This Was Us

Yesterday was the third anniversary of me asking my ex-husband for a divorce.

Have you ever asked anyone for a divorce?  If you have, I’m sorry.  If you haven’t, I don’t recommend it.

I have tried for days; weeks to write something heartfelt about this.  I have tried to sum up ten years of knowing my former husband into neat cliches.  Even looking at it from three years’ distance, cliches fail me.

Speaking of space:  I think about relationships from a distance often.  My parents marriage was, for a long time, successfully lived with time apart, since my father travelled.  And my mother recently told me that their marriage had worked well because her father had travelled, and so the whole thing felt very normal to her.

At the very end, Andrew — in a rare moment of outright screaming — had raged at me about my life on the road.  Instead of responding, I had quietly walked out, taking our separation papers in a manila envelope; hailing a taxi bound for LaGuardia.  Then I unceremoniously caught the next flight out of New York.

We were experiencing the world and our marriage in completely different ways, and I was having a long distance relationship with myself.  The center could not hold.

So where cliches fail me, I’ll give you a brief, disjointed travelogue of my life with Andrew:

I knew him well before we started dating. This was snapped in the apartment I shared with George, back when Dileep still had a full head of hair.  Arlington, VA
We were engaged after dating for seven months.  Georgetown, DC
This was the formal engagement party my parents threw for us the summer after we were engaged.  Mums & Dad’s Backyard, CA
A wedding picture I love; the cake was disgusting.  Santa Monica, CA
My cousin’s wedding. You can start to tell that I’m sick.  Camarillo, CA
Shortly after our first wedding anniversary.  Soho, Manhattan, NY
Another summer, another wedding.  San Luis Obispo, CA
This was us.  Duck, NC
And this was…me.  Ruby’s, Coney Island. My brother, not pictured, with us for this portion of the summer.
“Darling, I want to go to China.” Which was markedly different than the time I said “Darling, I want to go to Toronto.” At midnight.
This was…me.  Beijing, Summer Palace
Me. When it got harder and harder to find pictures of…us. Valencia, CA
Dan & Sarah’s Wedding.  Vienna, VA
Distance.  (Book in my hand is The Stranger)  Duck, NC
The last photo I can find that was taken with the two of us in it. Killington, VT
Ten days after I signed our papers, I climbed to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
Two months later, I was in Big Sur. Standing on the cliffs; seagazing. Stumbling.

Fast forward three years.

I was at a party, recently and I forget how it came up, but someone commented on my bracelet — the one I always wear.

What are those stones?

They’re citrines, I said of the stones on either end of the cuff.  I explained that they were Andrew’s birthstone.  I loved orange; loved rusty, dusty citrines.  Back when I was married, I’d worn the bracelet and a matching ring — often instead of my wedding jewellery.  Some mothers wear their children’s birthstones — I didn’t have any children, but I liked the idea of always having my nearest and dearest nearby.

I also have a lot of sapphire jewellery, I offered, Since we were married in September, and that’s September’s stone.  Everyone looked at me for a moment.  I could see in their eyes what seemed like recognition, but also, it seemed, disbelief.  As it if never occurred to them that I had ever felt that way about the man I sometimes openly mock, and about whom I frequently express frustration.

But I loved him.  Enough to marry him; enough to wear his rings.  Enough to keep wearing these silly orange stones, and thinking fondly about the day I finished my master’s degree and he handed me the box with the bracelet inside.

There is much I miss about the man.  It seems sad, and strange that our journey together ended.  That he’s not going to be there on my 60th birthday saying: Darling, you look the same now as you did on your 25th birthday on that rainy day in Paris!

I’ve said that so many times, but it occurred to me recently that maybe, I don’t really want that.  I looked pretty rough on my 25th birthday.  And in retrospect, that trip to Paris really kind of sucked.

Life, like Paris, depends very much on the people with whom you experience it.  And three years after making the decision to leave my marriage, I am slowly gaining confidence that people can and do find the right distance in order to make things work.


Leave a Comment

  1. I enjoyed this post, particularly how you’ve framed relationships in terms of distance. Your ability to write openly about your experiences continues to inspire me.

  2. I don’t find the bracelet wearing a surprise at all. I think it’s odd to assume after loving someone, it would be easy to box away the memories or feelings. Yes we move forward, yes we mock them, yes there are moments we want to shove their mouths full of the bad feelings they gave us, but….there is also the good. There is also the reason we were with them at all, and that doesn’t just go away. Sad, yes.

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