Teresa Zachery stared across the table and through the door of the kitchen at Jon’s back. Powerful compulsion to chastise, to speak the hurt she felt butted against desperate restraint.
“Talk to me” had been a mistake. He needed time. With himself. With his whiskey.
He knew how she felt about drinking, and he drank, anyway. That wasn’t the worst of it, though. He’d pulled away from her, so far that it was like in the early years of high school. They were in classes together but weren’t friends, had nothing in common, and very rarely had occasion to speak to each other. But then they found each other, and over the first six years of their marriage, the navy, the children, everything they faced served to bring them closer together. He rarely drank. They made love, but for the last year, since they’d lost Daniel, he drank every day. He wouldn’t touch her for weeks. Then he’d take her franticly and in a rush. After, he’d roll off her, drape his arm over his eyes, and sigh as if there was nothing to live for. He’d roll off her, done with what he needed her for, and she felt dirty, used for a shameful purpose.
Over the past year, their life together had become taking care of the children, and she thought he regarded her with a chilly indifference.
Indifference hurt more than open hostility would have.
She wanted to tell him about the hurt she felt, but more, she wanted him to tell her what was eating at his soul. He wouldn’t talk about Daniel. He wouldn’t talk about flying. He wouldn’t talk to her, period.
Saying “Talk to me” had been a mistake. It hadn’t always been like that. Jon had said—or written, actually—in a letter during his 1966 deployment, “Even if there isn’t a solution in the dialogue about our problems, now two of us are carrying the burden.” But since he joined the aviation community, the navy had inserted forbidden discussion topics into their lives. During the first phase of flight training, a navy chaplain had addressed the small number of wives of student pilots—most of them were bachelors. The chaplain strongly advised the wives to not worry their husbands about matters at home. “Flying is a demanding business. Your husbands need to be able to focus entirely on their airplanes.” The implication was clear. Load your husband down with worries about home and you could kill him. The student pilots had been talked to, as well. “In aviation, you will have some close calls. Don’t tell your wives about those. It just causes them to worry more.”
Through the kitchen door, she watched Jon sip and return the glass to the counter. She had to give him time, but, too, she felt time slipping away from them. If she didn’t do something soon, there would be nothing between them to heal.