I received a birthday card from my ex-husband.

The inside read “wish you were here.”

“Wish you were here” had been crossed out with a black marker. Underneath, he wrote “you’re so old.”

There was a picture of a pig on the front.

Two nights before I had been thinking about the resolution of our marriage. For the first time ever, I considered how much I probably hurt him. When it ended, there wasn’t a gray area for me: once it was done I was done. I had given it everything I could and there was no looking back. It must have been painful for him to see someone completely turn over without even a sideways glance.

The only present I received on my birthday was a box of dried fruit. The metaphor is obvious.

It was a hard week. This time last year, I had already drawn up separation papers and my parents had begged me not to take any action until after Christmas. On the night of Halloween, after all our birthday party guests left I tried to salvage the puce remnants of our marriage. “I just want to love you and I want you to love me.” He turned to me. We were standing in the dining room. “You need to stop talking.” He hated any type of conversation which rallied emotions. I stepped forward and put my arms around him. “It’s ok. I just want to be here with you.” He put his hands on my shoulders and pushed me so hard I almost fell over. I was shocked. I followed up with a push back. Except, I underestimated how drunk he was and he fell backward into a chair and split his face open, badly. There was a big gash on his chin and he has a permanent scar to show for it.

It was horrible.

D didn’t speak to me for almost two weeks afterward. I mean this literally. He would stand outside of any room I happened to be in and speak to the children from the hallway. If I addressed him it was met with silence. He skulked around the apartment like a marauder, taking what he wanted when I was not present. That was always my punishment and it was the best one to serve. I liked to get into the belly of a problem and  look at it until I could solve it. Depriving me of dialogue was like taking food away.The jigsaw fell into place, and I withered.

8 weeks later I gave him the papers and our house of cards toppled.

So I had been thinking about this. Or more, specifically, I had been having physical symptoms without knowing their origin and that would cause me to question. (I would feel unable to breathe or my throat would tighten). I could only guess why it was happening. I never used to be like this. That’s why I liked to keep it hidden, I knew how it must look: a train wreck, a mess, ugly. If my prior self saw me, I would have thought I was pretty fucked up.

So on Halloween I handed out candy on my stoop with my friends and then we spent the evening together.

Afterward I saw Marvin. It ended badly, with an argument. I felt sure I wouldn’t see him again.

I had come home with Marvin to find an envelope from my divorce lawyers. They had told me if I didn’t get my papers by Halloween I should call them. So here I was: Halloween Eve, placing the envelope on the table.

All of this, every single piece of the shipwreck, all of the resulting debris had been brought about by my own hand.

Later, unrelatedly; P was talking about her Sailor: “I can’t have a boyfriend, I’m too fucked up.” I proffered that she saw it out.  “Until I fuck it up…. Like you do – excuse me.”

Yep.

I slept on the couch after Marvin left and woke then slept again until Hank sent me a text.

Hate sex. Just what I needed.

Except it wasn’t like that at all. I told him I’d had a night that ended badly and I had just received my divorce papers. And then I cried. I tried to stop it, I wanted to stop it, but I couldn’t. He touched my shoulder (which, is all we can do). He talked to me nicely, as a fellow divorcee he understood. And then of course, we fucked. He asked about the bruises on my thigh. “From another lover.” (Marvin). I had shown Marvin the bruises the night before and he had said “those weren’t from me.” I didn’t understand this: why would I lie about that?

Afterward, or in between Hank he held me close, kissed my face and touched my hair. Maybe he did have a soul, and… maybe I did too.

This brings to mind a few things: When he met me the night before, Marvin had told me he had been looking forward to hearing “one of my stories.” Ok. But it was my birthday and I wanted to be with my friends and surely that was understandable? Hank had told me that he “liked me so much because I was able to compartmentalize (I’m a master) and didn’t seem to care either way.” In other words, these guys liked me because I was a slut. An easy lay. A casual, come what may girl. There is one caveat: No one should say it. When I left Marvin’s work; completely unsolicited, a bouncer said to me “your fuck car is waiting outside.” Did I look lost? Why say that at all?

To be pragmatic, they were right. Well, except the bouncer who, was just a dick. Hell, maybe I was lost but isn’t everyone?  I didn’t like the stigma. Was this a case of many rains turning to rivers? Could I do this forever with them or did I need a new set of men? I didn’t want too many emotions involved but to put it bluntly; I’d already screwed the pooch as far as that was concerned. (There was an Italian designer and a NY sartorialist on the back burner, there were a lot of choices). I had to ask myself: was the issue with – them seeing me as a dispensable quantity or that they liked that I could do that to myself? Neither was true in reality but I quite suddenly saw it from their point of view: when Hank left that day I was happily spent and nodding off. I heard him put on his clothes and walk out. He was spot on; I didn’t care either way. But should I?

That evening I asked P to open the envelope. I couldn’t look at the papers. “It just reads you’re free.” She told me.

It just reads you’re free.

I pushed my face into her belly. Soft and open from 3 babies, I needed that. Weeping, I had an internal voice telling me to move on. I had wanted a tender touch from Marvin but of course it wasn’t there. There was sadness; emptiness. There was no love.  Except from P who would love me no matter.

I knew I had done it to myself.

I left the papers at P’s and went home. I was completely devastated. I had no idea what was going to get me through the night, except knowing that I had to because there was no other choice.

 

 

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