December 12: Unexpected Passion: What new hobby or interest piqued your passion this year? Or did you think about an old passion in a new way?
I had dinner with CJ, who reminded me of an evening out we had four years ago.
…And I was thinking about the night of the chicken…she laughed.
I was a different person, then.
It was December of 2008, and CJ, another friend of ours, and I, had gathered at the friend’s apartment in Murray Hill. I was freshly excused from Marriage Counseling; was back from Christmas shopping; was rattled to the core from both experiences. As the girls looked on, I sank into one of the armchairs and announced : I think my marriage is over.
It was the first time I ever said that out loud — to myself, to other people. And it was true.
I think my marriage is over.
Andrew had just revealed that he’d been going through my notebooks and emails for years, and — silly me! — I’d spent the last few months writing down my complex feelings about Frederic as a way to deal with them instead of doing something…really stupid.
So CJ and our other friend poured me a big drink. And I drank it. And another and another. We were supposed to be having dinner, but to this day I do not recall whether we ever did.
The girls took matters into their own hands and we left the apartment; went dancing. They called in the boys: tall, Midwestern ones. (This is a situation where I’d prefer to say “lads,” because the vocabulary is more apt, but the usage sounds pretentious since I’m American.) And we went from pub to pub; west side to east side. Until we found ourselves at closing time, in a dive, spinning in infinity, and I was out on the dance floor, kissing a friend of a friend.
It was all very stupid, you see.
At the end of the night, I had to rattle myself conscious — out of my dreamy, kissy state — then collect the Christmas presents from our friend’s apartment, and go home to Tribeca. To my husband. To whom I was still very married.
It was 5 o’clock in the morning. I was shitfaced — that being a technical term — and I had just spent the night making out with a man who wasn’t the man to whom I was married, nor was it the man that my husband was accusing me of loving. Who I did love.
Under those circumstances, I did what any normal woman would do:
I roasted a chicken.
I had a broiler/fryer in the fridge; I cut up a lemon and stuffed it inside. I dug out my roasting pan, and poured some grapeseed oil on the chicken, and stuck it in the oven. I made, I think, some potatoes and carrots, and a nice side salad, too.
I kid you not.
It was delicious.
And so I ate and ate and ate, then fell asleep on the sofa with the chicken half-consumed on the coffee table; the side-dishes displayed. My husband found me later that morning, fully clothed on the couch, surrounded by my perfect chicken, and suffering from the worst hangover of my life.
It’s funny, now. All of it.
But there is no loneliness more fundamental and soul-crushing than being alone in a marriage. And there is no feeling of desperation more peculiar; no guilt stranger than what one feels when one realises she’s broken a vow.
I make up a lot of excuses for why I “hate” Christmas, but this is why: it reminds me of choices and mistakes I made that I’d rather forget. It reminds me of the men who broke my heart, and the people I disappointed.
In truth, I didn’t really mind Christmas before All of That. I liked the smells and bells and carols. I enjoyed the parties. I liked making gingerbread houses; I relished shopping for The Perfect Gift.
So CJ and I had dinner, and we laughed and talked like old times, and it reminded me that I am more than my mistakes; that it’s okay to feel that old warm affection for the holidays again; that in this season, we are all slouching towards Bethlehem.
I am allowed to have an interest in this time of year; I don’t have to punish myself because of All of That.
And, yes, it is never not going to be funny that I once came home and roasted a chicken at 5 o’clock in the morning.