Of course, I knew Court, irritated me sometimes. I disagreed with the way he managed the farm, but he inherited the farm from his parents, so I kept my mouth shut about the importance of organic farming. In turn, he didn’t criticize when I worked late at the library or attended the library fair in Seattle.
I suspected that Court looked at pornography on the internet while I was at work, but lots of men do that.
Anyway, on Tuesday morning, I stepped into the shower and washed my hair. When I came back into our bedroom from the shower, I found Court with his head in our closet stuffing my clothes in a garbage bag.
“Court, what on earth?” I noticed another garbage bag sitting in front of my empty chest of drawers. “Court, stop and listen to me. What on earth are you doing?” I raised my voice so he could hear me over his breathing and grunting.
He stood up straight, as he shoved my church shoes into the garbage bag. “You’re leaving.” He announced with his back to me.
I felt myself scowling over Court’s disorganized panic. Where was the suitcase I used to visit my brother? Why couldn’t the man simply tell me the problem and let me deal with it as I had every other problem in our married life. I didn’t understand what he meant. “What? Where? What are you talking about? Where am I going? Is Mom okay? Has something happened to Dennis’s family?” My heart began to pound as I thought I’d lost a family member. I guess I had lost someone, but it wasn’t the one I imagined.
“No, you’re just leaving.” He said over his shoulder as he pulled a stack of sweaters from the shelf in the closet dropping two of them on the floor.
I shook my head and cast sideways glances at Court as I tried to get dressed. It is impossible to carry on a rational discussion when stark, buck naked. My thick, wet, curly hair still dripped on my bare shoulders and the floor. I needed to paw through the garbage bag to find underwear.
I watched Court out of the corner of my eye as he picked up the sweaters from the floor, tried to stuff them in the bag and dropped one again. His behavior alarmed me. Silently, I considered the possibilities. Did he have a high fever? Had he suffered a stroke? I wanted to hold him and tell him everything would be okay if he could just tell me the problem. I grew alarmed that Court was experiencing a seizure of some sort. As he was about to stuff a blouse in the bag I told him, “I want to wear that today.” I tried to sound loving and reassuring while I studied his mood and responsiveness.
Court threw the blouse over his shoulder at me and followed it with a pair of slacks, still refusing to look at me.
I stood beside the bed and tried comforting him as I grew more certain he was ill. “Court, I’m sure everything will work out. Now, can you tell me what’s wrong?” He had never done something this bizarre in all the years I’d known him.
He stepped out of the closet but still refused to look at me. He told the wall, “Nothing’s wrong. You’re just leaving.” My sexy husband had started to sweat a little. The beads of water on his neck in the chilly room alarmed me more than the strange behavior. What was wrong with him?
I thought I should try to get him talking. “Why am I leaving?” I wondered if I should go call my boss and tell her we had a family emergency. Thoughts and plans for a quick trip west of the mountains raced through my brain. Was something wrong with Court or with my brother? Did I have enough money for gas? I looked at my husband and wanted to hold and comfort him. He looked so flushed and sweaty, and his ragged breath alarmed me. I felt certain that he needed a doctor, soon.
Court plunged his head back into the closet and swept my garden clothes from the top shelf. He said something from the depths of the closet as he tied the garbage bag closed and emerged.
I continued to try to be comforting and soothing, “I didn’t hear you, honey. Why am I leaving, and where am I going? Sweetheart, can you sit with me and talk to me.” I cooed and patted the bed beside me. “What are you thinking? Why am I leaving, and where am I going?”
He shouted back. “It’s none of your business why you’re leaving, and I don’t give a shit where you go!” Veins bulged on his neck and his face appeared scarlet under his farmer’s tan.
I massaged the muscles I felt tightening up at my temples and stifled a surge of nausea at his angry tone. I watched as his eyes searching the room without ever coming to rest on me. Surely, the chemicals Court used to farm could not have made him this strange so suddenly. I sorted possibilities the same as I sorted books at work. I tried for a firm voice to prompt him to respond rationally. “Court, do you have any idea how strange this sounds?” I tried not to let the fear for my deranged husband make me cry or vomit.
He hefted both garbage bags and sidled out the door. I trailed along behind him and stood in the front doorway to see what he was doing. Carrying two bags to my car couldn’t have caused his heavy breathing. He came back in the house and grabbed another garbage bag, he must be sick. I nodded certain of my diagnosis.
I tried to use a firmer voice that might cut through whatever was happening in his head. “Court, stop. You are not making sense. Your behavior is crazy. Why do you think I have to leave?” I experienced a moment of anxiety and another round of nausea at the thought that he’d discovered one, or more, of my little ways of hiding money from him.
“I told you, it’s none of your business.” He strode down the hall to the bedroom.
I tried to slip my feet into my work shoes as I trailed and hopped along behind him to the bathroom and watched as he scooped all my toiletries into the garbage sack. I still couldn’t believe that the man I’d married almost twenty years ago could act this strange. The conflict between habit and this new behavior disoriented me. Still, I pulled on every ounce of self-discipline I could muster to remain calm and keep the channels of communication open like I read about in books on having a good marriage. Once I’d calmed myself, I again tried to make him make sense. “Court it’s obvious that you are angry with me over something. Tell me what it is, and we’ll see if we can work it out. It must be some misunderstanding.”
He looked wildly around the bathroom and grabbed up my head for the electric toothbrush and shoved it in the bag. “I’m not mad at you, and there is no misunderstanding, except that you can’t get it through your thick head that you are leaving.”
I felt like I did as a little girl following my older brother around as I followed Court from the bathroom to the coat closet in the front hall. He stopped and pulled out my sweaters and coats. Hangers fell clattering to the floor, tangling themselves as he pulled at my clothes.
I finally accepted that Court must be having a stroke or something. I pushed aside my worry and grief to make one more attempt to reach his battered brain. In my most stern librarian tones I told him. “I’m counting to three. If you haven’t told me what is going on with you by the time I get to three, I’m calling nine-one-one. Your behavior is so weird, I think you are going to have a stroke or seizure or something. One.”
“It doesn’t concern you.” He picked up a sweater from the floor and tried to shake the hanger out of it.
“Two” I moved closer to the phone sitting on a small table in the entry hall.
“Don’t do that!” He paused while stuffing a coat into the sack and looked at my hand hovering over the phone.
“Three.” I picked up the handset for the phone.
“All right. All right. It’s none of your business, but I’ll tell you anyway. Put the phone down.” He stood up straight.
I put the phone down and stood looking at him while he licked his lips and looked out the living room window on my left, then at the wall off to my right. He scratched the back of his head. “This doesn’t concern you.”
I reached for the handset again.
“No. Don’t go calling anybody. The thing is that…well,” he looked at the floor and mumbled a word or two, “pregnant.”
“What? Is somebody pregnant?” I must have slipped into denial at this point. I thought he was talking about buying a new heifer. I guess he was.
“I told her that she could come live with me today.” Court scratched the back of his sweaty neck.
I felt the blood leaving my face.
He finally glanced in my direction. “Don’t look at me like that. The thing is, that I always wanted a passel of kids or at least someone to leave the farm to, and you can’t have kids.”
I went from fear and loving concern to full rage in an instant. “Wait a minute, are you telling me you got some stinking whore pregnant?”
“She’s not a whore. Her name’s Lupe.”
“I don’t want to know anything about the slut!” I grabbed my coat from Court’s hand and the garbage bag from the floor and stomped out the door. I felt evil as I made certain to slam the front door hard enough that the little glass prisms on the light in the front hall would fall off. I listened for the tinkling of breaking glass and Court swearing before I stomped off to my car.