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:
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.