Apr/May 2004  •   Spotlight

Making a Go

by Laurie Porter

I'm sure he knew how hard I was trying to come right. I could hear him singing in the shower. He was happy. I was really trying to make a go of things. We were going to a works dinner. I knew it was important to him. I'd started getting ready early, so I was ready way before him. So's I could do the checking while he was in the shower. So's he wouldn't know.

I knew I had to do the upstairs first, taking the plugs out of the wall in our room. I unplugged the lamp on his side, but I knew how angry he gets if he climbs into bed and can't switch on the lamp. I felt all light-headed when I plugged it back in. My heart thudding in my ears blocked out the shower noises, and I had to strain to listen. I was really trying. I did a deal with myself. It would be okay, I thought, if I touched the radiators three times. Yes, three times would make it okay.

Then I quickly did the other rooms upstairs before the shower was switched off. I hated the pressure, but I really wanted to do it so's he wouldn't know. For him. When he came out of the shower, he looked so lovely, the water glistening on his chest, the steam still rising from him, and the smell of soap. I felt like crying. I love him so much, and I really wanted this to work out. I smiled at him, but I knew that he knew that I was worrying about the taps. I couldn't stop the images pouring into my head—the worst things you could ever imagine happening if the taps weren't off tight. I forced, forced, forced myself to turn around and make my way downstairs. I said I was going to get the wine out the fridge and get the cat in. He probably knew the cat was in. But he must have known I was trying.

I managed to do all the plugs downstairs, and the taps. I was on the last radiator—the one in the living room—when I could hear him coming downstairs. Oh God, had I touched it three? I couldn't remember. Three or two? Shit, shit, shit. I would have to do it all over. How could I do them all again without him knowing? And I could hear him in the kitchen now—getting the wine out the fridge. So he would have known what I'd been up to. He asked was I ready to go, and I said yep, I was good. He'd have picked up the fake cheery voice. We were both just dodging around this thing, this huge lump of concrete that was sitting in our lives, blocking our future together.

So we stepped outside, and he passed me the keys, like my counselor had told him to. This was the test: I was to lock the door, and we were to walk to the car, to spend a pleasant evening together. I put the key in the lock and willed myself to turn it. It was like the force you get from a magnet—the one that repels the other magnet. I couldn't turn the key. Every part of me was screaming. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't lock the door. I couldn't lock it because I hadn't checked the taps in the bathroom. It would be fine if I remembered how many times I'd touched the last radiator. That would have cancelled it out. But I couldn't remember. Oh God, I tried, but I couldn't remember, and I couldn't lock the door. He was right next to me, but I felt the distance. His face was hard as he watched me fall apart. I knew this was crunch time. I tried to find a compromise. If he did it. If he checked for me. If he touched the radiators. It would make it easier, not a lot, but a little easier. I would still have to fight the panic because I'd not checked. It would be a halfway step. Please, I begged him, please. He said that he wouldn't. The counselor had said that he was to stop helping me. It was him helping me that was making me worse.

So he went to dinner without me. And I went indoors and sobbed as I checked and checked and checked. And I'd thought that three times on each radiator would make him come back. And he did. But only to collect his things.