We met in college- it alternately seems like ages or seconds ago. He, a wisecracking foreign student, and me, a naïve and hopeful girl. Romance commenced- no details to share. It was standard in the way it unfolded and is not the subject of discussion here. Suffice it to say, he eventually proposed and I agreed in the excited way that women always agree. After all, this is the culmination of the Disney dream. This wedding- this chance to become a princess for a day, regal veil and all.
The wedding ended and the marriage began, neither of us prepared for what marriage entailed. There were the fights. The late nights. The screaming fits. The swirling papers thrown in a rage. I must admit to that- my futile casting of the inanimate to a room that didn’t care. I’m guilty too and I am paying for my sins.
The months passed and things grew worse. That’s neither here nor there at this point- what matters now is the fact that the relationship no longer exists. They say the stress of this loss is close to that of losing a loved one (not in a willful desire to strike out on one’s own, but to death) and I suppose they must be right. They often are about such things- they study everything, you know. I’m sure personal accounts, charts, and numbers told them this. I suppose you must grieve the thing that has died- your relationship and the person you were while you were in it. The good times you had- even if those were scarce. The feeling that someone was holding onto you at night, keeping those strange noises and nightmares away for a time. That feeling has died. That thing has died. And you leave the dark funeral of this intangible thing and you realize you must move on from that. And become a different person.
I was luckier than most because I saw this thing dying. I was able to steel myself against its demise, watching it take its final breaths. Some people don’t see the end coming, so it strikes them like a car in the street. For me, I saw its approach and neatly sidestepped it, only to suffer still a glancing blow. The man, who had found several girlfriends during the marriage, left the house still bewildered by all the fuss that he felt was unwarranted.
I, myself, spent several nights sleeping on the couch- no desire to actually sleep in my own bed. The first week, I woke up several times throughout the night convinced that I was only dreaming. But it was all true. I would awake on the semi-comfortable cushions of my little red couch, wrapped up in a throw blanket under the moonlight streaming in through one of the high windows. I listened to creaks and whispers in the darkness that I swore had never been there before. I cleaned like I was a person possessed. I put on sad music and wandered around my house like a ghost with tears on my face and a broom in my hand attacking errant dust balls and debris. I fielded phone calls from loved ones throughout the day and chirped that everything was fine. I had panic attacks sometimes when I was driving home from work, gasping for breath as I rounded the corner to my street.
It has been several months since I demanded that my husband collect all his belongings and find a new place to live. Months since I watched him and his friend trudge out of the house loaded down with boxes of items for which I no longer had any responsibility. I’ve become a different person, in a way. I’m cynical yes, but I’ve always been cynical. I’m sarcastic, suspicious, demanding, childish, and impatient. I’m gentle, kind, and sweet. I’m alternately optimistic and pessimistic. I smile sometimes when I don’t want to. I don’t tell certain people that my marriage has ended; For example, I have not told one of my dear coworkers who had been so pleased when he found out I’d gotten married. When he asks how everything is going, I just smile. This has been enough so far. Sometimes I create these illusions and other times, I am my most raw self.
Sometimes, after I finish doing the various things I throw myself into, I just spend time being myself, alone with myself. No fake smiles, no casual banter, no polite conversation, no practiced movements, no bullshit. I breathe in my vulnerability. This exquisite pain, this intricate force that invaded my life has had an unexpected consequence for me. It has made me human. I am a wonderfully flawed human who failed at the institution of marriage. I still wake up every morning, set my feet on the ground, and journey onward. Sometimes there’s a smile on my face and sometimes there are tears in my eyes, but I do this every day. Every. Day.
I document all this now so that, in the future, I will know that it wasn’t easy. I will appreciate the family I have, the friends I have, and the love I’ll someday find because sometimes, we don’t know what will happen. I do hope I will be strong enough and open enough to accept whatever comes.