He hadn’t always been like this.
She tried to get up from the floor, but he pushed her down again, swearing and barely able to focus both eyes on her face. His breath was foul as he pleaded with her to forgive him.
“I can’t let you up til you forgive me” he slurred. “It was an accident, I’m sorry! You have to…”
He trailed off, slumping onto his knees then sidewards to lean against the wall.
“I didn’t mean to…”
He hadn’t always been like this, but this time wasn’t the first.
He reached out an impotent hand towards her as she pulled herself up on the kitchen chair, mumbling incoherently as she made her way out of the kitchen towards the hall cupboard. By the time she got back to where he was with the blanket, he was already asleep.
She won’t leave him this time either.
They had grown up together, become best friends and later married – every girl’s boy-next-door fairytale. She wasn’t interested at first, but as they grew up she discovered that the loyalty, passion and gentleness he possessed was not easily found in any other person she’d met. His capacity to love and care for the ‘unloveable’ was astonishing, his ambition and compassion for others startlingly beautiful.
But something somewhere went wrong.
She wonders if it would be quite so hard if she didn’t believe he was made of greater stuff, for greater things. If she’d never known him before, she would have no idea how to hope for the future. If she didn’t know who he really was, who he could really be, would it hurt so much to see him so far from that?
He gurgled and shuffled in his sleep. Instinctively she reached out to him in case he should slide onto his side, but he stayed put, his hair matted and mussed on one side like a child’s after a good night’s sleep. He would make a great father, if only…
That’s why she stays. The picture of him as he was, as he could be – that exquisite bittersweet morsel of hope in face of his bad choices, in face of his persistent rejection of her and the life they once had together, in face of his inability to say no to the voice that wants ‘just one drink’.
To stay and hope is as painful as to give up and go, but perhaps this way she can be the one to try and win him back with her love and care.
One day it’ll be over. Either he will be won over by her love, her efforts, the truth… or he will go too far and she’ll be forced to leave. If she has to leave, all concerned will still bear the consequences. She too, in her love for him, in her hope for him, already suffers the consequences – she may be removed, but she will not be absent. Maybe if she leaves he will be forced to face his own consequences. Perhaps he’ll feel the loneliness, the futility of doing life for himself alone, the pain of what he has brought about. Perhaps then he will change.
But perhaps he will get used to the absence of her light – his eyes will become accustomed to the darkness he has chosen and soon the memory of light will be nothing but shadow, nothing but the absence of light, nothing.
No! Love always hopes.
One day she does leave, though. Perhaps there are children involved, perhaps she can no longer bear to see them suffer the consequences of his bad choices, perhaps he starts to hurt them. But she herself cannot carry him any more – she cannot hope alone.
Perhaps someone else, something else will shine. A candle lit somewhere on his behalf – a hope, a wish, a prayer.
Love always hopes. She will always hope.