“Let’s talk about your drug use.” The police detective was tall and thin, with very little hair, glasses, and a mustache. We were in a conference room at my lawyer’s office, and we were talking about Colin’s death. That’s how the police referred to it, as a death. Whenever I said “suicide”, they corrected me. It was still a death, not yet ruled a suicide, despite the medical examiner’s findings. The police were still investigating, and they were investigating me.
I shrugged, having already admitted to smoking the marijuana. I was a little worried they’d ask me where I got it, and I didn’t want to cause trouble for the guy who sold it to me. I would tell if they made me, but I really hoped they didn’t ask.
They didn’t; they were more interested in what happened before I bought the pot. I didn’t have a record, had never been into trouble with the law. I didn’t lie, but I didn’t go into my drug use. I told him I’d used drugs in high school, got clean after meeting Colin, and left it at that, until the recent marijuana use.
“Okay, let’s talk about the affairs.” Affairs? Did I hear that right? I didn’t have affairs, had never been unfaithful to Colin.
“I see. How about the abuse? Can we talk about the abuse?” There was no abuse. Colin never hit me, didn’t think men who hit women had a right to be alive. There was probably a lot wrong with Colin, but keeping his hands to himself wasn’t one of them. He broke things when he got drunk or angry, threw dishes or objects. We were both guilty of that. He certainly had a temper, but he took it out on his CD collection, or the walls, or himself, but never me, never physically.
“No, I mean your abuse against him,” the detective said to me. Wait. What?
“Your sister-in-law told us about the abuse. Let’s talk about it.” Ohhh, I get it. It’s a tactic, something cops say to confuse you and trip you up. I was supposed to blurt out that he never told her because he was embarrassed to be beat up by a girl, or some such. Only, there wasn’t any abuse and I had nothing to let slip.
I am less than five feet tall, weighed about eighty pounds at the time. I found it pretty funny that they were suggesting I was beating up on my six-foot-tall, 250 pound husband, and laughed in their faces. My lawyer called a halt to the interview, and we went our separate ways.
I found out later that it wasn’t a tactic. My sister-in-law really had told them those things. She was calling the detectives working on Colin’s case regularly, to tell them about affairs that she claimed I’d had, a spiraling drug addiction, physical abuse against him, and the horrible, horrible life I had dragged him into. Because of me he was drinking too much; because of me he’d had trouble holding down good jobs. Because of me he was deeply depressed.
Both Colin's mother and sister had been telling anyone who would listen that I had done something to him, something to make him die. Either I had pulled the trigger or I got someone else to do it and that's how he had died. Someone freakishly large and imposing to overpower him without a struggle and shoot him. I had convinced him he was without worth; had betrayed him, been unfaithful to him and that's why he would commit suicide.
Sometime between mid-August and late November Colin’s grandfather died. My mother-in-law invited me to the wake she was having at her home; that’s when I found out that she and Colin’s sister blamed me for his death.
My mom drove me, and when we arrived my sister-in-law was wrestling her four year old up the walk; my niece was struggling and throwing a world-class temper tantrum. When she saw me, she started screaming; piercing screams that wouldn’t stop. I reached for her, to pick her up and console her, and she jerked away from me and ran inside. She had always adored me, and now she wouldn’t come near me.
Inside the house was confusing. Kids were screaming and unhappy, my sister-in-law would not stop staring at me, and my mother-in-law would not make eye contact with me. It was Colin’s stepfather who pulled me aside and told me. The others didn’t want me there. I was no longer welcome. They felt I was responsible for Colin’s death, and they didn’t want me around them, or around Colin’s nieces.
My mom and I left immediately, and Colin's mother followed us home. She arrived at my mom's house shortly after we did. She told me later that it wasn’t true, that her husband had spoken without her permission. That she did still love me and want me in the family, but she had questions. Questions that she’d need answered sooner or later, but she didn’t have the energy to deal with them during her own father’s funeral. She made me feel as though I had brought the drama to her father's funeral, as though I had made the scene at the house and caused all the emotional upheaval.
I never spoke to her after that, never answered her questions.