I suppose marriage is always something of an adjustment after the wedding festivities die down. There were no other parties to attend, no more gifts to unwrap, no more checks to cash - in their place we had classes to attend and bills to pay. It is difficult for me to point to anything we did together or enjoyed together. One of Mitch's classes was introduction to guitar. I had not ever played guitar but I was nearly finished with a minor in music so I eagerly volunteered to help him learn his chords and in the process started to enjoy playing myself. Mitch would not have it. He resented the ease at which I picked it up despite the fact I was not in the class. He resisted my other attempts to help him with classes as well. I failed to see how difficult the adjustment to marriage, college and working was for him.
After two years away from home living on a very lean budget, I was accustomed to some of the responsibilities we faced. Before we even made it to October, he grew tired of our new routine which required him to rise early to go clean one of the buildings on campus, return home to shower and rush off to classes and then work a few hours in the evening and somehow study and practice the guitar. Before long he was sleeping in and skipping his morning janitorial duties. Despite our agreement that I would just concentrate on finishing school, I could tell he was not satisfied with being the only one to be bringing in money. Of course, he failed to take into consideration that half my tuition was covered by a scholarship and the remainder paid for with money I had earned working full time over the summer as I had done the prior two years of school. But money was not the issue yet. He simply resented getting up early in the morning, so eventually he stopped. This astonished my sense of responsibility. I asked if he had quit and he would mutter various excuses about the early hour and some ill-tempered supervisor. But I let it go, deciding one job was enough and really I was asking too much of him to work two jobs.
A tension snuck up between us in those first weeks of marriage that caught me by surprise. The preceding nine or ten months of dating and engagement were feeling further and further behind me as my new husband began to change. Mitch's heroin addict brother - "S" - did not live in Cedar City most of the time we were dating and as far as I was aware Mitch did not spend any time with him. But that fall Mitch began spending an increasing amount of time with him as well as with his now frequently high 16-year old brother - "B". Mitch was arriving home with some frequency smelling intensely of smoke and who knows what else but if I said anything he blamed it on his brother's house. I tried to talk to him about B and encouraged him to use his influence to steer him clear of the path Mitch presumably regretted taking himself and to help prevent B from becoming too intertwined with their older brother but to no avail.
The morning of October 3rd, I woke up late for an exam in my music theory class. I threw on some clothes and grabbed Mitch's brown flannel jacket as I rushed out the door to take the exam without waking him. Hunched over my test, with my left elbow flat on the desk I held my forehead in my hand as I scribbled down my answers as was my test-taking habit. As I did so something in the left breast pocket of my jacket clanked heavily against the desk. I sat up to inspect the contents of the pocket. The first thing I drew out was a small plastic baggie containing pot. Shocked, I shoved it back into the pocket and tried to concentrate on finishing my test. But I had to know what else was in the pocket so, this time more surreptitiously, I opened the pocket wide to peer in. What I discovered was a small metal pipe. I hurried through the rest of the test and rushed out of class. My heart was pounding and I was sweating. Where do I go? Who could I possibly talk to about this? I slowly walked home oblivious to the crispness of the fall air as I continued to sweat. What could I possibly say to him? What would be his response? Surely it could not be his. There was no way it belonged to him.
As I walked, there was a buzz around me. Something was happening. People were asking others if they had heard the news. I felt conspicuous, as if I was the subject of the gossip they were all so anxious to convey. Walking through a neighborhood just off campus, a car radio was blaring the news out onto the street - OJ Simpson had been acquitted. This news, along with the increasing warmth of the sun confused me. I thought maybe I had stepped into an alternate universe of sorts where husbands changed character over night and murderers were set free. Walking slowly along the sidewalk in such a state I was nearly struck by a ball that had escaped the schoolyard across the street.
Confirming the weariness of my barely 20-year old looks, one of the children cried after me "Ma'am? Will you get our ball?"
Ma'am? I had never been called ma'am in my life. This must be an alternative version of reality. I chased down the ball and threw it back to the grateful gathering of kids pressed against the fence.
When I finally reached our empty apartment I had convinced myself none of it belonged to my husband. He must have taken it away from his brother I rationalized or maybe someone else put it there and he was not aware of its existence. There had to be an explanation. And I am sure there was. The first in a long line of explanations of how this or that did not belong to him and how none of it could possibly be his responsibility or fault. And having found myself in an isolated position without a friend, family member or unbiased outside opinion - this also began a long series of excuses I accepted. I swallowed them whole for the sake of our marriage and moving forward.
This, along with the increased job responsibilities, led to our first fight that Saturday. A milestone I presume all married couples reach sooner or later. But I was not prepared for the furious wrath unleashed on me as my crying reached hysterical levels. We were in the car driving to his parent's house and I refused to go. I needed to go home and I felt we needed to solve these issues right now. Instead, he pulled over, I got out of the car and he drove away.
And he did not return for me.
One piece of advice that I received prior to getting married was to resolve fights and issues within the marriage and to not run to friends or parents as that would only complicate the matter. This is sage advice in most instances. However, there are times when one should check in with the outside world to gauge what might be normal quarrels. Without keys to return to our dark little motel apartment, I walked to my old apartment where I found my former roommate. My heart ached to divulge all, to fully explain my blotchy skin, blood-shot eyes and tear-streaked face but I held back. Especially when I could see how uncomfortable my friend was with hearing any of my troubles. She did not want to hear about Mitch's ferocious temper and moodiness. She was recently engaged herself and planning her own wedding in December. I brushed the fight away and spent the afternoon pretending it had been my intention to spend Saturday afternoon with her all along, not that I was taking refuge after my husband left me standing on the sidewalk without a key to go home or a car to follow him.
Not many days later, I found myself in the unlucky position of being stranded alone with his mother in her kitchen. She was lamenting her teenage son's behavior - his moodiness, his anger, his apathy, his plummeting grades. By this time I knew B was spending significant time with the heroin-addict brother and his drugged out girlfriend and often skipped school to do so. B had also taken to hiding from his parents at our small apartment where he could not be easily located since we still did not have a telephone. My mother-in-law seemed at her wits end. I could not understand how a woman could be so oblivious when she had already had two sons travel this same path (even though I was in the early stages of denial myself). I could not longer keep silent when she asked me "you don't think B could be doing drugs, do you?" My heart softened as I saw her sincere confusion. She wanted so much to believe the best of her son. So I told her "yes, B is getting deeper and deeper into drugs and alcohol and is spending nearly every day with S and his girlfriend." She was shocked and I was afraid. I told her not to tell B or Mitch I was the one who told her. I could not imagine how angry Mitch would be if he knew what I had done. And I especially did not want S to find out. I had seen him paranoid and delusional and had heard of his rages as well and had no desire to witness one. My in-laws reacted quickly by confronting B and sending him away to live with another older brother. Mitch couldn't figure out who had told them, so I lied and claimed the signs were obvious and they must have figured it out on their own.
But I could not remain silent for long. He was changing too and I needed to know why.
Late one night in October as we were lying in bed I timidly asked him about the changes I was witnessing in him. We spoke quietly lying on our backs without touching. I listened to him tell me how hard it was to go to school and work and I silently accused him of spending too much time with his brothers. He openly accused me of not doing enough so I agreed to look for a job that would fit with my heavy class and music schedule. After some silence he asked me something unexpected.
"Do you believe in the church?"
Unsure of where he was going with this I cautiously responded "yes."
After several heavy seconds crawled by, he resumed "I don't think I believe in it."
I nearly gasped from the shock. This was the boy who less than a year earlier had encouraged me to start going to church regularly. This was the boy who suggested to me that we take an institute class together. This was the very same boy who had urged a shorter and shorter engagement - meaning a shorter and shorter timeline to going to the temple together. My whole world was turned on its head. While I was not always certain of my thoughts or feelings toward the church, it was all I had ever known and even during the time when I had not been actively involved in it, the church was a part of me so I felt powerless to react.
Instead, I rolled over and silently cried myself to sleep.