It’s been quite a long time since I’ve written a legitimate blog post here. Over a year, in fact. And, it’s been quite a year, indeed. I survived my fourteenth year of teaching, after a year away and having dipped my feet into the world of art gallery sales, traveled to Costa Rica, drove cross-country on a whim and fulfilled my dream of flying a plane – not just in a plane but actually logging my first legitimate hour of flight towards my pilot’s license. Those who know me intimately will know that flying is a dream I buried many years ago. Back to the days of The Ghost I call husband. Long before I knew The Ghost, I read Beryl Markham’s West With The Night and wanted to one day fly a plane. I was obsessed with Amelia Earhart and the accomplishments she made as an aviator – and having the wanderlust myself, travel was always on my mind. Taking the yoke and flying myself was something I knew I had to do and always hovered in the back of my mind. So, one day, while I was living with The Ghost, I drove up to Republic Airport and signed myself up for flight classes, leaving my 50% deposit of $600 for flight school. I was to start the following weekend, sue to my work schedule. When I came home, excited to share my news, The Ghost did not share my enthusiasm. His face turned sour and he said to get my money back because there was no way he would allow it. For some reason, which I still don’t understand, I listened to him. We weren’t even married and I listened to him. I went back the next morning and got my money back, cancelled my classes and drove back to The Ghost.
I was a tender twenty five years of age when I crushed my own dreams of flight. I can’t really blame The Ghost. After all, I didn’t put up a fight, I just listened to him. Perhaps some part of me knew, very deep down, that it wasn’t the right time. Perhaps I was afraid to fulfill a dream. Perhaps I wanted someone to tame my wild ambition. I don’t know what the reasons were at the time, but I complied. I do remember being very disappointed in myself for listening to him, but if I am completely honest with myself, I must say that I probably did not want to be allowed to fly. When I finally did leave, a time I’ve written about here), I remember feeling that I was given a second chance at life. He wanted to kill me that night, that’s the account Aidan relayed to me. He told me The Ghost had a plan to kill me my tying my feet to cinder blocks and throwing me off our boat. He wanted me dead. Dead. He was high enough, and strong enough to do it. When he was beating me that last night I’d ever see him, with every punch he’d thrown at my head, my face, my stomach, I knew that if I survived that night, my life would finally begin. That I could live again.
As I’ve accounted here, I was in a fog for a long time after that night. Not just for a few hours or days, but really for a few years. It wasn’t until the divorce was final, some four years later that I felt some sense of relief. Release. Even then, I felt the eerie sensation that I would always need to look over my shoulder as long as I lived in New York because there was always the chance that he would find me and finish what he started. Though I forgave him the minute I left the house, I knew I would never sleep a full night peacefully as long as I lived in New York. And I didn’t.
The Ghost visited me every night as I put my head down on the pillow. I could see his face next to mine in the bed or feel the curve of his body behind me as I drifted off to sleep. A sensation which jolted me awake and refused to let me find peace in slumber. I worked. Made new friends. Found moments of joy with the children I worked with but my heart pounded a few beats too fast when I returned home and had to face the darkness. Though we were physically parted, The Ghost had entered my mind and taken up residence there.
The divorce was finalized and I set my sights on living in Europe. I got a teaching job in Italy and moved. Movers came to my mother’s house and took my things. I got on a plane. The next chapter was beginning. I don’t think I ever told anyone this, but even after I got to Italy, I would look out the window of my apartment, onto the streets of the small town outside of Milan, on the tram, bus, or at the street markets expecting to see The Ghost. He couldn’t make his way up to Putnam County, New York and I expected to see him on the streets of Opera, in the Commune di Milano? Completely irrational, but totally true. No, it didn’t take too long for to feel safe again, but because I could not change my name back to my maiden name before leaving the country (it would have complicated my paperwork upon entry to Italy), I kept The Ghost’s name. It became a part of me. It’s how I was known professionally, and by kids. Upon leaving him, I recreated a new identity around this name, shedding any old identity and leaving it far behind in the damp, small town where I left him on Long Island. Like a butterfly I spread my wings and became a re-entered the world. Beautiful and alive.
I found love in Italy and for a short time, The Ghost was out of my mind. He hovered close, but for the most part I was able to enjoy a new romance that was pure, and good and wonderful. With Andrea, I learned what kindness and gentleness from a man could be like. He was humble and vulnerable in ways The Ghost never knew. He struggled with sharing that which ultimately ended our union. After that, I knew his role in my life was to teach me men can be good and kind and that I could be loved.
Through the years, and moves, and jobs and lovers, I have reinvented myself. I’ve only recently come to realize that through my reinventions I have been searching for my most authentic true self. I have been on a journey to discover my purpose in this world. Why have I been though what I have, why I lived where I have, why the people who have left marks on my heart and furthered me along my path have come, gone or stayed.
I’ve come to realize, that flying a plane became the ultimate metaphor for taking control of my life. When I grabbed the yoke this summer, I took back my life.
So, The Ghost I call Husband gave me my name. I have been through so many changes that my name is now very much mine and has a completely new meaning to me. It defines me, tells about where I’ve been and now truly is my identity more than ever. And here I write, inventing Maria McCabe.