had a clear view of the lake that was murky yet clear at the same time and sported the most ethereal mist, even on the sunniest day. As you entered the house, you could walk straight through large glass french doors to the large cedar deck overlooking the yard. A long, cobblestone path led from the deck to the pier, surrounded on either side by perennials that my wife had planted years before.
I had no clue how the plants survived each year – we didn’t really care for this yard, yet somehow, every time we came up from Toronto, all we had to do to upkeep it was power-wash the cobblestone pathway that ran from the house to the pier and it was all set. We paid a young boy from the nearby town to come in and cut the lawn whenever we were coming up, but he was in high school and did not tend to any of the flowering or fruit bearing plants my wife had insisted on planting. The garden seemsto live on its own, thriving and breathing like a living organism - all on its own. I used to love that. Right now it seems as if that living, breathing garden is really a menacing beast.
My kids had grown up here. I remember them as children playing catch on the lawn while we fretted about one of them falling into the lake. I remember the badminton net that was put up when they were teens, the one that left two large holes over by the pine trees years after the net came down. I remember my daughter insisting on having her engagement party on this lawn, even though it was too small for the amount of guests who attended.
This cottage and its yard are full of happy memories – but not all of them with my family.
I had betrayed them you see, I am still not sure why. She was just so sure of herself, so gorgeous, so different from the life that I had made with my wife. She promised sensual excitement and provided just that when I brought her up here. I guess in my heart, I’m still a poor boy, I didn’t want to waste money on a hotel when I had a perfectly good empty house to bring her to for the weekend. She had threatened to leave if I didn’t take her on a trip – I couldn’t stand the thought. She had made my every second bearable, the thought of being able to touch her, to be with her once more. She even came to my daughter’s engagement because she works with me at the firm. I didn’t think she’d stand out, she was a “business” invitation. I was “allowed” ten of those and she was one of the ten. My life was good. I went home to a family that adored me and whom I provided for, yet had this secret, wild, exciting life that no one knew about. I didn’t have to pretend with her, I could be as crude as I wished, I could make mistakes and not regret them. She did things that I couldn’t even imagine asking my wife to do for me. I was in control, not the need to be proper, not the responsibility a family put upon you just by existing. I called all the shots. I was the master of this reality.
I don’t know what happened or how, but somehow my two worlds collided and the shit hit the fan. My wife found out about my mistress, and now, if I even say hello to her, I’ve done something morally wrong and disgusting. I disgust my wife. She hates me now, and just to ruin my life, she told my children about my misgivings. They still don’t talk to me. Well, they do if they have to, but I see it in their eyes. The oldest has lost all respect for me and talks back rudely as she never has before. The middle one hasn’t looked me in the eye once, nor has her husband. You would think he would understand. He’s a man isn’t he? Well, sort of. He’s supposed to be supporting my daughter, but yet he decided to go back to school, so I still am. That’s not supposed to happen. They’re supposed to have had grandchildren for me by now – they have been together for ten years already. Kids these days have no sense of tradition or responsibility to their family. Why else would you get married other than to have children to continue your family name?!
Speaking of kids, my youngest refuses to sit in a car with me or be in a room with me. She refuses to take part in daily life, is never home, and if she is, she locks herself in her room. If I say boo to her, she screams at me as if I’m some sort of murderer. I avoid her as much as I can. The only consolation I have, is that she screams at my wife in the same way.
Serves her right for involving the kids in our problems. She should listen to me more.
The laughter from inside the house reached a peak and echos around the house, past the trees and mockingly fades over the lake. I suck at the ice in my glass, the whiskey long gone, but not wanting to go back in for more for fear of invading the private party going on in my house. I had thought about this situation often. How can I fix this? How can I get back to normal? I had been trying for three years now, yet they all still treated me like an alien. Here I was, one of the most powerful men in the city, loved and admired by the masses, yet I couldn’t even get one word into a conversation with a single member of my family without someone snapping at me, cursing me, walking out on me or ignoring me with a contemptuous toss of their hair.
Laughter again. I have to walk away from it. It’s making me nauseous, making my stomach settle in my throat and making my chest tighter than I have ever felt it before. Maybe it’s quieter down at the pier where the kids had pulled two of the muskoka chairs earlier today. I get up and gently swerve either because of alcohol or getting up too quickly. I’m not too sure which. I put my glass on the arm of my muskoka chair and start walking down the stairs towards the pathway. I remember the first time my wife and I did this walk. We were so excited. It had always been a dream of ours to purchase a cottage on the lake. This one had been more than perfect, exactly as my wife had imagined it. It was so picturesque and completely complimented the lake and vice versa. She had loved the long pathway connecting the house to the nature.
The cobblestones are cool and damp beneath my bare feet, the evening air from the lake chilling my bare legs as I walk towards it, almost as if it were warning me not to walk any further.. The lake is shimmering mysteriously. I have already walked about halfway down the pathway when I suddenly feel more alone than I ever had in my life. I guess in a way, I’ve always been. I grew up, the predicted “saviour” of my family, predicted by my mother’s trusted psychic adviser before I was born. I was the only one they allowed to attend university. They had saved their money through the years and my older brother had taken a second mortgage on his house to send me to school although he had six young children to look after and only worked as a security guard. In a way, none of them had understood me either. They put me on a pedestal, expecting me to “save” the family from poverty, to “save” the family from doom and gloom. It’s lonely on that pedestal – especially when you live up to the expectations as I have. Now, it was the opposite. I feel as if I’ve been put in a dungeon for “sinning”. I’m alone because they are so much better than me. In both cases, I’m pushed forward by pride and love or hate and disdain. I continue to walk, but I walk alone. I walk alone…on the boulevard of broken dreams…
I look up and find myself using all my willpower not to run the rest of the way down to the pier and keep running until solid earth disappears from under my feet. I long for the lake to envelop me in her wet arms, filling my lungs and caressing me lovingly until I release my life to her gentle coaxing. She promises that I won’t have to live up to any expectations, would not have to succeed in society as expected by my parents nor succeed in my family life as expected by my wife. I just have to be hers. The lake is calling me, calling me, urging me to end my lonely walk, to join it for all eternity. I long for the pleasure of the carefree peace that she promises me.
My decision is made. I take another step towards the gentle arms of the lake, my arms reaching out to her enveloping wetness.
I am jogged out of my thoughts, my longing for the lake slowly evaporating into the mystical mist that sits on top of her.
I sigh, turn around to see my wife at the French doors, an angel surrounded by the gentle yellow light of the chandelier in the front hall. She used to be that angel. I made her a fallen angel. I bow my head, close my eyes for a moment and then walk back to my reality, ignoring the moans, weeping and promises from my mistress under the mist.
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Hannah Pratt challenged me with “Listen to your favorite Green Day song and write something. Oh, for the love of God don’t use “The Time of Your Life.”” and I challenged runaway sentence. with “Scam Artist”