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Loving Tanner was like holding water in your hands. Held too tight or too loose he would fall away. Even if you held him in what you thought was the perfect water tight grasp, he would still trickle through your fingers.
Not that loving him was hard. It was so easy. No, handling him was the hard part. It was like trying so hard to stay on your feet while shooting a riffle.
He knocked you down with such efficient ease.
I wanted so much for Tanner to love me back. He said he did but I didn't believe him. I knew him so well that I saw through every lie. He never even realized his lie. The claim was so routine that he had fooled him self. No one can love another until they can love themselves.
Tanner was on a dangerous path of self destruction. Most nights he'd come home drunk with another women's scent on his skin. Jack and White Diamonds or Chanel. I can recall it even now. Every time he would come home in this pathetic condition I'd guide him to the shower, let the cold water rain on him as he swore and swung his fists like a maniac. If I didn't decide to leave him there I'd guide him to bed and leave Aspirin on the night table.
Nonetheless those nights always found me crying alone at the kitchen table. Most times I'd cry so hard I'd fall asleep with the damp wood pressed against my cheek.
It wasn't always bad. When he stayed home and didn't drink we would watch TV or chase each other around the little house we worked so hard to buy that first year of marriage. I remember the house too. Small, one floor cottage in the heart of the forest; he loved the trees. The outside we had such a good time painting a bright yellow. (Which, in later years, had turned green and chipped away.)
No, not everything was bad about Tanner. He was a brilliant painter and had a singing voice that made angels cry; and me. He would sit at the old piano we bought and sing in such a heart-broken way. He had so many talents.
He cared so much for others and people could cry on his shoulder and let everything out. He could help anyone; except himself.
I remember the call from the police. I was home and he was on his way. I burned the pasta. I will always remember that. I was angry because I wanted that night to be special. I was pregnant with our child and I wanted to cook his favorite dinner and tell him. He would be so happy. This child would save him. Help him stay sober....
I was saving the pasta when the phone rang. I remember everything the officer said.
"Is this Mrs. Marshall?"
"I am sorry to inform you that you husband Tanner Marshall had an accident and is in Intensive Care at..." he rolled off the address
I flew to the hospital that night. I drove too fast and got a ticket. The worst thing was seeing Tanner helpless in the hospital bed. His face was bruised. Tubes were everywhere piercing the once perfect surface of his skin. I wanted to rip them out and take him home.
That wish was never granted.
He was awake but barely when I came on. I didn't say anything, nor did he. I just held his hand to my face and cried.
He pulled his hand away and placed it in my free hand. Dull green eyes met mine. I saw in them the Tanner I truly loved. At that moment I forgave him for everything he ever did.
He pulled me down to him with weak hands and kissed me with cold lips. Against which he whispered he loved me.
"Name her Amanda." He added. Before I could ask how he knew is hands went lax and the heart monitor flat lined.
After doctors rushed in to check him. They covered his still beautiful face with the sheet. They moved me out of the room.
I was dazed.
Somehow, even though all that I was put through, I didn't think he would die. I did, however, think I would cry forever. I thought I would see his face in my mind forever.
Many years later, after Amanda grew up, I went back to the house we spent so many yet so few years in. No one lived there. The house was decrepit. Windows broken, the hardwood flooring I spent so long polishing was now covered in leaves and mildew. The once clean, white walls that we hung many of his impossibly beautiful paintings on were brown with age.
I went to our room that, even after so many years, still smelled like his oil paints, my perfumes, and his whiskey. I opened the closet in which I had left all of his clothes in when I moved out. It smelled of him. I ran my hands over clothes that I remembered so well even in my ageing years.
The bathroom was filthy and smelled no longer of the soaps we used, but of nature. With a heavy, broken heart I crawled into the bathtub and cried. Out of my soul poured all of the anguish I felt. Even after so many long and lonely years I still missed Tanner. Him and all his faults.