I Left My Husband Like a Country-Western Song

Tammi Salas essays

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My first car was a boxy, oxidized brown 1978 Ford Fairmont with a hot pink bumper sticker plastered on the back that stated “There’s only two kinds of music, Country AND Western.”  As you can imagine, this very uncool FBI-looking vehicle was not the chosen car of this newly licensed 16-year-old driver, but it was all mine. As for the bumper sticker? Here’s all I can say about that: When I was growing up, I was indoctrinated at an early age to the Musical Church of the Georges (Jones & Strait, of course). While it may not have been cool to most teenagers to have that phrase emblazoned on the back of their cars, I was just fine with it.  This car was my ticket to freedom, heartache and soon-to-be love; all the things country and western music stood for.

My parents divorced just seven years after my 16th birthday. So much happened in those few short years. High school graduation; a local beauty pageant; moving into my first apartment; and getting baptized for the third time in my life. Yes, the third time in 18 years.

While attending the local community college with an undeclared major, it was there that I received my first ever letter D grade and was jolted by this new turn of events. Self-doubt swallowed me up and I decided college wasn’t for me and dropped out.

Quickly, I poured myself into my job at the local law office and was trained in the art of being a good employee. I showed up, took my breaks and spent my lunch hour locally with friends who raced their hotrods to the top of the busiest streets in town. I was teetering on the edge of trouble, but never quite dipped my feet that far in.

As the years progressed and my parents’ relationship hit its end notes, I quickly latched on to the first guy that was nice to me and not some loser. I found the goodness in a virgin and thought we could make a happily ever after.

We got engaged just three months into knowing each other. Unbeknownst to him, he was going to be my savior and help me create a life of normalcy that I now craved in the wake of my parents’ divorce. The timing was right, for right now.

We tried. Or at least I think we tried. I mean, we registered for china, purchased a fancy white dress and planned a honeymoon in a state where we hoped to settle down and create a new life, Colorado. We did what we thought was expected of us and it felt good for a little while.

Years of moving around, starting and stopping my career to follow his and feeling unsettled were about to change. We moved into a renovated barn on hundreds of acres of land just outside of Durango. My cousin and his wife lived here, too, and I finally felt like we were coming home. A new place to set roots and grow a deeper relationship with extended family and distant thoughts of starting our own.

But doubt crept in and I realized that I never really loved this nice guy who saved me from the bitter end to my parents’ relationship. I found fault in him and made up excuses as to why I must leave him and our home. Looking back on this time, I see now how selfish and one-sided I was. I only wished to make a break from our marriage and relieve him from me—the miserable soul who was only pretending to play house. During those years, I channeled my inner-Martha Stewart and sewed quilts, planted a garden and silently plotted out how to leave it all. I felt like such a little girl at that time and not the woman I was supposed to be. I was confused by my newfound religion and my place in the world.  I wanted to free my husband and myself from our passionless marriage prison and set us free to find our true loves. I meant well.

Early one morning I called my cousin’s wife and informed her that I had ordered a 26-foot long U-haul truck with a flatbed and a trailer hitch. All five foot four inches of me would drive this big rig along I-70 and towards my real home in California. I asked for her help in loading my share of the contents of my home. She reluctantly agreed and showed up with sadness in her eyes. We silently schlepped dozens of boxes into the dark, cavernous hole of the trailer. Upon filling it, we hugged our goodbyes and my heart seized up by the grip of my love for her and her family. It dawned on me that I wasn’t only leaving my husband, I was leaving them, too. 

Climbing into my rented big rig, I felt a swarm of emotions and had to hold on tight to the steering wheel, adjust the side view mirrors and take a good, long, hard look at myself.

The ignition turned over and I pushed the first cassette tape I could find into the dock, turned up the volume and heard the unmistakable voice of Emmylou Harris crooning these lyrics like they were meant just for me:

…One of these days it will soon be all over cut and dry…

I threw the truck in park, opened the door and ran back towards my house. 

…And I won’t have this urge to go all bottled up inside…

I grabbed a piece of paper and quickly penned a note to my husband, put it on the kitchen table where he was sure to find it and then slowly scanned the room one last time before locking the front door.

…One of these days I’ll look back and I’ll say I left in time…

And with hot tears rolling down my face, I moved my heart out of that small town and into the great unknown with a certainty that I would never return. 

…’Cuz somewhere for me I know there’s peace of mind.

And that’s how I ended up leaving my first husband just like a country and western song.


About the Author

Tammi Salas

Tammi lives in Valley Ford, CA (population: 126). She is a former wine bar owner, lifelong seeker + recovering perfectionist. She makes art everyday + credits this practice as the path to her spiritual overhaul. She documents her creative forays + monthly sobriety milestones on her website www.tammisalas.com and co-hosts The Unruffled Podcast, which focuses on creativity + recovery from alcohol. ------- Website http://www.tammisalas.com/ --------- Podcast https://m.soundcloud.com/stevehecht-561628099

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