A weekday afternoon after last night’s knock-down-drag-out fight: I broke into your apartment and found you sleeping beside a bottle of whiskey: a melodramatic scene that filled me with tenderness.
I’d spent my workday listening to your Super Hits, George Jones stumbling through one song about drinking, then three songs about being left alone, before he bemoaned his latest abandonment on “The Grand Tour.” I’d rolled my eyes, grossed out by his dehumanizing longing for “the chair where she’d bring the paper to me.” But as the music swelled and George insisted that she’d left him without mercy, softly dropping to the bowed-head truth that she’d taken nothing but their baby and his heart, the loss walloped me: nothing frightened me more than having you and losing you.
I didn’t know, thirteen years later, our three daughters would fill our two-story house with noise, while Nancy proffered the ephemera of her dead husband in a downtown Nashville museum, wandering the halls of their home, newspapers stacked by the La-Z-Boy, waiting.
Kristine Langley Mahler is a nonfictioneer at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where she received the 2015 John J. McKenna Graduate Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction. Her work has appeared in New Plains Review, Dead Flowers, and Embodied Effigies, and won The 1877 Society’s inaugural contest for Best Personal Essay. After a childhood in Oregon, adolescence in North Carolina, and high school in Indiana, she has dug in her heels on the suburban prairie.