It was so hot, albeit a humid heat. Cockroaches the size of a baby’s hand were everywhere; I had never seen anything like it. Texas during the summer time was relentless. I had been there since the middle of March and had gotten married in May. A whirlwind relationship that would later end in divorce creating one of the most painful, horrible time of my life, but I didn’t know any of this yet.
Killeen, Texas is in the middle of the state and is also home to the soldiers stationed at Fort Hood. The Texas Expressway flows through the city and is where we spent a lot of time traveling from one place to another. The independence that ran threw me as I flew down that highway was like nothing I had ever felt before. I was twenty-six years old, and although I may have been too old to just be experiencing this type of freedom, it was my first time being away from my family and all I had known.
He and I lived in a apartment right outside the Fort Hood gates. It was beautiful and modern inside and resembled all the romanticizing that time period seemed to hold. The weeks became segmented in routine. I would go to the gym with him in the morning; we would eat breakfast together. The rest of the day would be mine to explore the city, yet I usually ended up spending most of the day in the library. This little amount of time I had to myself sitting in the library situated in the center of the military base was where I was able to remember who I was before I become enthralled in this man. I was a reader, I was curious, and I was alone.
He would come home for lunch and I would wait for him to finish up his day. I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have money. All I had was him and I was engulfed in his world. We would grill out most nights while sitting outside until dark just talking and occasionally seeing those monstrous cockroaches. We would sit quietly some nights listening to the music playing from his car and dancing when the right song played.
This town, which had became a haven of love and escape, became part of the walls that closed me in when we fought. The independence I longed for and found became my worst enemy when he refused to talk to me leaving me in fear of what words he would finally speak. The Texas Expressway, which we drove on so many times to explore new restaurants, seemed to lay ahead forever as I sat next to him crying, heartbroken after another fight. The apartment, full of brightness and hope, stood still while I sat against the wall crying from the haste of my decision, the possibility of my mistake, and the acceptance that I could not live without this person.
It’s the moment when a relationship shifts that we never forget. It may be gradual and subtle in its demeanor, but you still feel it. We moved back to my hometown in Missouri, where I waited for him to return from a year and a half deployment. There were letters, webcam conversations, long phone calls and days that dragged on. When he finally returned home, I felt the shift in our relationship. That bond, that connection was gone. In its place was vacancy and unhappiness, and I didn’t know how to repair what I didn’t quite know was broken. Then came the day that would disrupt my life, my spirit and my faith. The moment where I knew it was no longer him and me. The moment where lie followed by lie spilled out before me and I could no longer turn a blind eye. The other women. The other life. The other him.
Maybe it would have ended differently if he would have been honest, begged me to stay or confessed his love for me like he once did without hesitation. None of this happened, which hurt as much as the cheating itself. When I confronted him he was confused by my accusations and adamant that he did no wrong. The indignation would eventually turn to anger as he packed his bags and left to start a new life with someone else. I know in my heart I would have forgiven him if he would have pleaded. I know in my heart I would have found a way to not blame him but rather blame myself for what I was lacking.
Our attempts to fix what we had were fruitless, and in the end, I had to let go. This part of my life, although it was so long ago, is the story I struggle with the most. Perhaps because it did not end with closure, and I am left with so many unanswered questions. Perhaps because there was such a deep love, and I am left with the “what could have been.” Or maybe it is simply because it was the first time in my life that I had ever known a love and pain so intense that it tears you apart from inside and forever leaves its mark.
Amanda Felice Collier was born in New Jersey and raised a Midwestern girl in Saint Joseph, Missouri. She has been an educator for seven years teaching college writing and high school English. Though she has always loved to write fiction and poetry, it was the personal essay where she found her voice. Her works have been published in Halfway Down the Stairs, Commonline Journal, and Connotation Press to name a few. This is her first published piece since the birth of her daughter who has inspired her to keep writing and sharing her voice.