Life Goes On – With or Without You

Opportunities such as this do not come often, especially not for me. I have been climbing the ladder within the English department since I was in my last year of my Master’s degree. I was a part-time personal assistant to the English Department Head. Then I became a part-time professors’ aide. Then I was offered a position to fill in for a professor that took FMLA time, and consequently that professor had to retire. As quickly as I rose, it was still a battle. Convincing my highers-up that I was capable of this job was far from easy. Eventually everyone reached a consensus – the students were receiving a quality education and there was little reason to change that fact.

Now, three years later I am being offered a promotion for English Department Head. Having made quite the impression on Mrs. Mason as her assistant, she has convinced the university board that I would be perfect for the position. I was copied and printed the internal e-mail earlier this afternoon. My favorite part is where she says: Professor Teagan is as passionate, driven, and analytical as you could ever dream.

Beyond work, I have been struggling to please my husband’s desires for children. It has never been that I don’t want children, because I do, but we have found that due to the shape of my uterus that it is nearly impossible to conceive children. In vitro fertilization has been recommended but every time I try to budget for the treatment, well, something comes up.

First it was Deacon’s obnoxious cousin getting thrown in jail. He wanted the bail money from their grandparents. Deacon was not about to let that happen and when they got into an argument about it over the phone, he offered to pay it himself since his cousin was being such a jerk about it. I was against it but before that he allowed me to pay for my sister’s emergency room visit when she broke her ankle landscaping. I was in no place to complain. As the result, things have become extremely tense.

But this pay raise will fix everything.

Sure we will have to wait at least six more months before we could consider the in vitro procedure but it is progress. It is exactly the change that we need!

Walking through the front door is a step closer to victory. Carrying my briefcase to the kitchen table while I exude confidence with the clunk of my low heels on the redwood floors. I can hear pans clamoring around in the kitchen as well as my husband talking lowly. Since it is late evening I assume that it is his mother.

“I can’t talk right now. She’s going to be home any minute now.”

Well… that’s not how he normally talks to his mother…

…Perhaps he’s trying to surprise me with something?

“She’s already home!” I announce pleasantly, a singsong voice replacing my usually professional and bland tone. My students describe me as posh, proper, or pristine with a splash of exuberance, energy, and enthusiasm. My love for alliteration is somewhat sickening but I think secretly all English professors have a slight obsession with it as a literary tool. Refocusing, I slide out of my blazer as my husband rushes off of his cell phone. Deacon shoves it deep into his pocket with an awkward expression that I hope to remedy; “I hope you’re ready for some big news!”

Deacon does not seem as excited as he should be, considering that I’m grinning from ear-to-ear. Refusing to feel defeated by his worn expression I simply usher him back to the dining room to sit him down. Quickly reminding him about some of our financial decisions in the past, I am hoping that I’ve opened the conversation successfully for maximum joy.

At the end of everything, while I am pulling out the e-mail, I catch sight of Deacon rubbing his palms on the side of his shirt. Having been together for thirteen years I know that this can only mean one thing. He has a secret. It is not a good secret either. My mind races as I drop the case top down with a clang. By the time I make it into a chair as well, it seems as though Deacon has found his voice.

Although, when he speaks I’m not sure that I want to hear him now; “I have been seeing someone else and she’s pregnant.”

I have been seeing someone else; this is enough to deflate any pair of lungs, or shrivel any heart. Still, even further than that, he says more; and she’s pregnant. It scrambles my brain. It closes my mouth. It rips at my stomach.

If I had to choose one word to describe how I feel right now I would choose ‘emaciated.’ Maybe it should be ‘surprised’ but in a way… how could I be? Some people are completely shocked when they learn of cheating partners and unfaithful spouses. Somehow I cannot shake the possibility that many of them claim surprise because knows a word for expectantly horrified. I remember once when I was in college I was told to avoid watching a viral video circulating online. It was supposedly gruesome, something about Pain Olympics. Needless to say, I watched it. I expected the worst but I was still horrified.

That is how I feel after the punctures of his words collapse my lungs. It discomforts me that I can help a young woman overcome her breakup but I cannot even save my own marriage. There will, of course, be no saving it at this point, either. If he had simply had an affair I may have been able to overcome the suffering of that reality. A pregnant mistress is a completely different adventure altogether.

“If it even matters… I got a promotion and it comes with tenure.” At this point I’ve decided to refuse crying in front of him. Knowing how he has hurt me is no longer a privilege that he is extended. My love for him is no less but my respect is absent. Hearing him admit that he’s been seeing someone, and having sex with her regularly enough to ensure her pregnancy is with him… Beyond that, how many women know that they are pregnant immediately? My brain immediately starts reeling on how this must have been something that’s happened several times over at least three to six weeks. Maybe I will have the courage to ask him more about it when we have dinner tomorrow, but right now I want to lie down and cry.

Half way up the stairs I decide to call my aide and instruct her to cover my first class the following morning. Amaya, whom is a bright young woman, doesn’t ask me any questions when I speak to her. Hopefully she detects the pain in my voice and knows that it is essential to me on a personal level. Once I am in the bedroom I lock the door and throw myself in the decorative pillows, still clad in suit and pantyhose, and I just sob.

Snot goes everywhere. Tears are so prevalent that I literally smell salt. My thoughts range from angry replies to his choices that I can enact in the morning to which attorney would be best for ensuring this divorce is quick and easy. At times my sadness lifts momentarily enough for me to start listing problems that we are bound to face, such as whom keeps the house and how to handle split financial investments. When I panic, when I am devastated, or when I fail, I just start listing. The classic “Taylor’s To Tackle” lists, as my parents call them. Honestly, I even name my syllabi “Professor Taylor Teagan’s to Tackle Itinerary.” It is one of the things my students like most on their first day. They know in the sea of serious lectures I am still playful.

Thinking about this gives me enough strength to start throwing messy pillows and sheets off of the bed. Ready to just pretend the entire day has not happened, I get onto my feet and unlock the door. Easily I slip out of my work clothes and crawl into bed in my boring nude bra and panties.

Boring. I’m boring and I can’t breed.

I would prefer to cry some more but instead I feel my body commanding me to sleep.

Today my face hurts. My arms hurt. My gut hurts. As an English professor I should be able to think of more descriptive ways to explain how awful the pain is but repetition has it’s place in literature too. Instead of concocting twelve different words synonymous with ‘hurt’ I prefer repeating that I ‘hurt’ because everyone knows what that word means. Nobody has to try to understand how terrible the pain is because if I keep saying it then it keeps hurting. Eventually an outside party will develop empathy. Everyone needs a little bit of empathy in his or her life.

Moving past personal suffering I manage to get downstairs and make breakfast. Deacon is waiting for me there in the same spot he sat last night when he shattered everything I thought was mine. His clothes are different so I know he’s come into the bedroom and changed in the night, but his eyes are still just as nervous as they were yesterday. Deacon does not know what to expect from me because I never addressed what he shared last night.

Even now as I push the second serving of the scrambled eggs, sausage, and bagels to him – nothing pushes past my teeth. My desire to speak is nonexistent and thankfully today my body agrees with my wishes. Without so much as a clue as to how to approach me, I find that Deacon chooses to not try. Lackluster communication is clearly the weakness in our marriage. More likely than not it is also the fault line that separated us enough that an affair became an acceptable option.

I always tell my students that failure is hard for good professors because if the student doesn’t excel then the teaching was not successful. It takes two in order to succeed in all types of relationships, from personal to professional, and a failing student is a failing teacher. Although I have this on my mind – the urge to ask Deacon what it is that I’ve done wrong takes more effort than getting out of bed, or what going to work will require. Thankfully, I manage. Finishing breakfast in silence I calmly take my empty dishes to the sink.

Deacon doesn’t follow me, but he shouts at me asking if I am still going to work. Wit doesn’t escape me, and neither does bitterness in his moment. Once I reach the front door I swipe my purse and an informal jacket from the coat hanger; “I will not allow your infidelity to taint anything else in my life. Of course I’m going to work today!” Presumably he has taken the day off to tend to these personal matters, to determine how we are going to proceed. Unfortunately, in his selfish mindset he has already made those choices. The only matters remaining are the consequences. Deep inside of me I am just hoping that when I get home that he’s packed his bags and most prized possessions and left.

Upon arrival to my office I find that my aide is sitting in the lobby with Thalia. Having found out about my husband’s poor choices nearly forced out the memory of our conversation over dinner. Yesterday she was inexplicably tired. I am willing to assume that I look much as she did then now, in my plain black suit and darkened eyes.

Thalia is much improved now, though. Today her hair is twisted into an odd sort of braid and she wears a beautiful spring dress. It is cerulean and reminds me a tiny bit of a Disney princess. As soon as she sees me walk through the door she jumps onto her feet and asks if she may hug me in appreciation for my wisdom.

I figure what the hell because, damn it, I need a hug.

“Thank you so much, Professor Teagan. I needed to hear everything you said last night. I am so much more confident today because of you. Just thank you so much!” Happiness is a filter. It allows the individual to perceive everything with positivity. Of all the ways that someone can view the world, optimistically is without question the best option. It offers prime enjoyment in life. Thalia has found the bliss of experiencing the world once again in a positive fashion. Before long she is scampering away with my praise once more for her academic dedication. Amaya softly reminds me that I deserve everything I have worked for, including the love of my students. I am glad when she allows me to go into my office without another word.

Truthfully, I do not need to be reassured any further. When trying to be successful I never once stood down and waited for things to be handed to me. Set backs were never end-all-be-all events. No, I had to work hard every day to be offered this position as a Department Head. Regardless of any emergency with which I am face I am going to keep working – making an impact on everyone and everything around me. There may be nothing left in me to offer Deacon but I have plenty to give this university.

This job is my true love and I feel good about it.

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