Ding Dong, Bitch

by Chelsea Gable

Who shows up at someone’s front door without texting first? But this is a small town in North Carolina, so I’m not completely unnerved. That sort of behavior is reserved for small Bible belt towns. I grew up in San Diego and because of the trickle of traffic it might as well be Los Angeles. But now, I live in a small town about an hour away from the offices of Nicholas Sparks and the rumors he perpetuates about southern hospitality and romantic alcoves in the willows aren’t completely untrue. The woods here sway in the summer with a sense of longing, uncomfortably warm and damp like the breath of lovers whispered half-truths trapped under the covers. 

Despite the very un-Los Angeles behaviors, I truly enjoy living here. My apartment is the prettiest I have ever lived in, the last two had hideous wallpaper with images of a woman who had grape sized stains on her neck and a hole in the bedroom door the same shape as a jewelry box I once had.  However, this complex was just built last year, I have dark speckled marble countertops, and columns supporting the oversized arch that leads into the living room. Also, this place is so damn cheap that I wonder how many bodies are hidden in the impenetrable tangle of knee-high grass and pines behind the window of my son’s nursery. Luckily, here I found a great job so between my husband’s income, my own, and the fact that there is a base here with a daycare we can finally afford an apartment that I am proud to invite work friends into when my husband is gone on business trips.  I work with a lot of older woman who have all become like mothers to me and I know they would be the ones to show up at my house with a basket of diapers all dying to hold my son for an hour so I could take a nap. Nobody talks about it, but they all know that I that I could use some help.

I have a job that allows me to get off work at the same time every day, go to the grocery store, and then wait in line to have the guard check my i.d. and let me through to go pick up my son from daycare. I like my routines now. But maybe my husband is right, maybe I’m just boring. I never shop anywhere except the commissary, it’s so much cheaper than the Food Lion. I clip coupons from the Raleigh newspaper every Sunday, and when I get home from work, I kick off my black pumps by the front door, unload my son’s daycare bag, swtich off the crock pot, and get my son Parker into the bath. 

His little body reminds me of a bar of Disney soap that my younger brother had when were little. It was chamomile lotion pink, shaped like Piglet and was so slippery that even completely dry if you tried too hard to hang onto it, it would be forcibly ejected from your curled fingers. My brother was probably about two when he bit the head off that Piglet soap. I remember my mom calling poison control because she had no idea what half of the ingredients were on the box and was in a total panic. I’m sure the walls of every room in our house remember how for a minute she panicked. The feeling was so sharp that they probably felt it just like I did. Her worry went through everything like a shock wave through a soaking wet toaster. 

I opened my door to the mystery caller and the memory of the soap incident shot up my arms when I saw an overweight puffy eyed woman at my door as I held my wet squirming son in his bath towel. This is why my doormat says “Unless you have cookies, go away”. I thought about a story I had read by a writer Maggie Downs and she tested positive for drugs she didn’t take before giving birth to her son. The drugs standing on my doorstop were not mine either. It wasn’t CPS that I feared would show up one day, but I watched through my blinds nonetheless, and waited (Downs 2019).

 I just wait. The edge of my white paneled door in one hand and I wish she would stop sobbing so I can get my sweet wet wiggly Piglet soap into his Carter’s onesie pajamas. She looks up and her friend emerges to pat her on the back. I draw in a slow breath that makes my ribs crackle. Another fire for me to put out. 

When your life is tied to someone else the only thing to do is fix their problems or they will become yours. If this one goes to his command there will be less money for diapers, food, and rent if he gets busted down in rank. The military cares more about infidelity than I do these days. Last year, the fire extinguisher was named Silva and Sweet PLLC.  

Nick does this thing where he showers and puts on a nice button-down shirt that I bought him for Christmas and his almond colored Calvin Klein dress shoes on Friday evening when he gets home from work. Then he sinks into the couch and stares fixedly at the television like that was his plan for the whole weekend. I would walk into our son’s brightly lit bedroom down the hallway to change his diaper or his clothes and when I would walk back into the living room, Nick would always be gone. He would open the door quietly and contort his body through the silent gap and make a break for his beige Navigator strategically parked at the back of the lot. Then he would be gone all weekend and show up on Monday, get dressed for work, and smile at me like saying shut up I pay for most of this shit around here. 

The first time he did it I frantically called his phone thinking something had happened to him. On Monday when he got home, he threw my clothes and cell phone into the woods and said, “Don’t fucking blow up my phone like that again or next time I won’t let you back into this house. Next time, you, the kid, and the dog can go sleep in the woods where all your shit is at right now”. There were always news rules: Don’t ask questions about charges on the credit card, don’t ask for passwords, don’t ask him to take out the trash, his work clothes better be cleaned and hung up by Monday, don’t let him hear our son crying at night, don’t expect him to watch our son on holidays when the daycare is closed. So, I memorized the rules and on weekends didn’t even bother to look at my phone.

One Sunday night he stormed into the house screaming. 

“Why the fuck didn’t you answer your phone?” he accused. 

“I don’t know. Parker is in bed asleep and I’ve been sitting here for hours reading.”

“Well, I have been calling you for hours from the police station!” he sobs angrily. “I was driving home and I wrecked the Navigator. I hit another car!”

I know the rule for this situation, don’t ask if he was drunk because he was but, it’s not okay to ask. Be sympathetic and do a good job and don’t seem angry or he will be angry.

“I’m so sorry, hun. How did you wreck the car?’

“I picked up my phone to text you and see if would want to go to dinner”.

 

Hours later he finally gets around to telling me that the police who arrested him accused him of drinking and driving when he couldn’t walk a straight line, but he hadn’t been drinking tonight. He had stashed three bottles of Skyy in his duffle bag the night I went into labor to take to the hospital, but tonight he had been sober. Tonight, was different. Special. I am special. The best wife in the world. He was afraid that the Marine Corps would kick him out because the Jacksonville Police called his Staff Sergeant who had to report what happened tonight. 

“They made me take a piss test at the police station, but I wasn’t drinking. I swear.”

“Well, we need to get a lawyer,” I suggest.

“A lawyer won’t do anything. I’m just going to get NJped and that’s it!” he screams inches from my nose, spritzing my face with spit. The way you spray a dog with water after it has peed on the rug. 

Monday morning brings on an unprecedented state of mental clarity and my husband asks me to contact a lawyer on my lunch break and his mom to see if she will help us pay for it because he is going to need a new vehicle. Maybe a brand new 350z would be nice. He doesn’t know who to call so it would be better if I did it. Plus, he says my job is easier than his so I should have time to figure it out.

You don’t realize when you become a stereotype until you are forced to take your own temperature and realize you have all the symptoms. I should have let the law force the thermometer down Nick’s throat. I think there are times when the law interceding can be helpful, in this case Nick needed that because nothing I ever said or did made a difference. When Maggie Downs was accused of doing meth at the hospital when her son was born was a time when those who are supposed to help let assumptions get in the way of what was really happening. Sadly, both my husband and I were caught in stereotypical behavior and those who are in place to help dropped the ball. Maggie’s test came back positive for drugs twice. But the week of my husband’s DUI trial, the hospital lost the results from his urine test (Downs 2019).  And the charges were dropped. I was relieved that the bills would continue to be paid. But maybe after a few nights in jail and getting kicked out of the military would have cured the illnesses that were passed down by his father. The second tradition that Nick’s father also passed on to him has landed me with a stranger crying at my doorstep. 

So, I wait. The puffy eyed woman standing in my doorway looks at my son and then at me and says “He told me not to bother coming here today because you wouldn’t be surprised. Are you Nick’s wife? I stayed here at your house with him when you flew home to celebrate your son’s first birthday.” My husband has been gone on a business trip all weekend and the wallpaper is peeling by the door frame.

About the Author

Chelsea is a single mom and college student. Her major is in English with a minor in creative writing. She was partially drawn to creative writing because it gives her some creative license to be a smartass. She is always reading because the one thing a single mom can always afford is a trip to the used bookstore. She firmly believe that used bookstores should take a page from chain stores and have a table with chocolate bars because there is nothing like the smell of ink on a page and bonbons.