I chuck my keys into one of those plastic fried shrimp baskets and I look the lone guard in the eye. He’s maybe 30, tops — a big dude, a bench-presser who probably dreams of being a state cop but it just hasn’t happened yet.
“My belt?” I ask him.
He shakes his head. “No sir, you don’t need to remove your belt.”
I walk through the metal detector and nothing happens. He offers the shrimp basket to me and I retrieve my keys. For a second there I imagine him and me are buddies and he’s offering me the very last shrimp in the order. “Thanks, man.”
“You’re welcome sir,” he says in his cop voice. “Do you know where you’re going?”
This is how divorce starts, I suppose. This is it. This is all there is or probably ever will be for the rest of eternity when it comes down to the two of us, me and her. We took a shot. And we missed. Don’t tell me we didn’t miss either, because I don’t need to hear that. We missed. Bad. I hold this guy’s eye as long as I can until it feels awkward, I’m sure.
“Filing for divorce,” I tell him, flashing a nudge-nudge/wink-wink smile at him like I want him to know that I am ready, willing and able to be a free man once again. That I am heading out after this to get LAID, my man! He looks at me and and tightens his big guy cop lips into the gentlest smile he can muster — and it’s a fine smile, too — don’t get me wrong, but when I see it I know straight-up that it’s all he’s got in him, and that that’s all I’m getting.
I got my keys, no one got shot; our time here is done.
I go down the hall and file for divorce.
It costs $177.50. I hand a dude a check, but look, he’s tired and probably needs his afternoon coffee and I’m sure he wants to go the hell home and kick off his workaday shoes, so yeah, he’s not really paying attention when I also hand him something else.
When I take the Bic that signed the check and jam it into my chest and carve out a throbbing/gasping/thick fillet of my still-beating/bloody human heart, he’s looking over my paper work one last time.
And when I toss the whole mangled mess up on the courthouse counter, he’s typing forever things into his computer.
Locked in the mystery of anything is the spirit of everything.
I wanted our love to last, possibly because I was too afraid to see that it had never even sprouted much to begin with. I spent this past summer trying to find a way to win her back. Nothing worked. I wrote lots of articles on the internet where I tried to be funny or kind of raw. I wanted strangers to have a little glimpse at what was going on inside my damn head at any given moment, just in case that very distant connection could make me feel better about myself or even possibly inspire me to figure out what it was that would finally make her fall in love with me.
That only made things worse; she got embarrassed and she told me so. “I’d rather you wrote about how we didn’t have sex than all of this stuff about how much you still love me.”
That’s when I punched myself in the face.
Back at my place, I throw the divorce papers on the counter and put on a record. Then, I get my stuff on and carry the mirror from the powder room out into the summer kitchen and I start working out hard. Sweat drips down my face and into my eyes and I can feel my heart begging me to stop, trying to remind me that the cigarettes and the sumo burpees will eventually collide one of these days and I am bound to find myself standing over by the kitchen sink coughing up dark heart blood.
I do push-ups on the dumbbells and squats until my ass gets numb and it feels good to just let go of what just happened in the last two hours. I do mountain climbers in sets of 40 and then I pull a plank move that nearly destroys my insides. I get off on that. I keep working out and trying to be better than I was before. Lots of people do that. Lots of people like me find ways to try and replace the pain and the blues and the sadness and the uncertainty and the endless hard questions that come stringing off the back of absolutely shattered hearts like used car lot flags flapping crazy in the wind.
Drink, drugs, Häagen-Dazs, sex. I can’t afford any of that. So I keep working out, waiting around for some kind of sexy breathtaking New Mexico yoga private retreat sunset to walk in my back door and kiss me on the mouth. I keep trying to get better looking because I’m like 75 percent broken.
I had this toothpick-castle plan that by me coming around her house and eating pizza with her and mowing her lawn as the late summer sun dipped down below treetops, I could let her know that I still loved her and she’d believe me. It would take some time, some doing, but we were meant to be together, that’s what I kept telling myself, and eventually she’d admit she still loved me too.
We were the worst marriage that ever happened, but I couldn’t let go. Why? I don’t know the answer. I think I was in love but that’s never enough.
Ugh. Can you believe this crap?
Check this out: I figured that if I showed her my newfound Zen, my magical transition into a man from a boy, and if I flaunted my presence around her, mostly by picking up the dog shits in her yard with my shirt off (oh là là), she’d probably change her mind about me, about us.
Late afternoons on her days off from work, I was thinking that if I was hanging around and the two of us found ourselves looking over at Violet and Henry, standing there eating their french fries out of the bottom of the McDonald’s bag, their eyes fixed on some Peppa Pig in the late afternoon, she’d eventually wander over to me and I would be able to tell, just by the way she was walking/gliding/flip-flop-floating past the microwave in the way that I have known, the magic way, the way that some other guy will know soon and I will forget soon enough, and she wandered gently into my personal space and slowly, organically, with a sigh of universal relief exhaling out of the clouds in the sky and the mouth of the hot high sun, and she laid her forehead against my old familiar chest and moved her hair so that I could smell it, knowing, KNOWING!, that the smell would slice slits in my eyes and my tears would come gushing down and wash the two of us away on a river made of possible long-overdue sex first, but more importantly, eternal love thereafter.
Oh my God/Oh my God/Oh my God.
No wonder she was all embarrassed about my little articles.
I’m such an idiot.
Someone is meeting the love of their life right now, or maybe ten minutes ago, or eight minutes from now, give or take. You know, the world will never be quite the same because of that.
That could be you. That could be me. Isn’t that wonderful in a way? We get so banged up by love and we don’t dare quit.
Hey, that could be you at your spin class or at your office or in some downtown gastro-pub fern bar some night when you were just heading out to hang with a friend and drink some beers and eat some fun foods and bam! Look at what just walked into the room. You see that? Look at that guy? Look at him! He’s majestic. He’s a freaking Titan. And guess what? That’s me! I’m serious! That’s me over there killing a pint, that’s me getting ready to walk towards the bathroom and bump into an old friend who introduces me to you and everything will be different now for you and for me and for our kids and your mom (if she’s still alive/ and even if she isn’t in a weird way).
I’m divorced, maybe you are too. Who cares?
Deep down in our guts, we always kind of knew: all of that was just practice for this.More On