I needed it to be different
“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked.
I nodded swiftly, a reflex before my brain could catch up.
If I let myself think, If I let myself sift through memories, my entire body might shut down.
My bare chest pressed against her exposed skin. She lay there, calm, looking at me. My body shook From fear. From excitement. From a bottleneck of emotions, I didn’t fully understand.
A sliver of moonlight sliced in through the lone window above the bed. It caught just enough of her eyes. I looked away. They weren’t the eyes I knew. The eyes I shared the bed with throughout my marriage. The eyes were out of place.
Or maybe I was the one out of place.
I hadn’t turned the light on when we entered the bedroom.
I didn’t want to see it in light. I didn’t want to feel the shallowness within my chest as I took another woman into the bed I shared with my wife.
I needed to leave my eyes open, to see a world without my wife in it, and yet imagining one terrified me. The sliver of moonlight remained the only light in the room. I would have turned it off if I could.
Slipping under the bed covers, my lips fumbling with hers, I felt the sense of betrayal in my sheets. These sheets were not meant for another. The metal frame winced out its own pain.
Nothing felt right.
An invisible pain left from a sudden void. I needed it to go away.
“Are you sure?” she asked again.
That Phone Call
“Are you sure,” I asked again.
“Yes,” my wife said over the phone. “I want a divorce.”
I don’t remember how the rest of the conversation went. I’m not sure if my arm went limp and I hung up the call, or if I asked her how the weather was.
My brain blacked out. Dehydrated already from the tears shed during recent days, it finally clicked off, unplugged, and rebooted.
Whenever my mind and body reconnected I was sitting on the futon in my basement office. Heat didn’t circulate through the cement block basement. I could see my breath as light from the winter morning cut in through the hopper window.
Or maybe it was my soul escaping. Finally given the word it needed to hear.
My wife asking for a divorce didn’t come as a surprise. Honestly, I think both of us wanted the other person to say the word. A game of chicken at the end of our relationship. She blinked first. Or maybe she simply had the courage to do it.
Lost in a fate I saw coming but didn’t want to accept, I felt lost. Not lost as in wandering a strange forest, but lost in that the space shuttle umbilical had disconnected and now I floated away into the darkened abyss of nothing.
Come With Us
A few days had passed. I hadn’t answered the phone. I hadn’t left the house outside of taking the dogs for walks.
The winter wind cut through my coat but I couldn’t feel it. My mind had left my body following that phone call, leaving little more than a shell to trudge on. A shell stuck on autopilot.
I sat for hours, motionless. The television off, I didn’t watch a screen but rewound through moments of my life with her. The good and the bad. I laughed. I cried. I drove my forehead into my palms and tried to shake it all away.
My friends would call but I never answered. They all knew things were bad. They knew she’d moved back to her parents a thousand miles away. They’d heard us arguing. I said more to them by not answering calls and texts than I ever could by picking up the phone.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I knew I’d either put on a face long enough to make it through a short conversation, or I’d be a bubbling mess before they said, “Hello.”
Yet I saw all of this coming. I knew our marriage would end. We were playing a game of relationship Russian roulette. Every blank fired brought us closer to that one bullet. And that one bullet had finally fired.
One afternoon my friends showed up unannounced. Maybe they tried to warn me, I just failed to answer. They told me they weren’t leaving without me.
With my fortitude long since gone I went with them. One of the friends in the group was a girl I’d known for a few years. I latched onto her. I felt comfortable talking with her about what I was feeling. I’d open up as much as I felt comfortable doing while she snubbed out cigarettes. She sat with me at the bar while our friends looked with worried faces in our direction. Perhaps they were concerned about my well-being. Or they were sorry they left her alone with a man attempting to avoid one emotional wreck after another.
I’d closed my eyes and hit the gas a long time ago. Whatever I’d hit I’d hit. With her help, I managed to avoid most of the serious mental accidents.
Eventually, we ended up back at my home, just the two of us.
A Foreign Land
Her lips were colder.
A different lipstick taste replaced one of familiarity. Remnants of cigarettes smoked throughout the night lingered in her mouth.
Her fingers were longer, her nails shorter.
When we kissed she tugged at my lips, biting just enough to hurt.
My wife and I didn’t have rough sex. I hadn’t been bitten in a long time. It filled the emptiness in my chest with heat. With anger.
I needed that.
I needed it to be different. Completely different. I couldn’t let myself focus on how this woman’s fingers were longer or how her breasts were smaller. I needed to let myself experience this because, at that point in time, I needed something that absolutely wasn’t my wife-in-name-only.
Her nails dug into my back. There were bruises for several days. They lasted longer than the brief recess from my depression. From my loss. The loss of a relationship that felt more like death than anything else.
The first time I had sex without my wife didn’t help anything long term. It didn’t dig me out. It didn’t keep me from feeling like a failure.
But it reminded me there was something else out there. That when everything eventually passed there would still be life. That love and passion and sex did in fact exist.
And that’s all I really needed. I didn’t need saving. I didn’t need someone to pull me out of where I was. I just needed a reminder that life still exists on the other side of divorce.