Little things about the marriage, the fact that it’s over, they hit me here and there, but less and less, really.
I go up to the Post Office to get the mail and there’s never anything with her name on it. My mail is all mine. That seems simple enough, but then it occurs to me that there is a deeper side to all of that.
I am on my own.
It’s such a strange and wonderful feeling in a way, but it’s dredged and battered in fear and uncertainty, too. On my nights with the kids, I find myself coming back to life, that old evening glint back in my eyes, though the reasons have changed. It used to be the hours leading up to stepping out on a stage and rocking my face off beside my brother: London one night, LA another. Now, it’s all different, now the glint slowly comes back after I finally get those three honey badgers cleaned up/pj’s on/into bed.
And oh man, what a feeling. There’s this rush of pride that comes over me; I just did that; I just got a five-year-old and a three-year-old and a little baby boy into bed and they’re all sleeping peacefully now (except maybe Henry, 3, whose main hobby in life is coming back downstairs and telling me he’s “afraid” just so I can carry him back up there). It might seem like such a tiny thing to you, but until you’ve ever had to corral a small army through the whole nighttime drill and get them all down, all by yourself, with no other adults in reserve downstairs in case something goes astray, then you probably won’t think much of what I’m telling you.
For me though, it feels like I’m standing there sucking on a sunflower seed, my arms at my sides, the bat in the air, the mosquitoes and the moths dancing for the lights, my game winning homer settling into the upper deck like a mama eagle back to her nest up a cliff.
I move slowly through my house some nights, picking apart this rented joint with tired eyes. There is a certain kind of satisfaction that probably comes with home ownership, with having the thing in your name and all, but I wouldn’t know, really. Still, I move through this house and I feel like it’s more mine than any other place I have ever lived in. Everything is mine, every picture on the wall, every spice up on the kitchen rack, they’re all my doing. I put them all there after I stood there and contemplated putting them there, or somewhere else. It seems as if, despite the torture of knowing that someone who once loved me doesn’t really love me that way anymore, this old house where I ended up, it offers a bit of respite from the staggering blues of divorce.
Empty walls, empty rooms, they were like this unpainted canvas when I first walked in the place and rented it from the old farmer up the road. And even at my worst, even when I felt like a burning bag of dog crap tossed up on someone’s stoop, my side of this drafty duplex has been offering herself up to me since the moment I walked through the front door at the start of the summer.
“Decorate me, dude,” she whispers. “Make me a home. Make some damn coffee for God’s sakes.” And I did. And I do. And the house offers up this rare chance to feel rooted in something, like I belong here and need to make this place work, at a time when I could easily let myself get blown away.
I sit on my porch and watch the world go by.
I keep busy with my kids but when they’re not here, I find myself tuning in to the overwhelming stillness and the powerful quiet. Early in the morning, a refrigerator’s buzz and hum are unmissable, our waking senses picking it up, the moment we stumble into the cold dark kitchen. But later in the day, we often move beyond being able to even notice that same sound. It’s still there, of course. But our minds ignore it. I’m too busy now writing an article or feeding a baby or wiping up a toddler spill to even bother to hear it anymore. It’s there, but it’s not there. Like a ghost. Like a dead person watching me go about my day.
That’s how the memory of the marriage is becoming.
It buzzes me still, but less and less with each passing day and I’m thankful for that. I spent so much time this summer wishing and hoping and crying, so much time hopping from stone to stone, from anger to sadness/from inspired to giddy, that the drain on my soul was pretty damn taxing.
But now, as fall settles in and this house is a home, I get the kids off to bed and I stand there in my kitchen and slice off a piece of the sharp cheddar I got over at the supermarket and I let myself stare at my pile of dishes drying over on the damp towel by the sink. I end up thinking about things, all kinds of things, as I flick the TV on, and see if Bizarre Foods is happening.
And once in a while I remember what the hell happened just as the fridge rattles it’s bones and shivers a sigh, the thought of my dead marriage and my ex and the world I knew, a world which is gone, gone, gone, speeding across my mind for a moment as I pop in another wad of cheese, check my phone, see if anyone has messaged me on Facebook.
No one has, but I don’t really care. I’m getting ready to plop down on the couch, a man alone, my thoughts already turning away from where they were just headed down the same old beat up trail. Away from the past, the fridge buzzing on, this house raises a glass to me and I’m pretty sure catch her mumble, “What’s done is done.” That’s hard to say though. Either way, whatever. I’ve found my show, you know. And the kids are asleep. And for whatever the hell it’s worth: my lips taste like good cheese.
My world, it seems, is dragging me right back into it, quietly, like snow falling down all night long.
Image: Serge Bielanko Private
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