A whole other day went by, with Marsha keeping herself busy doing house chores to keep her mind off of Ash’s absence.
As she swept the living room the next afternoon, she heard keys jungle in the door lock and heard Ash step into the kitchen. When she saw Marsha, she addressed her as though she’d just come home from an only hour-long grocery trip.
“Ash! Hi, you are home!” Marsha quickly left her broom propped on the couch and came to meet her.
“Yes, I went to Jessica’s. We talked and smoked and shit. Hey, I’m gonna take a shower and then my dad is coming by to drop off a part for my car.” Ash said as she walked through the living room, taking her shirt off. She barely acknowledged that she’d been gone at all. The brightness in Marsha’s eyes dimmed. Did Ash not know that it hurt when she’d stayed away for so long? Why didn’t she talk about it? She could hear the shower turn on through the other side of the wall. She barely even acknowledged Marsha’s presence at all. What was their home to her? A pit stop?
Marsha resolved to talk with Ash about it after she got out the shower. She’d go and bother her now, but maybe Ash just needed some time to cool off and relax before really coming back. Maybe she needed to think, and a shower is one of the best places to do that, so she gave Ash that time and space. After all, her home should be a resting place and that is what Marsha long strived for.
She sat nervously on the sofa until she heard the water turn off. She breathed out a shaky breath. She didn’t know if Ash would be upset that she’d even bring it up, but she cared and that’s why she was going to.
Ash came out a few minutes later, a towel wrapped around her.
“Uh, hey Ash?” Marsha stood.
“What.” She said it as she gathered a shirt from the laundry pile which towered atop a haphazardly placed chair.
“I…you were gone for a few days and,… I. It hurt that…I need you to know that it hurt me that you’d been out for so long without saying anything.” Her eyes were closed as she concentrated to pull out that last part. She opened them again to see Ash’s expression, and waited nervously for how she would take it.
“Baby, I was gone for two and a half days. I didn’t do anything, I didn’t sleep with anybody… I don’t need to text you twenty-four seven.” She said it with a look that rolled her eyes enough that she didn’t even have to do it.
A pang went through Marsha’s heart. It is true that she doesn’t have to text 24/7, and Marsha didn’t think she was cheating, she only felt she deserved communication and at least decent assurance. None of the things that Ash said were things she’d retort, but they also didn’t seem understanding of her point. They seemed… put-offish… and even slightly negligent.
She didn’t know how to reply. “I didn’t doubt you, my love, I just need a little more communication is all… I don’t mind you hanging out with Jessica, but—”
“But, I need to ask you first?”
“No, no. I just don’t feel connected to you when you do things out of the blue and don’t talk about them at all. It makes me feel like you are trying to keep me out and it puts space between us. I love you and I don’t want there to be a gap in our connection. Understanding you is important to me.” Marsha goes between staring at the floor and meeting Ash’s face.
Ash smiles and rolls her eyes visibly this time.
Marsha continues, “I don’t mean to be a burden, or a thing that sits on your back… I just want to know that you care about this connection as much as I do, and I hope that it doesn’t feel like a chore to you to meet me in that place of assurance. I want you to want to be connected to me.”
“Of course I want to be connected to you. I just… I’m not good at communicating like you are.” Ash nervously laughs. “I know I run when things get overwhelming to me. I don’t know how to face it and handle it. I’ve just had shit going on in my head, that’s all. I don’t want to hurt you or burden you and that’s why I run. I don’t want you to get caught in my shit or have to deal with it.”
Marsha nodded. “I appreciate you telling me that. Is there a way we can try to make sure that you have a space to work through things where you are not afraid to hurt me, and I can know you don’t mean to withdraw from the connection at the same time? Can we try talking first, before you go somewhere else when you become overwhelmed? I want to walk with you together. I’ve chosen you, baby, even the bad days.”
“No, I get mad and pissed off easily when I am stressed out. I don’t want to end up yelling at you. You don’t deserve that and I don’t want to do that to you.”
“You are very sweet in wanting to care for me.” Marsha blushed as she smiled.
“Baby, you just don’t know my shit. You don’t know how bad it is. I’ve always been this way, my family was always this way. I don’t really… I don’t know how to be the way you are. I would have to erase everything from my past. I’ve tried to do that, it’s just…”
“Oh, my love.” Ash started to look overwhelmed, “I don’t want you to try to just erase it. I know you can’t do that.” She watched Ash’s face. “Can I hug you?”
“Yes.” Ash let Marsha embrace her and hold her close and she fought down the tears harder and harder, heavier and heavier as Marsha’s love tried to pull them out along with all the pain.
“God, okay. No more. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I just can’t cry. I don’t do that.”
Marsha wished Ash could know that letting it out is what would help to alleviate all the years of built-upon pain. But it was okay that she wasn’t ready for that, yet. She didn’t have to do all the healing in one day. Marsha knew that healing was a long and ugly process. She’d take this slow with Ash. Today had already proved progress; even small steps are big ones when it comes to healing.
Ash shouldn’t even try to change who she feels she is all in one day. Retaining identity and autonomy is important to feel as intact as possible during the breaking process that is healing. But, of course, even this will be unraveled eventually, it just will happen quietly along with other things. But the day for that will come; it will not be on this day or tomorrow, but it has its time allotted. Much of this is patience. Healing takes much patience.
Marsha wished that Ash could experience the healing of release, but she knew that it might not really even be healing to Ash, yet. Opening hurts, taking down walls feels vulnerable and dangerous. It is a whole new world, and it can be overwhelming if not taken in baby steps; no matter how much of a heaven it is that is on the other side. Nothing can be rushed. The eyes of the healing must stay clear or they might not see the beauty and peace that they deserve to find, and going too fast makes you blind.
“Okay.” Marsha knew Ash had to take all of this at her own pace, whenever she decides she’s ready for each step. Healing can never be forced. It is complete and deep when it is done by the person’s own freedom and accord and self.
Ash looked down at Marsha with a hint of glistening in her eyes, “I’m going to go to Jessica’s again, today, but I love you and I will come home tonight.” She was looking in Marsha’s eyes sincerely. “Look at me. I love you.”
“I love you. Thank you.” Marsha met her gaze. Ash’s eyes were so warm to her. They were full of a beautiful heaven of home and long life and their future. They were full of love. She felt safe there, in Ash’s gaze.
Ash helplessly smiled at her, she knew what Marsha was thinking. That was one thing Ash always did that continued to surprise Marsha: she could read her perfectly just with a quick look. Marsha knew this was a skill that Ash had learned in childhood from survival. This made her feel bad that she adored that Ash could see her feelings, even knowing that the talent had birthed from fear and survival. She wondered if it made her undeserving.